STAFF REVIEW of Monster Jam Steel Titans 2 (Xbox One)

Friday, March 12, 2021.
by Adam Dileva

Monster Jam Steel Titans 2 Box art As a kid, was there anything cooler than a monster truck? I mean, how do you get ANY cooler than a truck with wheels as big as your house and watching them crush regular cars? I think many kids from my era always had a fascination with monster trucks, as there really is nothing else like it. Monster Jam has been around a while, and now the sequel to its game series is finally here. So does Monster Jam Steel Titans 2 bring back all those great feelings I got as a kid watching these behemoths? Kind of...

The original Monster Jam Steel Titans didn’t exactly wow us or set the world on fire, which to be fair, was their first game, so the sequel had plenty of potential to improve nearly every facet of its gameplay and design choices. Steel Titans 2 does improve many things from the original, and you can expect many more trucks, new worlds to explore and new online multiplayer modes in this purely arcade experience.

Career mode will take you across five different themed worlds as you progress, unlocking up to 38 trucks as you win matches and complete events. You’re only given the choice of a truck or two in the beginning, but you’ll start to unlock new ones as you progress through the career or find secrets, able to choose your favorite and even improve their stats the more you use them.

There are 12 authentic stadiums for the freestyle and destruction events, but that’s only half of the equation. The other events will have you competing in waypoint races in an open world setting, allowing you to choose the best way to each checkpoint as you see fit. Thankfully for each event, you’re able to choose from Easy, Medium and Hard difficulties, allowing you to best set your own challenge, though even one single screw up even on Easy means you’ll most likely lose a race or event.

You’re set into an open world area from the beginning, allowing you to search for secrets and collectables, or can go to the locked door, allowing you to participate in a series of events. Complete enough of these events and the next world will unlock, allowing you to repeat the process over again until you unlock all five worlds. Each series consists of 4 or 5 events that will unlock the next one as long as you place third or better, which shouldn’t be too challenging if playing on Easy or Normal. Most of these series will have you doing a few stadium events and then a waypoint race or two in the world you’re currently in.

Events will vary, from two-wheeled trick attacks, freestyle point accumulation, destruction based or head to head races on a small circuit. The head to head races has you partaking in a 3 round tournament where the winner moves onto the next round. These only last a minute or two and requires more precision driving than anything else. The stunt events has you trying to accumulate the highest trick scores you can attain within a minute or two and usually isn’t too difficult to come out on top. The destruction based events are what I was most excited for, as you’re a monster truck, so I wanted to crush a ton of cars, but that’s not really what you get here. Instead, there are porta-potties, crates and other objects setup around the stadium, and you need to be a bit strategic trying to combo as high as you can before the timer runs out. The higher your combo the quicker the meter will get to stopping your combo, so you need to have a plan of what objects to hit without too much ‘dead time’ between smashing items.

The outdoor race events on the other hand are quite a different experience. These are either a circuit race with 3 laps or a waypoint race. Some of these waypoint races will be ten to 20 markers long, having you race on a somewhat defined path, where the waypoint races with only two or three checkpoints are usually setup as a freeform 'one corner of the map to the other and back' race where you can choose the best way to go. This means you’re going to need to learn the open world portions of the map if you want even a chance of winning these races, as going the ‘wrong’ way can easily get you in last place quite quickly. Also, races are much more challenging than the skill based events, as one flip or bad landing, and you’ll have to either reset your truck, losing precious time, or struggling trying to get back on your wheels and ahead of the pack.

The stars of the show are of course the roster of 38 iconic Monster Jam trucks, including the legendary Grave Digger. A much bigger roster than the original game, there’s plenty of choice here to find your favorite, but it will take a lot of time to unlock all of them. Some are obtained by simply progressing through the career, the others are secrets in the open world or obtained by collecting all of the Monster Jam icons hidden throughout each of the five worlds.

With a huge roster of trucks, you’ll not only be able to find a favorite, but you can also improve their stats the more you win events with them. You can upgrade their suspension, tires, chassis, transmission and engine, and won’t take long to max one out. The only issue with this setup is that once you have a truck maxed out after a few events, switching to a different truck means you have to deal with a lesser stat truck, so why would you? Once I maxed out one of my earlier trucks, I simply stuck with that for the rest of the game, as I didn’t want to start all over, even with a cooler looking truck that I unlocked later in the career.

Even without any of the career events, the five worlds are a decent size that will keep you busy for a while with all of the secrets and collectables to find. As you explore you’ll see a number of Monster Jam icons hidden throughout which can be collected. You’ll also uncover a few question marks on the map, and these require you to bring the correct truck to that area to get its unlock. For example, there is a tower that had no electricity, but when I brought my lightning themed truck to that spot, you’ll uncover its secret. There’s a huge doghouse as well, so bring a certain canine themed truck there and you’ll get its unlock. There’s nothing telling you what truck belongs to which spot, so it’ll take some trial and error, but was a fun way to pass some time.

As for actually controlling these monster trucks, it’s kind of a mixed bag. Controls are basic, but now you’ll use both sticks for steering. The left stick controls the front wheels, and the right the back, so you can do some quick and crazy turns when needed. The difficulty curve is generally pretty smooth, but the hardest thing will actually be keeping your truck upright and steady as opposed to trying to stay ahead of your opponents. As mentioned above, one screw up and flipping your truck even one time will sometimes mean you’re going to go from first to last place. Hit one corner wrong or a hill with too much speed and you’re going to crash quite hard, losing precious time.

Multiplayer has a much bigger focus in Steel Titans 2, able to play locally or online with your friends in a variety of events. While very basic, at least it’s been added this time, allowing you to freeplay in the open world, race or do stunt events. There seems to be a decent amount of players online, and racing had no major hiccups from the handful of races I partook in aside from the odd glitch or two clipping while rubbing against other online racers.

While the visuals won’t blow you away, the trucks themselves look quite decent and panels and parts of the trucks will smash off as you crash and land poorly. The environments themselves are all varied based on the world you’re currently in, ranging from desert, haunted lands, futuristic and more, but again, won’t blow you away. The audio is what you’d expect, with the roar of the massive engines being much too loud and constant, so I eventually muted the generic music and sounds to play some Spotify instead.

Monster Jam Steel Titans 2 is a big improvement from the previous game in many ways, and while this is a good thing overall, there’s a lot of tedium having to do many of similar events repeatedly. While some will enjoy searching the worlds for the collectables and unlocking all of the trucks, once you’ve completed all of the events and have all the vehicles, there doesn’t seem to be much longevity afterwards. For those that really enjoy monster trucks, Steel Titans 2 is a fun excursion as long as you keep your expectations in check and want to have some mindless fun with larger than life trucks.

**Monster Jam Steel Titans 2 was reviewed on an Xbox Series X**

Overall: 6.3 / 10
Gameplay: 6.5 / 10
Visuals: 6.5 / 10
Sound: 6.0 / 10


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