STAFF REVIEW of Monster Truck Championship Xbox Series X|S (Xbox Series X)

Monday, March 22, 2021.
by Adam Dileva

Monster Truck Championship Xbox Series X|S Box art Back in October 2020, Monster Truck Championship released, touted as being the first monster truck simulator as opposed to the typical arcade experience you get with these types of games. I actually ended up reviewing the original Monster Truck Championship on an Xbox One X as it was just before the new console launch, and while I appreciated a new take on the monster truck genre, it had a slew of issues with its visual fidelity, framerate drops and draw distance which took away from the experience as a whole.

It seems they’ve taken feedback to heart and have made some improvements for the new consoles, releasing a version specifically for Xbox Series X/S. Now boasting 4K 60FPS, Monster Truck Championship on Xbox Series X fixes many of the issues I had with its original release on last gen. To be honest, I expected to be given the option of a Quality or Performance mode like how most next-gen titles are doing, but that isn’t the case here, as you simply get a smoother experience overall. It should also be noted that this isn’t a free upgrade/patch like how many titles are doing if you bought last-gen versions that upgrade to Series X, so if you’ve previously bought Monster Truck Championship for Xbox One and want it for Series X, it’s going to cost you another rebuy unfortunately, which is quite disappointing.

That being said, I wish this next-gen version was the version I initially reviewed, as it’s a much smoother experience overall. Full disclosure; we were provided a code for Monster Truck Championship at its initial launch for Xbox One and for Monster Truck Championship for Xbox Series X. Also, much of this Monster Truck Championship review will have content from my original review that pertains to the base game, as nothing substantial on that front hasn’t changed aside from the fresh coat of paint.

The tricks Monster Trucks can do now these days is absolutely insane, and I can’t even imagine having the power of nearly 2000 horses at your disposal to crush anything in front of you. Monster Trucks, before the world is in the situation it’s in these days, were so popular that they were able to fill arenas full of fans wanting to watch these machines do what they do best.

What initially intrigued me about Monster Truck Championship, developed by NACON and TEYON, is that it touts itself on being the first Monster Truck “simulator”. While there’s been a handful of Monster Truck games in the past, they were usually always very arcade-y, so I was curious to see what a simulation take would be. Now on one hand, if a game is being touted as a simulator, I would expect it to reflect the sport as accurately as possible, which meant I was excited to see the classic and best known trucks there are such as Bigfoot and Gravedigger. Sadly Monster Truck Championship isn’t licensed at all, so don’t expect to see any real life counterparts in the game.

The majority of your time is going to be spent in the Career Mode, and while there is an online component, there’s little to no reason to play it, which I’ll get into shortly. You start your Monster Truck career with a basic truck with basically no stats in the lowest League possible. As you win events you’ll earn points and money, allowing you to eventually move up the ranks and into the bigger leagues. There are over 25 arenas for the different event types, some indoors and others out, but they all blend together, none really standing out from the others.

Each of the three leagues are broken into different events, with each event then consisting of two to five individual races or destruction modes. You have your typical races, drag races and then destruction and freestyle events. It’s important to differentiate these two main types of events, as the physics are completely different in both, which takes some getting used to, but more on that shortly. The early events won’t cost anything to enter, but the closer events get to the finals the more the entry cost becomes, though so does the rewards you can earn for winning. As you earn points from winning events you’ll eventually be able to participate in the Finals of the league where a win allows you to move up into the next tier. You’ll begin in the National League, eventually moving up to Professional and then Major.

As you earn certain amounts of points in the leagues, you’ll also unlock parts for your monster truck, though there are other ways to do so as well. You’ll also have access to sponsorships, choosing who you want to work with. These are essentially small challenges and objectives that if you complete them within the allotted events, you’ll earn money and parts for your trucks. You’re also able to hire staff for your team, each of which have a small cost, but will give bonuses to specific components like extra cash earned, lower entry costs, better torque for your engine and much more.

Now, since this is a ‘simulation’, don’t expect your typical driving game. Actually, Monster Trucks don’t control anything like a regular vehicle, which should be obvious given their power, height, weight and stature. The biggest initial shock was that you are able to steer both the front and rear axles independently. That’s right, one stick will move your front wheels and the other the rear. This takes some serious getting used to and is briefly touched on with the tutorial. The tutorial will go over the basics and how to do all of the tricks you’ll need to master within the Freestyle and Demolition events.

All of the events take place across the United States and events will range from race and trick types. Races are your typical lap style races where the first across the finish line wins. I actually really enjoyed the Drag Races though where you go one on one with another driver in separate identical lanes where the first driver across the line advances to the next round in a knockout setup.

When you think Monster Trucks, you most likely think of them launching into the air and crushing dozens of cars, which is where the Freestyle and Destruction events come into play. Freestyle has you chaining tricks together like donuts, flips, high jumps and a bunch of other tricks to net a high score. Destruction is basically the same, but has more objects like cars, outhouses, trailers and others are placed around that will give point boosts and can be used to combo between tricks. Where the issue comes in is that these modes where you focus on tricks utilizes a completely different physics than the racing, so going back and forth in-between event types can be a little confusing as to why flooring the gas makes you wheelie in one mode but not the other.

As you win events and earn money you’ll get to customize your trucks in a variety of different ways. Most of your options will be cosmetic only, changing the body type, wheels, flags and other visual flairs. There are only a handful of upgrades you can purchase to improve your truck stats like engine, brakes and more, but these are earned from progressing in the career. In the Xbox One version I was excited to add a Canadian flag to the back of my truck, hoping to see it flap in the wind as I take jumps, but sadly it was just a static flag that doesn’t move at all. This seems to be something that was updated for Series X, as I can confirm that my Canadian flag now flaps in the wind (before I break it off from crashing or rolling my truck). That being said, it’s quite entertaining to see your truck body be a dog or a massive toaster.

Now, for whatever reason I had issues trying to play multiplayer online, having my system hang and crash to dashboard each time I attempted in the Xbox Series X version, so I'm going to simply base the multiplayer on my previous review for Xbox One, as I've been unable to find anyone else with the same multiplayer issues I've had. As of the time of this publishing I've still yet to find a fix sadly, so since the rest of the game is basically unchanged, I can only assume the multiplayer portion is as well for those that won't have any issues with it.

While I didn’t expect there to be a robust online mode, and is included, it’s incredibly bare and disappointing. You’re able to create a lobby for your friends to join and race, but that’s all. You can choose Racer or Drag Race. That’s it. Why is there no option for multiplayer Freestyle or Destruction? This is a monster truck simulator and you’re unable to crush cars with your friends online. Even worse, there’s absolutely no progression to be made online. You don’t earn cash to be used in single player, there’s no ranking system and no real reason to play online since there’s no progression in any way, and the lack of any lobbies every time I’ve checked proves this. I just wish I could figure out why multiplayer in the Xbox Series X version refuses to play nice with me after dozens of daily attempts.

My main issues with the last-gen version of Monster Truck Championship was mostly with its visuals. It had terrible textures aside from the trucks, the draw distance was incredibly close and distracting, the crowd was simply cardboard cutouts and the framerate would constantly dip when many trucks were on the screen at once. It seems like many of these problems were addressed, though not all. Framerate drops are no longer an issue, as I didn’t notice any real dips during races, and of course in 4K everything simply looks better overall without any more draw distance problems. It's not as drastic as a jump as I'd have hoped, but it was noticeable.

Campaign is where you’ll spend the majority of your monster truck time, and while there’s a decent amount of variety, it won’t take long to complete all of the events and purchase all of the upgrades for your truck. Sadly, when you complete this portion, there’s nothing really left to do unless you care about trying to climb the online leaderboards, but the online component really needs to be reworked and improved to make it worthwhile doing so.

While it has some good ideas, its execution still feels sloppy and having to rebuy the game again for a slightly prettier version on Xbox Series X for early adopters might leave a bad taste in some mouths, especially when many other publishers and games are offering the free upgrades. While it may not have the licensed trucks we’ve come to love in real life, Monster Truck Championship for Xbox Series X does entertain in short bursts when you get a hang of how to control these 2000hp monstrosities, plus it's the most visually appealing and best performing version of the game if you've not played previously.

**Monster Truck Championship (X|S) was reviewed on an Xbox Series X**

Overall: 7.0 / 10
Gameplay: 7.0 / 10
Visuals: 7.5 / 10
Sound: 6.5 / 10


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