The spectacle of the monster truck has been around for 40 years, and whilst they look like humongous metal beasts, driving them requires a lot of skill and precision. Monster Truck Championship is the first simulation to feature the 12-foot behemoths. Whilst it took a bit of time to get used to controlling them, I ended up having a great time competing in the various leagues and competitions across America. The thrill of racing mixed with the threat of destruction is something I never knew I wanted, but this kind of racing is right up my street.
The preliminary focus of Monster Truck Championship is the career. It isn’t packed with features, and whilst it does feel a little empty, the racing more than makes up for it. After creating your bare bones avatar, it’s off to the National League where you take part in competitions made up of different stages. In Races, you compete against seven other trucks in a fairly standard ‘finish first’ formula, but if you aren’t careful you can damage your truck and have to spend money to fix it up. Freestyle sees you pull off a selection of moves such as a doughnut or a wheelie, as well as high jumps and more in an attempt to build combos and get the highest score, whilst Destruction requires you to destroy everything in sight. Finally, Drag Race is a one-on-one stage where you compete in a round robin tournament on a short track until you defeat everyone else through three rounds.
Each competition takes part in multiple arenas across America, and the different stages are mixed depending on where you are. Whether you are in Las Vegas or Salt Lake City, arenas are filled with raucous crowds and loud engines, where carnage and metal come together in beautiful yet chaotic harmony. I was surprised at how delicate the monster trucks were to control, despite their overwhelming demeanour. You control the front and back wheels independently with the left and right triggers. The skill is in the management of your speed, taking corners carefully, and maintaining a careful balance going into the sharp corners. Many tracks have steep jumps in them, so not only do you have to focus on how fast you go into them, but how your truck lands afterwards.
If you don’t brake smartly, or seldom use drift, you’ll more than likely fail. Other monster trucks can cause untold damage to you if you don’t drive carefully, making all these factors so important when it comes to how you drive. Due to the sensitive handling, you can end up on your back or side, but pressing Triangle/Y quickly puts you back on your wheels. There are plenty of accessibility options to help you out if you struggle, too. There is also a healthy tutorial for you to get to grips with everything from steering to tricks, and you can jump in and out of this whenever you want. The important thing is being comfortable behind the wheel, and Monster Truck Championship does a great job of this.
The more competitions you win, the more money you earn. On top of that, you will also get sponsorship deals from different companies. With each opportunity comes variables that could see you earn a substantial amount of money and new parts, however, the requirements become tougher the further you progress. For example, Lion’s Finances will give you $41,000 if you perform one wall backflip and win an event without resetting or restarting, something which is more complex than simply entering and finishing an event. You can also pay a small fee to recruit team members, from Logistics Managers to Engine Specialists. Having these people in your team provides small buffs that boost everything from your income, the money you have to pay for entering events, or the power of your engine.
With every new competition, your opponents will start to become harder to defeat, so the Garage is where you go to improve your truck. I loved going in and upgrading my vehicle. Not only can you improve your exhaust or suspension by buying new parts, you can change the way your monster truck looks. I ended up sticking with one of Monster Truck Championship’s coolest designs known as ‘Freak on Wheels,’ whilst I focused more on buying parts to improve Betty’s performance (yes, I named my truck). Whilst customising the paint, framework, patterns, and colours, you can also fine-tune your Monster Truck, from the suspension height to the gear ratio, giving you complete control over everything.
Whilst I enjoyed Monster Truck Championship, the fundamental experience could do with more personality. Whilst the designs within the arenas are different, and the commentators are loud and excitable, the grind of going from competition to competition feels repetitive. I would have liked to be able to build rivalries with other racers, especially as two particular guys became a real thorn in my side (I’m looking at you, Smith and Rodriguez). Still, if you get on with the handling and aren’t put off by how sensitive it can be, the satisfaction of managing weight distribution going into corners and coming off jumps is wonderful.
Monster Truck Championship is a tricky racer to get into, but once it all clicks, the different stages provide enough variety to keep you progressing through the leagues. I would have liked more in terms of character progression or rivalries, but it is a racer after all, and a surprisingly good one at that. Having the ability to take your monster truck online and racing against others is likely to keep you improving, but I didn’t get to try it out before launch. Although it may not have great visuals, with the textures being a tad weaker than other racing games, the actual racing provides a solid experience and something very different from anything I’ve played before.
Satisfying learning curve
Plenty of customisation options
Handling is great
Encapsulates the motorsport perfectly
Tricky to master
Not much personality
Not the greatest visuals
Can become repetitive