Edited by: Jade Swann
Driving monster trucks were among my greatest dreams as a child. This is a dream now shared by my kids. The appeal of crushing cars with massive tires and over a thousand horsepower roaring under the hood is something that won’t leave until deep into adulthood, if ever. There hasn’t yet been a Monster Jam title released in this decade, so landing mid-2019 is a fantastic time for it. Rainbow Studios has put a tremendous amount of work into getting the feel of driving these behemoths right and they have succeeded with Monster Jam Steel Titans.
TRUCKS AND TERRAIN
When dealing with monster trucks, visuals are paramount. Everything, from detailed paint jobs on the side of Grave Digger to the ears and tail of Monster Mutt, is about spectacle. The trucks themselves are exquisite. Each has the iconic look of your favorite rides and many of them even have unlockable paint schemes. These titans have the look and sound of the real deal and as you thrash through flips, using that massive power to bring you from your side back to all four tires, the shells even get damaged to the point that they rip off, which, if you’ve ever seen in person, is incredibly satisfying.
However, the modeling of the landscape and arenas, apart from the trucks, is a bit lacking, especially when compared to other titles in the racing genre — though I’m not entirely sure that you can lump them together. In the game, you’ve effectively got two settings. The first is an open world, which is a playground that doubles as a lobby. This area is also used for outdoor point-to-point and larger flat-out lap races. There are varying terrains, trick arenas, and tracks for you to hone your skills. This area also unlocks more areas as you progress through the campaign. While the visuals here aren’t bad per se, the landscapes detract a bit from the experience. A lack of visual appeal, combined with a surprisingly low amount of destructible objects, makes the sandbox feel empty. This isn’t to say that there’s nothing to destroy, some trees will shatter when you hit them and there are cars and buses around the map, but they aren’t quite as satisfying to demolish as I had expected.
Other than playing around in the open map, there is a career mode for you to traverse. Initially, you’ll be put through Monster Jam University, which will help you get a handle on the controls and allow you to get the techniques dialed in. You can complete the entirety of Monster Jam University or move on to the campaign after a few sessions. You’ll be given the training truck, which is a chassis with an exposed roll cage, and almost immediately unlock one of my new favorite trucks, the fellow Canadian Northern Nightmare. As you complete races and move through the ranks, you’ll be given credits that can be put towards upgrading your truck or unlocking others. Early on, wins come fairly easily, as most of these races have long straights, so speed upgrades will net you wins and you’ll rack up the credits to significantly upgrade your vehicle.
After the initial tiers in the campaign, you’ll focus more on arena matchups. These head-to-head matchups have short sprint tracks with tight corners, as well as everything from round tracks and figure eights to very technical tracks that will have you flying way outside of the track, which is almost a guaranteed way to lose the race. You’ll also have trick and destruction events. The trick events are where the game mechanics shine. The trucks handle beautifully and the arenas are set up in such a way that you can turn some pretty sick tricks. Donuts and flips galore, I don’t think there was a single straight stunt event that I wasn’t able to get a 10/10 score on. These wins and losses add up to your total placing for the event series and a place of third or higher will allow advancing.
However, it is this advancement that is the title’s Achilles heel. Once you’ve completed a couple of these series, you’ve tapped out on a lot of what the game has to offer. While it’s incredible to flip a vehicle this size, there’s only so much you can do before it begins to lose its luster. A couple of hours into it and you’ve experienced all that there is, as well as the fact that all the crazy flips and stunts in the world don’t mean much if you don’t have anyone to share it with. While the title is really enjoyable in the first hour or two of gameplay, the lack of desire to get back in the seat time and again unfortunately isn’t a strong suit of the game and doesn’t bode well for true longevity.
The Verdict: Good
Monster Jam Steel Titans is a title ripe with nostalgia and potential. While the visuals are adequate for the current generation of games, the title’s strength is in its focus on vehicle handling both on the ground and in the air. At its outset, it is a very fun game. However, with a small amount of event types, a large but empty feeling open world, and a lack of online multiplayer, the title lacks longevity and replayability.