Okay, I’m going to look a little old here, but back when I was a kid I spent a lot of time playing the original Bigfoot game on NES. It had upgrades and boosts which looking back seem so ahead of their time and later fueled my love for Gran Turismo. Prompted me to end up at any local monster truck show as well. But eventually, things got a little too crazy, or I drifted away from it all. But when I received an email about an upcoming game called Monster Truck Championship all of that came back. It isn’t the only monster truck offering, but smashing cars, doing tricks, drag races, and normal races all piqued my interest. Especially with it being supported on Steam as well as PS4, Xbox One, and the Switch. Today is launch day (for everything except the Switch) and I’ve been playing it, lets take a look at how things went with Monster Truck Championship on the PC.
Game Name: Monster Truck Championship
Review Sample Provided by: NACON and TEYON
Written by: Wes Compton
Amazon Affiliate Link: HERE
So Monster Truck Championship has three different game modes. The main mode and what you land on when you start is the Career mode. But there is a quick play option as well as multiplayer. The quick play lets you select a game mode which you can pick from a race, time trial, drag race, freestyle, and destruction. This is a similar layout to a normal monster truck event, especially Monster Jam though they are careful to use that name as there is a licensed video game based on those events. Races are full loops and you can pick the number of laps and opponents as well as their difficulty and of course the map. Time trials are similar but it is you racing the clock, not everyone out on the track at the same time. Drag races are shorter single lap races that have a tournament layout with head to head races. Freestyle is most likely more like what a lot of people think about when they think of monster trucks, you are in arena maps and doing tricks with a point system. Then Destruction is similar, but focused on the amount of damage you do.
The multiplayer aspect is very similar to the quickplay mode. But sadly it is limited only to the race and to the drag races. I would have loved to see the freestyle and destruction modes included here. If for nothing else but to watch others do their tricks. Once you setup a race, you can setup the number of stages, add AI opponents to fill in any empty spots, and select damage and performance classes. You can also pick different maps for the stages and pick the number of laps. Checking this out pre-launch there weren’t any online games available to play. They have also integrated basic global leaderboards as well when you are in career mode to see how you compare to others. I did run into a bug here as well, when you are sitting in the lobby the game does fully load your GPU, but it doesn’t do this in the other menus.
The main game mode and what I came to play was the career mode. This does integrate the same race modes that I mentioned in the quickplay mode. But you don’t just get access to any performance level, you start from the beginning. They have three different “leagues” The national league, professional league, and major league. Each of those has a whole list of events that you work your way through to earn upgrades to your truck (well the option to buy them, you still need to have the money as well which you win from events). Each event has its own “extreme” name and each is a series of races and stunts. Only a few are opened up at a time so you can’t skip through everything, this is your career, there aren’t any shortcuts!
The management page lets you make changes to your team and sponsors. For your team, you start off with no one and have to hire people. Each person costs a specific amount to hire and they all have downsides and benefits. They may make you a percentage more in money or give you more power while making you lose less or have less traction. So you can pick and choose and just like in the events not everyone is open all at once. Then on the sponsors page, you get to pick out sponsor deals available to you at the time. Each company has different terms. They have a specific payout but they have a checklist of requirements that you need to do during your event or you lose out on the deal. This could be specific to a race or a stunt or both. They may want you to get first or like in the example below they want you to win one event without restarting or resetting. This is a cool wait to make a lot more money as you go through your career.
You can also look at the overall standings for the league you are currently in. Each event has points and they add up. This also breaks down your finances to see how much you have won from events and sponsors. How much you have spent on truck upgrades and repairs, and entry fees for the events.
In addition to your staff members, the main way you change your truck performance is in the garage. Here you can upgrade all of the performance parts, appearance with things like wheels, stickers, paint, and even completely different bodys. There is also a tuning option where you can tweak things, you can do that between events as well. All of the options are slowly opened up for you by winning events and especially by fulfilling sponsor deals so you can’t just jump in here and change everything. There are a few basic bodys and styles available and you can change the colors completely at the start. But then you start to open things up as your career progresses. The engine upgrades specifically are tied closely to the different leagues.
Racing through career mode was fun, but also a little repetitive. The repetitiveness isn’t a huge surprise because a lot of racing games follow a similar format (like the Dirt series) and it can sometimes feel like you are grinding. Especially where there aren’t a lot of maps which there aren’t. The arenas could use more track/destruction layouts and more backgrounds for example. Being able to mix those two up could make it feel fresher. But if you are just jumping in and playing from time to time and not trying to grind through the game the career race layout gives you a perfect 3-5 race series to run through with prizes at the end and longer-term career upgrades when you move up through leagues and as you get truck upgrades.
They do keep track of your personal bests for times specific to each map and for stunts and destruction event scores. As soon as the race/event is over you find out if you win and if it is your personal best.
The display layout when you are racing is about what you would expect. In the top left you have your position as well as what lap you are on with a list of everyone in the race and their times which update as they reach checkpoints so you know how far they are behind you. Along the top edge, there is a percentage meter that shows you how far you are through the race, if the lap indicator isn’t enough. That helps the most with the single lap drag races. Then on the top right, you have your time and they also track if you have to reset which happens if you crash badly or rollover. The bottom right has a completely standard tach with what gear you are in and a speed which by default is metric but you can change to imperial. Then in the bottom left corner, you have a status indicator which if you have damage on will show all the damage you do to your truck as well as the smaller icons that show when the damage affects how your truck drives.
The gameplay menu is where you can change things like the truck's damage. You also have options for your camera angle and FOV as well as smaller details like if you will get camera shake. ABS can be turned on and off and you can change the transmission type and select if you want to use a clutch or not for manual. In career mode, you can’t change the difficulty without resetting your career. That changes the AI difficulty as well as turns on or off some of the driver aids as well.
Monster Truck Championship supports using a controller, wheel, or your keyboard so you have every option available. With the game available on all of the consoles it isn’t a surprise that the controller support is there and is great. The controls are exactly what you would expect with your right trigger for acceleration and left for braking. They use both sticks for steering because the monster trucks do have front and rear wheel steering and this is for sure the easiest implementation of the four wheel steering controls but you can also just turn on rear wheel sync if using both is too much. You even have full vibration support.
I love that wheel support was included, every racing game should have it. There isn’t a good way to do the four wheel steering with a wheel though and they default to having the rear steering bound to the 7 and 8 buttons so you will want to use the synchronization toggle button which is 2 by default to turn that on unless you're on wheel controls are easy to reach while turning. Gear shifting support is there if you want to row the gears and the game fully supports a full clutch as well which helps a lot with that.
As for the keyboard, this is what I did most of my playing with simply because it was easier to jump in and out of the game without having to get a wheel or controller out. They use the direction pad for your accelerate and breaking as well as the front wheel steering. The rear wheels use D and A from WASD so that is relatively comfortable as well and W and S for your shifting giving you two comfortable homes for your hands. The rest of the controls for things like resetting your truck and looking around are all around WASD with E and Q being used to look around C to look back and R to reset.
Graphics and Audio
For graphics settings, I played the game out of the box with things cranked up to the Epic setting and playing at 1440p. My system which is sporting an RTX 3080 now and an RTX 2080 at the start of my testing handled things without any issues. But just how good does the game look?
Well, you aren’t going to be all that impressed when you first load into a game. They start with a panning shot to show your map or arena and the detail level on parts of the background are especially low like with the crowd in an arena. Even some of the obstacles are especially low in detail like the arrows on the orange pillar in the picture below. The maps themselves are cool, but they are a lot less immersive than the backgrounds that you will find on most other racing games.
I wouldn’t call the inside view of the trucks highly detailed but you can see some details like your hands, and steering wheel. There are gauges and you can see the roll cage. You can even see through to the ground just like you would on a monster truck. The detail levels should be a lot higher IMO for a modern game. Especially here where you are looking at things up close and it isn’t like the interior between the trucks changes much.
The standard view which is a third person behind the truck view is what you will see the most and the truck have the most detail out of everything in the game. When you have damage turned on you will see body panels falling off as you roll which is great as well. I would best compare the overall level of detail with GTA 5 and not GTA 5 with all of the mods available these days. Which is without a doubt the most disappointing part of the game. It is good looking enough to have fun and on the current gen consoles it may not even feel out of date, but on PC the difference is really easy to spot.
Overall and Final Verdict
Monster truck games over the years have been very hit and miss and I nearly skipped on past this one at first glance as well. What caught my eye was that it was being developed by Nacon which used to be called Bigben Interactive. They have been involved in the WRC or World Rally Championship games and Flatout (just the last one). So I figured I would give the game a look and would be a nice break from testing hardware to run things over and not even get arrested for it!
I’ve had a good time playing, its kind of a mix of normal racing games with Tony Hawk mixed in when it comes to the arena stunts. I found that overall it's an easy game to jump in for 45 minutes or an hour but it did start to get repetitive and grindy when I played for a lot longer. This mostly has to do with the lack of a variety of tracks and track locations. More variety there would be good or having a map creation mode where you can put obstacles together would be even better.
The career mode is what I like the most, especially the customization of the trucks. You can upgrade all of the performance aspects, pick and choose your team for more advantages, and then make a unique looking truck with the aesthetic changes.
It’s the graphics though that are holding the game back. I feel like the overall level of detail is best compared to GTA 5 which dates the game back to 2013. Especially when you now have sports games and racing games that can sometimes be confused for real video footage, it makes Monster Truck Championship stand out in a bad way. That isn’t to say that graphics or detail is everything. Hell, every year many games show that isn’t true. But when I play games I love being able to be able to do things I can’t do in real life, like being a monster truck driver and I want the full experience. There aren’t any monster truck games with better graphics out there, but I would love for it to feel a little more next-gen with the PS5 and new Xbox coming out soon.
As far as bug and issues, I did run into a few. Specifically, I had one game crash which is pictured below. I also think that some of the menus like the multiplayer one fully loading the GPU is a bug as well. But I didn’t run into any game ruining issues. Controls are solid, at least as good as they can be when you also have to control front and rear steering which does make using a steering wheel useful at all.
Overall I did like the game and have been playing it here and there even when I was done with my testing. There is a lot of room for improvement, but the game does feel like Dirt with monster trucks. If you like monster trucks you won’t get to see the trucks that you have grown up loving, but you do get to get the monster truck experience. Career mode lets you progress and upgrades your truck and there are quickplay and multiplayer modes to jump into when you don’t want that grind as well.
Live Pricing: HERE