If you’re a fan of Monster Trucks then there aren’t a lot of options in the video game space to get your fix. In fact, the only game in town for fans of these monstrous vehicles is the Monster Jam franchise that has been around since the original Monster Jam released on the PlayStation 2 back in 2002. Sadly none of them from the first to the most recent one in 2016 have really been very good. Monster Jam Steel Titans from THQ Nordic and Rainbow Studios is now out but is this the first good Monster Jam game or just the latest in a string of poorly tuned trucks?
I first want to mention that I reviewed this game on a PlayStation 4 Pro and I immediately saw red flags upon starting the game based on how long the initial load was. The first load screen took over a minute before it finally loaded me into the tutorial level. Here you are taught some of the basic controls of the game by a lady named Whiplash. R2 is your gas, L2 is your brake, circle resets your truck if you flip over, and the touch pad changes your camera. You also learn some other things like how to do a donut and how the score multiplier works. It all ends with you doing a two lap practice race in a circle. Then you leave the tutorial and endure another 30 second load time before you gain control again. So yeah the load times in this game are horrible.
When you gain control again you are in an open world like area where you can drive around freely. You can practice jumps here and access the other features in the game via the pause menu. Here you’ll find the career mode and quick race which lets you jump into one of the various modes in the game. Those include Waypoint which has you racing against opponents to hit points first, Circuit Racing which is a normal race, Head-To-Head which is a 1v1 race, and Rhythm which is another race where you are going from place to place. Then there is Timed Destruction where you have to destroy objects in the environment like crates, Two-Wheel Skills which has you performing skills while on two wheels, Freestyle where you perform various stunts and Freeride where you just do whatever you feel like doing. This is a pretty big range of modes but whether you actually enjoy playing any of them will depend on whether you enjoy the annoying controls and physics in this game.
You see when I would play the actual race modes like circuit racing the controls weren’t too bad. Monster Trucks aren’t the most responsive vehicles out there but it still felt like they should control a bit better than what they do here. It also doesn’t help that the framerate didn’t feel really smooth to me either which is a shame considering this game isn’t exactly pushing high fidelity visuals but more on that later. Like I said the actual races aren’t that bad and were probably the most enjoyable part of the game. It’s when I would play some of the other modes that I’d run into issues with the physics system. There were so many times where I would barely hit some small object and have my truck flip unexpectedly. This quickly grows to be frustrating as it makes doing a lot of your objectives difficult. Even the normal races had it occur where I would be in front of my opponents only to hit something and be sent flipping out of control and left in the dust by the CPU.
The game does have an upgrade system for the trucks where you use the currency you rack up from completing events to purchase them. Things like top speed, bounce, stability, acceleration, and traction can all be improved on all the various trucks. There are a lot of trucks to unlock as you play and increase your rank as well with close to 30 in total. New race tracks are also unlocked by playing through the career mode. That mode consists of many of the modes I talked about above but it needed more options to be less frustrating. For example I wasn’t able to restart a race when the physics system doomed me to fall so far behind the CPU that I had no chance of catching up. Instead you’ll have to quit out of the race or just finish it to have another shot. That’s bad quality of life design right there. There also is no option to set the difficulty of the CPU in the career mode either. Much like the rest of this game it just felt poorly designed and needed a lot more work put into it.
I mentioned how the framerate didn’t feel good to me in this game and how that was even more puzzling when you see that the game isn’t exactly a looker. Nothing in Monster Jam Steel Titans looks impressive at all. All of the environments look rather basic whether it be the foliage or the textures on the ground and other objects. It also suffers from a lot of pop in while navigating the open world space. This isn’t a full priced game but it is $40 when it feels and looks more like something that you’d find in a $20 bin or less. The soundtrack in the game was enjoyable at least but the voice acting was pretty poor. The game has 25 trophies including a Platinum. The list isn’t too hard with some trophies coming from finishing events in a certain place while others ask you to finish with some kind of damage to your truck suffered.
Monster Jam Steel Titans really isn’t much better than the other Monster Jam titles that have come before it and that is the tragic part about it. There are signs here that this game could be much better if more time was put into fine tuning the physics and making the career mode and open world space more fun to play. I would’ve expected the presentation and performance to be better than what it is too considering this isn’t a budget priced title. Only the most die hard Monster Truck fans might find enjoyment in this game.
*Monster Jam Steel Titans is out now on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC. Reviewed on a PS4 Pro. Review copy provided by the publisher for this review.