Advocate for Sega. Fan of the 90s.
Xbox One, PS4, PC, Nintendo Switch
March 2, 2021
Monster Trucks are a guilty pleasure for many, including myself. I was a big fan of them growing up and I remember hiring tapes from the local video rental to watch their latest car-crushing and mud-slinging endeavours. I played hours and hours of the Monster Truck Madness games in the mid to late 90s. These titles I credit as being some of the earliest and most effective open world racers available at the time.
Fast forward a few decades later and I’ve mostly left my adoration for Monster Trucks in the past, until now. Boasting 38 real-life trucks, five open worlds to explore and a mix of arena challenges and open world racing, Monster Jam Steel Titans 2 is an appealing proposition. I was looking forward to a game that on paper appeared to be a sort of successor to the titles that I used to enjoy back in the day. Unfortunately I was left a little disappointed.
When I booted up Monster Jam Steel Titans 2 for the first time, things were looking good. After a basic tutorial I was suddenly dropped into my first open world, Camp Crushmore, ready for some action. It was a nice large open area for me to drive around and explore, do jumps and climb hills. The graphics were looking pretty good too, lots of lush green about and various areas to explore. Unfortunately I also realised that there just wasn’t that much to do other than driving around up and down hills… it was all kind of pointless.
It didn’t take long for me to get bored of driving around by myself in the game’s first area, although after completing a few challenges the next area opened up and my interest was renewed. The game’s second area, Bark Park, is a cute little spot with an adorable soundtrack. It is themed on several trucks based on dogs. It features giant dog houses, a track shaped like a bone and oversized furniture littered about. Down the track you also get to visit the Wastelands which to me is the most impressive area in the game, a giant desert featuring Mad Max style built-up areas, a junk yard and an abandoned highway.
To progress through the game each area has a series of challenges you need to complete in order to move to the next themed world. Completing challenges is also how you unlock new trucks to drive, so it doesn’t take long to add some new trucks to your collection. Each challenge is made up of two arena competitions, a circuit race and a point to point rally. It didn’t take long to progress through these, which is for the best given that the shine wears off the worlds pretty quickly.
The racing in Monster Jam Steel Titans 2 is split between arena races/challenges and open world courses. This means there are plenty of different styles of racing available to test your Monster Truck driving skills. The Arena races are like you see on TV featuring head to head races, which for the most part are short loop circuits maybe with a small jump or two for good measure. Each driver also has their own circuit and to win you simply complete 5 laps faster than your competitor.
The game also has trick contests, the idea being to score points by doing jumps, backflips and the like. There is a crushing contest where you destroy as much stuff you can within a time limit. And finally there’s the two wheeled challenge where you basically need to get the truck onto two wheels. For me, that is the most annoying of the set. I found it is luck as much as anything and to be honest I won by just doing burnouts until my truck rolled onto its side and just kept the accelerator down – I don’t think that is what they had in mind but it works.
The open world courses are a bit of a mixed bag to be honest. Some of the open worlds are genuinely interesting and the openness of the Wasteland definitely lends itself toward racing big unwieldy trucks. Although some of the other courses, particularly courses featuring tight corners and debris are the things of Monster Truck nightmares. If you have ever seen a Monster Truck on TV you’d know that these things are very bouncy and they do not lend themselves to technical driving. If you hit a small bump, clip the bottom of a hill on a corner or hit piece of debris at the wrong angle, it’s all over. By the time you are right side up the race is pretty much lost.
Things like course design unfortunately let the game down, which is a shame because I would say MOST of the tracks are genuinely fun to drive. The Bard Park dog bone shaped circuit has nice banking around the corners and plenty of space to make mistakes. Some of the circuit tracks mix it up by having half the field drive in the opposite direction which is a really cool touch and makes even the more rudimentary circuits interesting. Others are just a pain to drive around. For me Monster Trucks are about big jumps, fun and carnage. If I wanted to drive technical circuits I would have played a Formula 1 game.
Environmental Hazards aside, the trucks control as you would imagine a big heavy beast on giant tires would. They are weighty and prone to rolling over. You can use the second stick to steer the rear wheels independently to nudge them around tighter corners. You just need to be careful at speed though because it is very easy to unsettle the truck. I have managed to roll them over on even slight bends and straights by being too heavy with the rear wheel steering.
Overall, Monster Jam Steel Titans 2 wasn’t quite what I was looking for. It has its highlights, some of the open worlds are a treat but the shine wears off quickly after a bit of exploration when you realise the worlds are actually pretty lifeless. Some of the arena challenges are fun the first couple of times, but again after a few rounds of trick challenges they get repetitive. When it comes to races, the fun factor is inconsistent. Some tracks give you plenty of room but others just aren’t suited to these trucks. This is by no means a simulation, but there are times it feels a little too serious about its racing. For the next one, I hope they dial up the carnage and the big jumps and just make it more fun.
Monster Jam Steel Titans 2 almost gets there but it’s just not consistently fun enough to warrant ongoing play. The open worlds are large and some of them are well designed, but there just isn’t really anything to do other than drive around. The races themselves are too much of a mixed bag, mixing some exciting races with other tracks that would better suit a Rally Car rather than a Monster Truck. The arena challenges are fun for a while but they become too repetitive to keep going back to.
I feel like the developer had the right idea and had they fully executed by packing the worlds with secrets, or even just packing the map with unique challenges or races, it could have made the areas more exciting. The arena races and challenges could have moved away from pseudo realism into more spectacular set pieces. I feel as though this game is moving in the right direction, but it just hasn’t perfected the idea.