I’ve never been a fan of monster trucks. Sure, I thought iconic truck Bigfoot was cool growing up, and always wanted to see a monster truck show—but I never have. Still, there’s something fascinating about these giant vehicles, and I admit that the image of massive wheels crushing cars as they drive over them is an amusing prospect. When I got the chance to cover Monster Truck Championship, I knew I had to check it out. I’ve played lots of racing games, but nothing quite like this.
Monster Truck Championship is a racing game, but more importantly it recreates the feeling of driving massive, oversized trucks. I mean, I’ve never driven a monster truck, but this is at least what I expected driving one to be like. It’s all packaged as a modern racing game—so that means customization, support personnel, and a garage to tweak your truck between events. But the most important part is the driving.
Driving around monster trucks in Monster Truck Championship feels good. It’s not a heavy simulation like Forza Motorsport 7 or Project Cars 2, but it’s the closest thing monster truck games have ever come to a racing sim. Your trucks massive oversized tired grip dirt and track differently, and the sheer size of the wheels makes for some interesting driving characteristics that I can only assume are true-to-life. Trucks feel sufficiently weighty, and even slightly top-heavy despite their wide wheels. Of course, the large wheels allow you to easily drive over objects—like cars—but also make it so driving over race barriers is easier, adding a different dynamic to some races. Same goes for being on the field with competitors, as your massive tires can get suck and locked with other drivers, especially at the starting line.
There are only a few events you can participate in, but all of the normal monster truck fare is here—outside of tractor pulls. There are races with other trucks, head-to-head drag races (on non-straight courses), free style, and destruction events. Racing is straight forward, and as I mentioned before, having large wheels changes how you approach and overtake cars. Drag races are a little bit more stunt-like than regular races, and are done on tracks with hairpin turns—not exactly how I imagined drag racing to be. These head-to-head drag races are probably some of my favorite events, though, as they require you to master each of the tracks with extreme precision to come out on top—every minute move matters. Freestyle and destruction are very similar game modes, and are probably the thing I think about when I think of monster trucks in the first place: big jumps, and running over cars. There are a few other obstacles, like mobile homes and porta potties to smash through, also. Surprisingly, it’s not the destruction aspect that’s the most fun, but the stunt aspect.
Freestyle, and to a lesser extent destruction events, are like stunt shows. You’re not racing for time or position, but for score. You get a higher score by keeping up your multiplier—and you do that by stringing stunts together, one after another. The scoring system is a little wonky, and I found it could be gamed by driving erratically, which the scoring system thought was me attempting certain stunts. These freestyle and destruction events take on a new level of difficulty with engine damage turned on—something you can tweak in the settings, along with a few other things to make the experience easier or harder. But stunts feel like feats of skill, not luck, and free stlye mode ended up being one of my favorite.
Most modern racing games—especially those geared more like a sim—have the ability to tweak physics and other aspects to your liking. Monster Truck Championship has that to an extremely limited degree. You can turn on and off engine damage, and switch between manual and automatic transmission in the middle of a campaign, but that’s it. You can’t even change difficulty without resetting your save—a real bummer, since there’s only one save slot. I really craved these options, and it’s too bad they’re omitted.
Monster Truck Championship is all about monster trucks, and there are over a dozen different bodies to choose from—from the classic, to the outrageous. I chose a theme for my truck and sort of stuck with it, but you can customize your truck at any point between matches in the garage. The garage also allows you to tweak and upgrade components, as well as color every part to match your theme. There are a load of customization options, but I would love to see more in the future, which I’m sure will be released as DLC—since there are two DLC packs available on release.
Each truck also comes with a full cockpit view. I usually play racing games in first person cockpit view, so I appreciated the option. Driving in the cockpit feels like you’re floating, and gives a strange disconnect between your car and the track—but that’s a symptom of being incredibly lifted, so I’d say it represents driving a tall truck quite well.
If you’re itching to compete with other players head-to-head, you can do so in limited modes. You can either race in drag race, or race mode—but there are no destruction and free style modes. That’s a missed opportunity, because I’d love the chance to watch other players’ perform stunts and destroy buildings while waiting to do the same. Also missing is any sort of tractor pull, but I could only guess on how that gameplay could be implemented.
I was never a monster truck fan before, but Monster Truck Championship might have changed that. Multiplayer is a bit of a missed opportunity, but with lots of customization options, and satisfying driving mechanics, Monster Truck Championship is the best monster truck game currently out. If you’re a monster truck fan, you should get this game.
Monster Truck Championship is available today on Steam, PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch and XBox One.
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