Okay, it’s been years since I’ve ridden in a monster truck. My son loved Hot Wheels toys when he was younger. Over the years he has built up a small collection. We built our own arenas and destructible objects, and the time flew by. Recently, a Facebook ad scrolled through my newsfeed advertising a new game Monster Jam . The last time I played was on the Wii, so there was a touch of nostalgia with my son, and I thought it would be a good time to bring back the fun of playing with monster trucks. Will Monster Jam Steel Titans 2 make everyone smile with these monsters, or will I feel like a giant flat tire? Read on!
A few years ago, THQ Nordic and Rainbow Studios, known for their racing games such as MX vs ATV, Monster Jam Steel Titansreleased. The game was updated to Monster Jam IP, but was released with some critical gameplay bugs. Now Rainbow is back with Steel Titans 2 , which attempts to correct the failures of its predecessor. When you download the game, you get a nice tutorial with a monster starter truck and learn the basics of the game structure and controls. Players who still played the first game will find a slightly improved physics system, and the truck controls are also better, but let’s face it, this isn’t a simulator and it still plays like an arcade racer.
Steel Titans 2 has a progressive build with multiple layers, which I really enjoyed when I understood how it works. There is a mix of semi-open world areas where you are immersed in 1 of 5 environments. They range from prairies and deserts to wacky sci-fi regions, all based on a facsimile of the Monster Truck class. It’s a clever level design, and each of these open environments offers various unlockable items that you can find and then match to the right truck once you’ve unlocked it, for bragging rights and for small animations. In each of these environments, there is also a hidden truck-like creature for extra fun. As you unlock new environments, you can always return to the previous ones through certain doors, so by the end of the game you’ve really unlocked a huge playground.
In addition to the free play environment, you will also participate in various events in points-based tournaments. They range from freestyle destruction to circuit racing and two-wheeled skill courses. Personally, I found that they started to get repetitive after about 8 out of 20 tournaments, as they all follow a small group of competitive categories and the arenas generally don’t differ much from each other. Fortunately, the stars of the show – the cars – break this monotony.
The monster trucks themselves are generous in this game, with 38 in total that can be unlocked via multiple routes. You can find them by winning tournaments, finding collectibles and secrets in the world, or even a little paid DLC. Having not been following Monster Jam for very long, I was personally amazed at all the crazy designs going on these days! My favorite car was the one with the octopus, while my daughter of course loved the truck with the unicorn. There’s probably a truck for everyone right now, and that’s pretty awesome as a sport.
Each individual truck also has a progress screen. The more you play, the more hit points are replenished, making it a more powerful version of itself. However, I have learned that a top performance is not always the best. In track races, which usually take place on large courses, this has led to me flipping a super-fast monster truck on floating tires in an attempt to keep up with the pack. I wish the progression tree had more cosmetic alternatives or apps to unlock on the go, but I can understand the licensing restrictions preventing that.
Overall, the racing and driving of the trucks is pretty easy, with improved controls over the first game. And while it certainly takes liberties with the fictional setting, I’d be remiss if I didn’t say I missed the more traditional arena full of crisp cars. The events in the arena seem random. There are demolition events, but you have to smash copied fences, crates, smaller cubes, floating objects for airships, and some crunchy cars scattered around the arena. It just didn’t seem to have a strong effect on me when I went through one of those pages, so it seemed bland. Where can you use HD Rumble properly when you need it? But harming your truck is also an attitude I’ve found when dealing with these items. When it went through the safety rails, most of the panels flew off the body, leaving only the roll cage and frame. On other occasions, I’ve driven over the barrel half a dozen times and suffered only a few physical injuries. I think there is room for improvement in the future.
There’s also a pretty robust multiplayer aspect to this game, offering online multiplayer that unfortunately matches most Nintendo Switch games I try to play. I was constantly alone in an empty hallway and never really interacted with anyone. To overcome this problem, Rainbow also features local multiplayer over Wi-Fi, but more importantly, you can play with a friend in desktop mode or on your TV in splitscreen mode. However, they made the incredibly awkward decision to display the accelerator and brake pedals on the super small and truncated SL and SR buttons, making them almost impossible to read, and without rearranging the buttons, this feature was a huge disappointment to me. Again: If you have the wristbands that came with the switch, you can use them to make the buttons easier to press.
Monster Jam Steel Titans 2 works pretty well on Nintendo Switch, but as a cross-platform game, you’ll notice some flaws compared to other platforms. My biggest problem, frankly, is that the third environment zone is at night, and without the advanced lighting technology you see on other consoles, I stumbled a bit in very dark places. Overall, there is no significant drop in FPS, with the exception of the environment transitions, which is always nice, and the general fidelity which can also be expected here. There are still some weaknesses in the game, but I think it’s platform independent. Truck physics can work, especially when driving free. I encountered audio errors and even controller input and lag issues with the joycons, which was a bit odd.
If you like monster trucks with big wheels, Monster Jam Steel Titans 2 offers a pretty fun arcade experience with only a few minor drawbacks. Although the game is aimed at a younger audience, I think older fans will enjoy themselves as well, especially if you join in the split-screen action with the controller (not the Joy-Con). Monster Jam finds more groove with this sequel, and the series is sure to only gain more traction from here.
Monster Jam Steel Titans 2 Overview
- Graphics – 6.5/10
- Sound – 6/10
- Playability – 6.5/10
- Late Call – 6/10
Final thoughts: REWARDS
Monster Jam Steel Titans 2 is an improvement over its predecessor, offering an exciting arcade experience for monster trucks of all ages. With a solid progression system, trucks (both fan and free to play) and fictional environments to romp around in, there’s plenty of fun to be had in truck racing. They should focus on minor to moderate offenses that might affect hardcore gamers more than young kids, but we’re still talking about a fun Monster Jam experience here.
Alex has been in the game industry since the release of Nintendo. He turned his hobby into his profession, spent just over a decade developing games and is now the creative director of the studio.
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