One of my early gaming memories was playing Monster Truck Madness on our old PC many years ago which began a short but strong obsession with Monster Trucks that even to this day leaves me remembering Snake Bite’s fangs and Monster Patrol’s massive spoiler. So, when I saw a new Monster Truck game was landing this year, my eyes were fixed squarely on Monster Jam Steel Titans.
The game drops you straight into a truck testing out the ropes. You are given a brief overview of how to drive and do some tricks from ramps. From here it is immediately clear that Monster Jam Steel Titans is far less sim, and far more of a tricks game with monster trucks with crazy physics that have you doing flips or rolling around a lot.
The game makes no attempt to sneak in a story, instead opting for a campaign that has you making your way through championships of varying lengths consisting of a set of events. Events come in a few shapes and sizes varying from having to get a high score from tricks, to winning standard races, to making your way through a series of beacons. The tricks challenges are made harder where some require you to achieve a two wheel based trick for a combo to count, and the races come in a challenging variation where you have to do multiple laps of a small area to beat an opponent through a small knockout tournament.
So far so good right? The game’s biggest flaw is so close to a strength which is its callous disregard for physics. If the game embraced its silliness in the same way that SSX treats snowboarding physics then it would be great, but the campaign has you doing a series of events which can be long. When you are neck in neck on a race and clip a wall which sends you flying off in a barrel roll that lands you in last place it is extraordinarily frustrating when it puts you on the back foot for the whole series standings.
The way that Championships are set up is a little annoying as well. Entering one you don’t know if you are going to be doing six events or 20, which is an unnecessary design flaw, as if that info was there, I didn’t easily find it. One night as I battled to hold 3rd place I was praying that every event was my last one, which turned out that I was probably about halfway through when I started itching for it to end.
The game consistently felt like it was torn between a silly over the top tricks game, and a serious racing game which causes some unnecessary problems. When my trick would flip out of control or drive on one wheel it regularly wouldn’t register tricks based on those physics, which if it did could easily work in its favour. Instead it winds up breaking a trick multiplier because its time doing a barrel roll killed the time to land another trick.
The game is at its most fun when you avoid doing those campaigns and instead tackle single races. This way the consequences of the game’s physics stuffing you up doesn’t sting and it instead becomes a bit of fun. Free roaming around the courses outside of the races is also a lot of fun as you can enjoy the chaos to its fullest.
Monster Jam Steel Titans is a tough game to recommend. I had an absolute blast playing the game, unlocking Monster Trucks and then wrecking them on courses, but its championships feel like an important aspect of the experience that makes the chaotic physics feel like a bug instead of a feature.