It is on my bucket list to see a real-life monster truck event. Having the excitement and roaring engine sounds of these four thousand kilogram racing machines in Monster Truck Championship is the next best thing. At least that’s what publisher NACON wants us to believe. Switching the gears for this game is developer Teyon, no worries I had to search them up too. Surprisingly they previously delivered Terminator: Resistance and Rambo: The Video Game, games far from being in the racing genre. If you ever played that last one, scoring 28% on Metacritic, you have the same feeling as me when I started this racing game. Nervous to see how bad it was going to get… ultimately, Monster Truck Championship is definitely a much better experience than I thought it was going to be. It even features some impressive independent steering for the rear wheels. Color me surprised that the devs who screwed up Rambo could actually impress me!
What we liked!
- Drag racing: Monster Truck Championship has five different game modes but drag racing is what makes the game really shine. You have the self-explaining race mode, time trial and two stunt modes freestyle and destruction. I was hoping for a destruction derby but this isn’t available. Drag was my most favorite mode as this really puts you to the edge of your seat (if the AI doesn’t mess up). Here you have to time your start and race on a very short track to beat out your opponent on the finish line. A victory literally depends on the smallest things here and most of the time it is close to a photo finish to know the result.
- You can steer and rear wheels! Confusing at first but a game-changer. Dual steering takes a while to understand, especially for stunts but it makes Monster Truck Championship fresh for veterans in the racing genre. Makes it more immersive too, but I have to be honest and tell you that I don’t really understand why. Combining the unique take on driving trucks with an interior view is spectacular and utterly challenging.
- Career mode lacks initiative and rewarding progression: Becoming the league champion by winning, improving your truck and managing the team and basic financing sums up the career mode pretty well. In other words, nothing really makes it stand out. Just having ‘monster trucks’ doesn’t mean that you can just copy/paste what works for other games. How impressive pulling off doughnuts and wheelies might be it becomes dull pretty fast. You travel around and constantly do the same things over and over again in very similar looking arenas. You have to use the same truck too, luckily you can heavily custom it but it feels like a missed chance. It doesn’t help that blue whales can swim in your money too as the game rewards way too much of it. What makes the sponsorship tasks completely redundant.
- Visually subpar: Crashing through caravans should be giving you an aww-feeling, right? Monster Truck Championship never manages to do that because it is far behind the competition with visual fidelity. WRC, Overpass or Isle of Man from NACON easily overtake this game when it comes to eye spectacle. Starting in the race mode with 8 monster trucks battling for that first position doesn’t look bad and as always graphics don’t make a game more or less fun.
- High scoring in stunt modes is more pure luck than skill: This isn’t a skateboarding game where you can rely on your skill. I manually restarted a few times and the outcome of the same jump was always different. Most of the times I always won the freestyle and destruction rounds when the physics engine decided to mess up again. As a result, scoring a zillion points for a 44x backflip. It makes your eyes roll but it remains fun nonetheless. I just wish it was a bit more polished so your own skill gave you the wins more. Ending up helplessly on your back like the turtle family from Finding Nemo, is the only blame that can be placed on the player. You do have to be careful with the throttle, or when you try a wheelie or nose grind.
What we disliked
- Monster Trucks seem to glide over the ground as a raw egg on noodles: You would think that these heavy trucks are glued on the ground but they control very easily, too easy actually. Questionable physics are in place that makes your monster trucks float over the air. It is hard to place it in an arcade or simulation genre as it doesn’t seem to be any of it. How sweet and defining the individual front and rear wheels driving might be it is honestly completely ruined by the lack of any realism.
- Laughable artificial intelligence: It seems that the stupid AI from that Rambo game has been used for the cars. To give you an example in the drag mode: There was a track with a bridge on it and every single time on the hardest difficulty the competition managed to fell off this wide bridge. If it wouldn’t kill my back I could have pushed my monster truck over the finish and still win. You constantly see them do things that make you scratch your head, randomly crashing on stuff seems to be normal in monster truck racing. It kinda defeats the challenge and doesn’t make it rewarding if you win on the highest difficulty.
Monster Truck Championship ends up as a fun and unique take on racing but misses additional polish. Subpar visuals and wonky physics make it a forgettable experience, despite having impressive monster trucks.