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July 2019

Monster Jam Steel Titans

Platform(s): 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.


PS4/XOne/PC Preview - 'Monster Jam: Steel Titans'

by Tony "OUberLord" Mitera on June 22, 2019 @ 2:30 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.

Pre-order Monster Jam: Steel Titans

My appointment to check out Monster Jam: Steel Titans was one of the more memorable ones that I had at E3 2019. Before anything about the game was shown to me, I spoke with Rainbow Studios CEO Chris Gilbert about the development practices that went into the creation of the game. Simply put, Rainbow Studios decided early on that it was not going to subject its developers to crunch. The studio wanted this game to prove that developing games can be done in a sustainable model and asked that I keep that in mind once the developers started showing off the game.

With its ludicrously powerful monster trucks, the Monster Jam franchise is awesome to behold in person, but the game offerings have ranged from mediocre to bad. Monster Jam: Steel Titans feels like one of the first times when a developer has (somewhat paradoxically) taken a monster truck game seriously. From what was shown and what I played, it has all the levity that stupidly powerful trucks of their stature should offer, but it's paired with controls and physics that make the massive vehicles feel realistic.

Right off the bat, I was curious about the game's control scheme. Monster trucks maneuver using a brain-melting method of using both the front and rear wheels to steer the truck. In the game's simpler control scheme, the left stick controls both and does so equally. It's novice-friendly and makes the truck handle like any other racing game. In the advanced mode, the left stick controls the front axle and the right stick controls the rear. This allows for a lot more flexibility in controlling the truck, with a reward in how fun it was matched with how much skill it takes to use it properly.

It's important to note how prominently the physics is integrated into the gameplay. The truck's handling and stability is always affected by speed, the terrain, the suspension, and smaller things, like ruts in the mud. Leap into the air, and watch the suspension soften the impact upon landing. Land wrong, and watch as physics does its thing as the dirt catches the edge of a wheel and sends the truck onto its lid. It felt weighty and grounded, and I had a fair amount of fun ramping around in an airplane graveyard and seeing the emergent physics of how the game reacted.

The trucks are tough but still vulnerable. Their cosmetic shells can be damaged piece by piece, shredding off parts if you roll the truck or hit obstacles. Wheels can mechanically break and effectively seize onto the vehicle, forcing you to drag that wheel for the rest of a run. Trucks can be tuned in a few categories to increase their performance (acceleration, bounce, speed, stability and traction) and can be upgraded in five levels of parts across five categories. A career mode was mentioned but not shown, where such tweaking and tuning would presumably be important based on the upcoming event.

There will be a few different game modes to choose from. While I had fun screwing around in Free Ride mode, the game features a few other modes. On the racing side, you have Circuit, Head to Head, and Waypoint races, the latter of which looks like the offroad races of the Forza Horizon series. They don't happen in real life due to the high risk that would be involved, but they make for quite a spectacle in the game.

I'll be reviewing Monster Jam: Steel Titans soon enough, but from what I saw and played at E3 2019, it definitely appears that Rainbow Studios has a pretty good handle on how to create a compelling game without putting their developers through the grinder. Steel Titans is the first time that I've been genuinely interested in a Monster Jam game.

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