A deep driving experience can go a long way, as games like the Gran Turismo series have proven. Arcade-style also works, as Microsoft’s incredibly good Forza Horizon 4 and classics like Blur and Split/Second have done. However it’s when you try to get all your racing eggs in one basket that you could be asking for trouble.
That’s the fate of Monster Jam Steel Titans 2, the latest in the monster truck racing series from Rainbow Studios. It continues the status quo that made the original such a hit, giving you a bevy of monster trucks to collects and tracks to tear up. Although while it may satisfy fans, it doesn’t really evolve enough past the original, and some of its problems remain intact. That’s not to say there isn’t a fun time here – there is – but unlike the MX vs. ATV series that Rainbow also works on, there’s not really enough growth here to embrace. It’s just spinning its monster wheels.
Steering into trouble
There’s some questionability with the gameplay involved with Steel Titans 2. On the one hand, Rainbow did do something cool with the structure in which the trucks handle, as you can move the front and rear wheels independently. This allows you to turn a lot tighter, something ideal with the short-range tracks, and also lets you get more of an angle when it comes to “crushing” the ramps and getting some serious air.
Yet there’s also the downside, revolving around the trucks themselves. Yes, they’re mighty, and can really take out a lot in their path. Nevertheless performing tricks can be a crapshoot because they’re so likely to be flipped over. And when you flip over, it can take quite a bit to get back on all four tires again. It’s a practice that gets very tiring and takes away from Steel Titans 2’s overall momentum.
Again, fans that have gotten used to the first one probably won’t mind. But Rainbow Studios probably should’ve balanced these trucks a little bit better, as it’s too easy to veer off course in some scenarios – and off your tires in others. For that matter, the AI can be scattershot. In some races, it’s incredibly easy to defeat. But in others, these cars put on more of a challenge than you might expect. It can really throw players off when they’re expecting a zig and getting a zag. The multiplayer’s all right, but hardly worth writing home about.
Finally, there just aren’t enough new events to go around. Sure, there are a number of events – four in all – with many races to be conquered during each one. But, again, there’s just not enough new stuff here. It just feels like the dev stuck with what worked, and then piled onto that foundation instead of building something new, like it’s done in the past. It can be real frustrating, though, again, some rough riders probably won’t mind.
Some unique world design
Where Steel Titans 2 does have a leg up over the original game is within some of its track designs. There are some great themed tracks here, including one that K9 lovers are sure to love (giant bones and all), as well as a spooky graveyard setting that’s perfect for, say, Grave Digger or any other spooky trucks you have in your arsenal. Some of these tracks look excellent, and are a real romp to race through, provided you have a hang of the complicated controls.
The trucks look good too, with splashy, stylish designs and decent physics that represent their real models. Fans shouldn’t be disappointed, and can unlock some new models to add to their collection as well.
As for the sound, it’s not really that imaginative. The announcer voice is generic at best, and the music selections are generally average, with nothing to make you feel like you’re taking part in a monster truck rally. But the engine noises are fantastic for each model, so when you gun it, it actually sounds like it makes a difference. Again, that’s probably something the die-hard monster truck racers will savor the most.
This One Jam-s Up Too Much
While I like some of the ideas within Monster Jam Steel Titans 2, it just doesn’t have enough good ones to go around. Most of the modes are repeats, the AI is lackluster, and the problematic engine makes it all too easy to crash your truck. Despite the bright spots – particularly the innovative track designs and the dual-wheel control system – it just can’t get over its, ahem, Monster problems. This is one series that could use a bit of overhaul. After all, it worked for MX vs. ATV, didn’t it?