Monster Jam Steel Titans

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Genre: Racing
Publisher: THQ Nordic
Developer: Rainbow Studios
Release Date: June 25, 2019

About Tony "OUberLord" Mitera

I've been entrenched in the world of game reviews for almost a decade, and I've been playing them for even longer. I'm primarily a PC gamer, though I own and play pretty much all modern platforms. When I'm not shooting up the place in the online arena, I can be found working in the IT field, which has just as many computers but far less shooting. Usually.


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PC Review - 'Monster Jam: Steel Titans'

by Tony "OUberLord" Mitera on Sept. 20, 2019 @ 6:30 a.m. PDT

Monster Jam Steel Titans takes fans beyond the stadium, allowing fans to experience what it takes to train and eventually compete like their favorite, real-life, professional Monster Jam athletes.

Buy Monster Jam: Steel Titans

Monster truck games used to reside within a purposeful blind spot for me, due in large part to the fact that the titles are rarely any good. You'd think that it wouldn't be too difficult to make the spectacle of the massive machines translate into an entertaining game, but they often miss the mark. It must not be impossible to figure out that formula, though, as Monster Jam Steel Titans does a pretty admirable job of encapsulating what monster trucks are all about.

Taking a page from the book of the presentation for the game that we saw at E3 2019, it's important to note up front how this game was developed. With so many stories about developers grinding work out of their development teams, putting a true human cost into the price of developing a game, Rainbow Studios purposefully went a different route. From what I was told, they specifically didn't have their developers work evenings or weekends, with the intention of trying to prove that developing games can be a sustainable process that doesn't require throwing people's lives into a grinder.

They seem to be on the right track in this regard, as Monster Jam Steel Titans is a decidedly solid game that rarely falters, though it does lack some depth. You play as a monster truck driver just starting off in their career, first proving their prowess at Monster Jam University. Controlling a monster truck can be simplified if you set the controls to have both axles controlled by the left stick. This is the most approachable control scheme and still lets you do all the things you'd expect a monster truck to do.

The more experienced you get, the more you will want to dabble in the advanced control scheme, where each stick controls an axle: the left stick for the front and the right stick for the rear. This allows for the truck to sort of "crab walk" to either side and gets you fine control over the positioning of the truck. You can also turn off the automatic throttle cut when the truck goes airborne, which lets you hold the gas while in-flight to rotate the truck backward (in a forward gear) or forward (in reverse gear).

Whatever options you choose, controlling your truck becomes one of the most important aspects of the game. Monster trucks are massive vehicles capable of surprising speed and huge jumps, but to get them to do exactly what you want requires a level of finesse. Taking part in a freestyle competition means you must string together tricks, such as flips, jumps, rolling along on two wheels, stoppies, and wheelies. It's easy to roll the truck if you are not careful, which means that a deft touch is required to keep the truck under control and oriented in the way that you want to keep a streak of tricks going.

There are a few different game modes to play around with. The most obvious one is freestyle, which is the type of competition where an individual truck is in a large arena and must do tricks to earn points from the judges. As a test to see who the better driver is, you can also compete in one-on-one races based on arena tracks. Both above modes take place in re-creations of real-world arenas, such as Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis or Ford Field in Detroit, but in-game, they are just referred to by their locations.

Because it is a video game, there is also a racing mode that pits multiple trucks against each other head-to-head in a cross-country race. Such a race would be incredibly unsafe to do in a real life, but in the game, it's fun madness as the trucks battle each other across dirt roads, hillsides and pavement. To chill out, you can take your truck into the free roam mode, which can be a good place to hone your driving skills and find a few collectibles along the way.

There is a bevy of real-life monster trucks in Monster Jam Steel Titans. To name a few, Grave Digger, Soldier Fortune, Zombie, and El Toro Loco are available, with a total roster of around two dozen trucks. Each truck can be upgraded independently, but they all tend to handle about the same. This generally means that you'll fully upgrade your first truck as soon as you can and use that until you find a truck that you simply like better and do the same to it.

The damage that the trucks can take is surprisingly true to life. The cosmetic shells can be damaged, and parts of them will flap around as the truck roars along. Land the wrong way, and chunks of the shell can rip free, exposing the skeletal chassis and supports concealed within. Wheels can also be damaged and cease spinning, or they can also snap free. Damage is also present in the cars that the trucks run over or the boxes or other obstacles that trucks can blast through, sending bits of wood and other debris flying.

The game has its faults, though. With every truck handling the same, it doesn't really feel like there is any variety between them, short of their cosmetics and appearance. The AI rarely puts up a significant fight in the races, and its lack of mistakes makes the other trucks come across as artificial in their behavior. There's also the matter that the game does get repetitive quickly; between the predictable AI and handling similarities, there's not a lot that differentiates the gameplay other than the modes themselves.

To its credit, there's a good amount of fun to be found within Monster Jam Steel Titans. Although the game can feel limited or repetitive, it rarely feels unpolished or incomplete. The truck controls are spot-on and feel fantastic, which is the most important landing to stick. More than anything else, the game feels like it has a limited scope, but importantly, it does well within the goals that it clearly has for itself. It's a fun game involving monster trucks, and the freestyle mode alone carries a lot of the game's entertainment, as it should.

Score: 7.2/10

Reviewed on: Intel i7 4790k, 16 GB RAM, NVidia GTX 970

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