I can’t remember the last time I thought about monster trucks. I reached out to my Dad to see if we had ever been to a monster truck rally. He says we did, and we had great seats. Even though I don’t remember the event, the pageantry is seared into my mind. I remember the overt intensity of Monster Jam commercials, which spawned years of parody commercials. I remember huge trucks like Bigfoot, and trucks with legacy and lore like Gravedigger. My memory of monster truck rallies were spectacle over substance, and ultimately that’s what Teyon and Nacon’s Monster Truck Championship is up against.
Matching the Energy of Monster Jam
To be honest, while I can remember Bigfoot and Gravedigger quite vividly, I can’t really say much about other licensed monster trucks. So I’m totally fine with the fact that Monster Truck Championship doesn’t appear to have any. After all, the trucks in Monster Truck Championship are big, and they hit other big trucks. Sometimes, they crush smaller cars and houses. Hell yeah!
The game’s presentation doesn’t match that energy consistently, though. When you first boot the game, a friendly voice directs you to the game’s tutorial, and explains how to navigate the game’s menus. You load into a big monster truck playground where a ghost monster truck visualizes each trick as you try to learn it. The game only makes you complete three tutorials before letting you jump into Career mode. If you choose to learn all of the tricks right away, like I did, the game even calls you a nerd. Which rules, actually! It fits into the X-TREME monster truck aesthetic, if only a little.
When I loaded into my first competition, I had high expectations. That bar was met with a voice who was just casually reading lines. An exceptional voice for a high school basketball game, telling me about how Texas is the monster truck capital of the world. It’s hard to buy into, especially compared to how over-the-top monster truck rallies are in my memory. The announcer hypes up the sold-out arena, while entire sections of seating are covered in tarps. It’s all so underwhelming.
When other monster trucks kick up dirt during a race, or lose parts to contact, it all feels right. I feel powerful after obliterating a line of porta-potties. Then this guy talks about how cool it looked, and I feel inflated. The other visuals just can’t compensate for the lack of energy from the crowd and commentary.
Two Trucks Having Competition
Monster Truck Championship has four game types, technically. Destruction (the one we all know and love), Freestyle, Race and Drag Race. When you boil it down, Destruction and Freestyle are the same mode with slightly different rules. Drag Race and Race are both, well, races, but at least the formats are significantly different here. Each event in Monster Truck Championship consists of two or more of any combination of those four game types.
Freestyle and Destruction
Freestyle, and by extension Destruction, are the coolest game modes. Both modes drop you into a stadium sized playground, with ramps and things to crush. Your goal is to string together monster truck tricks and get the highest score possible in a certain time limit. Think Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater, if Tony Hawk could crush a mobile home. Destruction mode is the same, but your timer goes up every time you destroy an object.
The loose handling really does a lot for these modes. Some of the tricks are challenging to perform, so pulling them off feels really satisfying. Plus, when you chain a backflip into a wheelie into a side wall, it looks rad. If people are out here making Monster Truck Championship combo videos I need to see them.
Like a Truck Crushing Cars
I had a really fun afternoon playing Monster Truck Championship, which is my biggest problem with the game. I’m good! I had a great time playing it, but I’m not really interested in going back. The game lacks any significant depth. The game’s career mode sends you to event after event, which unlock as you complete the events before them. There are three leagues to progress through, but the second league doesn’t offer a significant difference from the first. Same announcer, same arenas, some of the same tracks.
There’s a small management sim aspect. You can hire staff members to your team, who give you certain benefits in exchange for a salary. There are sponsor challenges, which add extra incentives to do certain things during events. Score 5,000 points in one wheelie, win one racing event, stuff like that. When you complete sponsor challenges you unlock new truck cosmetics. You also unlock truck parts and cosmetics through career mode progression.
You unlock parts of your truck that improve its stats, but each new part is strictly better than the part before it, so there’s not really any decision-making in your truck’s build. New parts, like breaks and engines, only serve as a way to gate your skill at the game while you progress further into career mode. Your truck becomes better when the competition becomes better. There’s no real reason to continue to play through all three leagues except to complete the game.
When you’re spinning around on two wheels or slamming into opposing monster trucks, Monster Truck Championship had me feeling like a powerful man in a huge truck. For that, Monster Truck Championship accomplished exactly what it set out to do: let me experience the spectacle. If the trick system looks even remotely interesting to you, the game is absolutely worth a buy.
For me, that excitement only lasted about a day. The racing is fine, and is tactical enough that I never felt like I was out of a race, but just not interesting enough for me to keep doing them in between destruction events. Between that, and the lack of over-the-top energy, I don’t plan on revisiting Monster Truck Champions anytime soon.
The racing is fine, and is tactical enough that I never felt like I was out of a race, but just not interesting enough for me to keep doing them in between destruction events.