Monster Truck Championship, publisher Nacon’s first foray into monster truck racing, has arrived for the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch and PC. Does it land with impact, or it too leisurely a drive for its own good? We tested the PS4 version.
Nacon’s become a bit of a specialist when it comes to racing games that are a bit more niche than your average Need for Speed of F1 entry. Next to their long-running WRC series they’ve also released the TT Isle of Man games, Zordix’ Overpass and now Monster Truck Championship, just to name a few examples. And while this isn’t the first attempt at digitizing these mammoth trucks for a videogame, it’s certainly one of the more ambitious takes.
Developer Teyon’s last game, Terminator: Resistance, was a pleasant surprise – and ultimately so is Monster Truck Championship. What’s more is that both of these games delivered against all odds, because Terminator games aren’t known to be especially good and monster trucks generally make for a great highlight reel but videogame renditions have never been memorable.
Monster Truck Championships starts off by teaching you the basics of driving one of these gigantic trucks. You’d always expect this to feel a little different than your typical rally car, but the tutorial does a good job of letting you know what it means to drive a car where the front and rear wheels steer independently and even quickly moves on to teaching you a few tricks that you’ll need in order to pull off some of the more acrobatic maneuvers.
While this doesn’t provide you with a segue to something of a Trials-like experience, you do get to go crazy in the game’s Freestyle and Destruction modes, which are a lot of fun with easily accessible gameplay yet hard to master tricks – though some of the most spectacular ones I pulled off were through sheer luck.
The bulk of the game, however, lies with the titular Championship and the career mode. This is where you start out with a simple truck, but success means you’ll rise through the rankings and get access to bigger and better trucks. This also takes you all across North America, but seeing as how the action takes place in indoor venues there is little variety in terms of the backdrops you’re seeing.
Events are comprised of several different race/competition types, from regular races around a track to short drag races and the freestyle and destruction events mentioned earlier. This creates a nice mix of racing and all-out carnage, and the variety certainly helps because the racing itself never feels quite as exciting as some of the faster paced racing games do and although it’s fun to perform tricks and ram a few vehicles in the process, that too would get tiring after a while. With this structure, things remain relatively fresh.
Doing well means you earn money, which you can spend on new decals but which you’ll really want to spend on upgrades – both to your car and your crew. Good results also get you in with some sponsors, who will offer you lucrative challenges to complete. It’s nothing we haven’t seen before in other games, but as a career mode it feels like a fully featured experience.
Online multiplayer is also included, though limited to races and drag races – which unlike the name suggests is more of a tournament-based event. The core gameplay is about racing in either mode though, and racing these monster trucks means it’s hard to overtake someone who’s in the lead unless they judge a corner the wrong way – highlighting that this is a relatively unique brand of racing.
Visually, Monster Truck Racing certainly isn’t the most impressive racer of this generation. Obviously the arena setting for the events doesn’t lend itself to a lot of pretty scenery and everything’s a bit monotonous in that sense, but the graphics certainly aren’t far ahead of what we were used to during the PS3 generation either.
From that perspective, it’s a testament to the quality of the gameplay that Monster Truck Racing is a fun experience with just enough variety to make it more than just a curiosity among the racing field. It definitely doesn’t push the envelope of racing, but it’s the most fun I’ve had with monster trucks in a videogame so far.