20th Apr2021

Let’s Race! ‘Monster Truck Championship’ (Xbox Series S) vs ‘Monster Jam Steel Titans 2’ (Switch) Review

by Phil Wheat

It’s hard to pin point where it came from but I have a strange obsession with monster trucks… I often put it down to watching weird late-night monster truck racing shows on Yorkshire TV as a kid; or maybe its because I grew up in the era of Bigfoot – the king of the monster trucks that appeared in mainstream media and TV and not just racing around stadiums? Whatever the reason I’ve always had a soft spot for all things monster trucks, including video games. From the likes of Ivan ‘Ironman’ Stewart’s Super Off Road Racing (which technically aren’t traditional “monster trucks” to more recent iterations… including the two most recent monster truck games I’m reviewing here: Monster Truck Championship and Monster Jam Steel Titans 2.

Billed as the the first true monster truck simulation, Monster Truck Championship wouldn’t normally be my kind of game. You see I’m not a fan on simulation-style racing game. Give me an arcade-style racer anyday, complete with accelerator mashing, no brake cornering action. Which is very much the style of gameplay on offer in Monster Jam Steel Titans 2 – which features familiar vehicles from monster truck racing’s past and present but plays more like a arcade racer, complete with over the top stunts and more precise control on your vehicle, especially considering Monster Jam Steel Titans 2 plays up a lot more of the 4WD control system (front and back wheels are controlled separately), with the ability to slide/drift round corners on race course tracks. That’s an ability in BOTH games, however Monster Jam Steel Titans 2 seems to make more of its use, whilst – I feel – you can get away without using rear wheel steering at all in Monster Truck Championship.

But wouldn’t you know it, I actually prefer the simulation style of Monster Truck Championship. In fact once you’ve got the hang of driving the monster trucks in that game – with controlled cornering, use of de-acceleration (I still don’t use the brake in EITHER game!), finding the perfect line in the race tracks, getting a perfectly controlled start by braking while revving and releasing it at the perfect time – you’ll find it trickier to play Monster Jam Steel Titans 2’s more “loose” arcade-like control system.

Graphically there’s no comparison. The optimised for Series S/X graphics of Monster Truck Championship are beautiful… the lighting, the explosions, the cars themselves, everything looks stunning. Don’t get me wrong, Monster Jam Steel Titans 2 doesn’t look bad on the Switch, there’s just an extra level of detail in the former that, whilst it doesn’t add much to the gameplay, looks great on a big-screen TV! Everything else, like vehicle customisation, parts upgrades, etc. is pretty much the same as every other racer out there – very much in the “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” mold! Graphics aside, it’s the gameplay that’s the big difference between the two games…

Monster Truck Championship – as its simulation style suggests – feels more like you’re taking part in a national monster truck circuit; complete with reoccurring tracks and locations and repetitive events. But honestly that’s not a bad thing. As someone who grew up in the era where remembering patterns – be it movement of enemies or appearance of obstacles etc. – was key to winning at video games, the idea of repetitive tracks and events was highly appealing. It’s not all repetitive of course, you have various competitors on race courses who’s behaviour is random, there’s no way to control the outcome of your jumps sometimes in the demolition events, and – surprisingly – it sometimes feels like should you do too good the game will thrown in a tricky level or extra-combative opponents just to take you down a peg or two.

On the other hand Monster Jam Steel Titans 2 feels more like you’re messing around in a monster truck rather than trying to compete. There IS competition, don’t get me wrong, but it never feels as intense as it does in Monster Truck Championship. Now you’d think that because of that the former game would be ideal for more “pick up and play” style gaming. Surprisingly I found the opposite to be true… Monster Truck Championship‘s smaller courses, be it a demolition/stunt show, a drag race, or a one-lap speed course are a lot more “quick play” friendly. It’s only the multiple lap courses, with 3 or more laps, that involve  substantially longer play time. Whereas I found Monster Jam Steel Titans 2 focused more on the longer courses and thus took up more play time.

When it comes down to conclusions – which game is better – there’s only one winner in my book… Monster Truck Championship. It’s just a lot more fun to play, hands down. Plus it’s the sign of a great game, for me, when I’ll choose to play a game over any other; over old games I’m still working through and over new games I’ve just bought. I can honestly say that, hand on heart, Monster Truck Championship is the reason I turn my Xbox on these days!

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