When it comes to video games, there seems to be two different type of approaches. Either the developers will make a game with as much realism as possible or they will allow it to be outlandish in various aspects. Both of these options are fitting, depending on the game, and provide their own form of entertainment for the player.
Developers Rainbow Studios decided that outlandish would be the best fit for Monster Jam: Steel Titans and I have to say it was definitely not a bad choice. As someone who goes to see Monster Jam live annually, there was a part of me that began this game hoping for realism and another part of me hoping for crazy physics. Finding the crazy physics made me realize that a realistic Monster Jam game might not be half as entertaining as this one. Let’s break it down.
When you first begin the game, they put you in a basic no-name vehicle and send you to Monster Jam University 101. This set of tutorial missions is led by Whiplash who will take you through all the different events and type of maneuvers you need to know in order to be successful in the different events. From learning how to do Wheelies and Stoppies to understanding an off-road racetrack, this tutorial put you through all the hoops and at your own pace too.
In between tutorials and actual Career progress, you are left in this open world-like area that has some locked areas. There is a set up in the middle for you to practice stunts or to just mess around, plenty of back trails to venture through, a small race track, and collectibles. You will find that there are also locked areas that you can’t go to and a total of 50 collectibles laying around the map.
To unlock those area, you will have to make progress through the Career portion of the game. In this you will make your way up through the different style of events. First qualifying for the small time tournament, taking on the small time tournament, qualifying for the stadium tournament, taking on the stadium tournament, and eventually taking on the world championship. Every tournament or qualifying competition will unlock another car for you to use. These vehicles are the name brands of our favorite vehicles including Nothern Nightmare, El Toro Loco, Monster Mutt, Max-D, Grave Digger, and more!
Progress through the tournaments help you unlock credits as well. These credits are used to suit up the vehicle you chose and max out at five upgrades to all five aspects of the vehicle. These start off cheap and get expensive, so once you pick a vehicle it is best to stick with it until you save up enough to upgrade your next choice. I found myself using Monster Mutt for most of my gameplay after switching from El Toro Loco, due to me personally not being a big fan of Loco and hoping to get my man Grave Digger sooner, but Monster Mutt being a top five option in my favorites.
Now for where it gets outlandish: the controls. In the different events you will first race, then do a two-wheel trick competition, and end it off with a freestyle. These will always happen in that order, but every tournament gets longer and longer so you will need to master all the event types. Controlling the car itself felt a little off, but at the same time I would imagine that controlling an actual monster-sized truck would come with hard to control turns, heavy drifts, and slow brakes. However, it almost felt like my truck was on ice sometimes with how crazy the sliding would get. When it comes to using the ramps and obstacles, the physics were comparable to the unrealistic aspects in the Tony Hawk Pro Skater games. The air time was completely ridiculous, flipping the car was stupidly easy, powering out from being on your side is a 95% chance success with a tornado speed version of a spin. It even went as far as being able to do a back flip off of a flat wall without a ramp, having one tire touch the ground in just the right way while powering out that your car ends up doing crazy fast flips and spins, and just all-around hard to control trick mechanics.
It was because of how ridiculous the trick controls were that made some of the basic stuff harder. The most realistic part of the game were the races themselves, but even that is a bit of a stretch with the ice-like feeling from the sliding. Heaven help you if you slightly touch a ramp while racing around at top speed because you won’t be able to recover in time to still win that race.
Sounds and Graphics
Visually, this game was decently created. The world map obviously got the most attention and even had some small Easter Eggs for you to find, but other than the parts of the game that the player would directly interact with, there was minimal detail. The crowds were nothing special and some of the background stuff were obviously meant to be ignored, but everything within the arenas were well done.
The trucks sounded like a soft version of what you would hear in real life, which is actually good seeing as many people would be wearing headphones and those engines could be ear bleeders. The music was fitting to what you would hear in between events and while waiting on the show to start. Even the atmospheric sound effects were well matched to the different biome sections on the world map.
There is plenty of reason to come back to the game if you enjoyed the initial play through. Whether you want to go through and collect all 50 of those medallions on the world map, replay through some of the career tournaments, or simply want to mess around in the world map playground. You can always get better at controlling the car, go for a single match in any event which will allow you to change the difficulty as well, and there are plenty of cars to unlock.
What Could Be Better
While I enjoyed the crazy physics that allowed me to manipulate my truck to do almost literally anything I wanted, the controls were hard to get used to. I wouldn’t suggest changing the physics completely as the outlandish controls were fun in the end, but some of the impossibilities that you could do got a little annoying. More specifically, the single tire flipping and whatever makes the car do barrel rolls at hyper speed due to a bad landing.
Give more trick options to the player. While not all tricks that can be done on the game would have a name thanks to real life physics making them impossible, you made them possible on the game and thus should give points. There were plenty of freestyles I felt cheated out of a win from due to not getting points for barrel rolls, “hardflipping,” or reverse flipping (hitting a ramp with a spin and doing a semi-flip that made me land opposite the way I was going).
Monster Jam: Steel Titans is an entertaining, yet unrealistic version of playing with Monster Trucks. While I thoroughly enjoyed playing through the different events and controlling some of my favorite trucks, the controls made some of the gameplay difficult to handle. It isn’t a game for those looking for a realistic version of Monster Jam, but if you don’t mind seeing some crazy stunts that you will never see in real life while having the entertainment of a child with toys then this is the perfect game for you.