Over the years we’ve seen plenty of off-road racers, many featuring Monster Trucks, but very few delve far into the world of the behemoth four-wheelers.
Summer 2019 saw the arrival of Monster Jam: Steel Titans which was the first true Monster Truck title on the Xbox One and while it wasn’t terrible, it left plenty of room for improvement.
Now, (released back in October) Monster Truck Championship arrived and if you’re looking for that improvement, we may have just found it.
Monster Truck Championship promises a true Monster Truck simulation, and over the main menu you’ll find a Career mode, Quick-play and Multiplayer offering a number of disciplines from one-on-one drag races, freestyle and destruction competitions and 8-truck lap races with time-trials also available on quick-play.
While Multiplayer is welcome additions, we didn’t find any online sessions when we checked at peak time, so I wouldn’t hold out much hope for a full lobby, but if you’re looking for a substantial single-player offering, you’ve come to the right place.
Career mode is split into 4 sections, Events, Garage, Management and Training.
Events are split over the National, Professional and Major Leagues.
Each league has a total of 10 events, each covering anywhere between 2 and 5 stages and these could be any mix between the disciplines mentioned above. Some seem to give a good mix, while others concentrate more on the freestyle and destruction while others are solely racing and drag races.
The first event of each league is free to enter, but you’ll have to place high to get the funds to enter later stages.
You’ll also need to think about improving your truck and this is where Garage and Management come in to play. Under management, you can select team-members and sponsors. Hiring better team members will mean you lose a cut of your earnings, but you’ll gain perks such as reducing your repair costs, the entry fee for events or maybe gain torque, grip or durability.
Sponsors are another avenue worth exploring as companies will offer you a short-term contract to fulfil over 1-3 events, meet their needs and you’ll get a cash boost and maybe even unlock some new parts for your truck.
Inside the garage, you can turn your truck into the sloppy mess you start with, into a mean machine capable of pushing for those podium finishes and this is one area that’s impressed me the most.
While your base truck will stay the same, there are 4 main performance upgrades for each of your engine, brakes, transmission, tires and suspension. There’s also a tuning option which you’ll want to check out, because, while it’s equally straight forward, making adjustments such as a high and stiff suspension for freestyle events will make those tricks easier to achieve, meanwhile while racing, a lower suspension height with higher damping, will give you greater stability when turning or racing over rough terrain.
With the cosmetic options, you get far more choice. Sticking with your base truck you can select from over a dozen body’s, there’s a handful of options for rims and exhaust as well as the chance to add attachments such as spoilers, flags, extra lights or maybe a giant rocket on top.
There are also 10 decal sets, each offering a pattern, alongside front, side, top and rear stickers. Rather than being restricted to a set “style” you can swap and change these to create the truck of your dreams, so if you want Rocket Queen stickers all over your car that’s got the Storm Rider pattern underneath, go ahead, you can even adjust the colours to match to make everything look top-notch.
Many of these unlocks cost thousands, but within a few events you’ll easily have a few unlocked, the more you spend on customisation the more chance you’ll need to re-race a few events to keep your funds up, but overall the game does a good job of keeping your wallet bulging.
Out on the track, you’ll find MTC handles pretty well, especially after you’ve delved into a few of those tuning options, the trucks handle a little loose at first, but when you learn to steer on the front wheels and accelerate out of a turn properly, you’ll soon be working your way to the front of the pack.
The difficulty is fairly well spread with Easy allowing you to win most events, Medium will test you occasionally, but usually, a mistake-free race will keep you upfront and hard is a tougher challenge with pretty decent AI that will close down passing opportunities and happily bump you on the corners.
The Freestyle events and Destruction feel similar (Destruction awards more points for destroying objects and cars around the arena) but it’s still a nice change from the races which feel fresh, exciting and on the tougher difficulties, a nice challenge.
Through the career, it does start to feel a little repetitive at times, but the familiarity of only 6-7 locations is mostly broken up by the events offering a good range of the available modes.
I would have loved to see open-world, point-to-point racers, as well as the circuits and arenas, which could have pushed towards a whole new Smugglers Run inspired game mode, but let’s hope the developers consider that for a potential sequel because I’d love to throw these trucks over some propper rough terrain.
Graphically, I’ve been fairly impressed with MTC, there’s plenty of detail where it counts and less so in places that you might not notice immediately.
The trucks are highly detailed, whether it’s a sparkly new truck, or the bare carcass once you’ve ripped off all the panels with a few failed back-flips. Wheels might start off looking new with the gloss of fresh rubber, but once you’ve finished a few laps you’ll find them caked in mud and sand.
Further afield, the arena’s are generally well detailed, but things start to look a little ugly once you reach the crowds, but this really isn’t noticeable during gameplay and it’s only a few pre-race scenes that show these lazy textures.
Overall though, for a mid-priced game, it’s a pretty stellar performance.
Audio isn’t quite as impressive, but it’s certainly not bad, truck engines all sound pretty similar, the menu music is a little repetitive, and some racing sounds such as the screech of tires on corners when you’re really not pushing the trucks that hard feel a little out of place, and the commentator tries to make us believe everyone’s really excited, but when he sounds like someone’s just murdered his pet hamster, it doesn’t carry the same over-the-top excitement that it should do.
There’s plenty going on though and it never feels “quiet”, there’s a little voice narration through menus and training, but that damn commentator has left a bitter taste, almost like those wasps he’s been chewing on.
So down to the nitty-gritty, and is Monster Truck Championship worth your time,
There’s a lot to like in the package, and you’ll be pushing 12-15 hours to complete career, beyond that it’s great fun for the occasional race, but Multiplayer seems to have died already only 6 weeks after release, but considering the lack of worthy opposition Monster Truck Championship easily takes the crown as the best Monster Truck game available on Xbox.
If you’re looking for a worthy single-player offering that doesn’t look out of place on the Xbox Series X, then Monster Truck Championship is well worth considering.