Who doesn’t love monster trucks? I don’t really hear much about them anymore yet I often think about how cool it would be to have one and just drive over traffic. I must have watched it at some point in my youth as I vaguely remember seeing these massive vehicles racing around tracks, over cars and the infamous Grave Digger truck sticks in my mind. Why aren’t there more games featuring monster trucks? Well, if Monster Jam – Crush It is the standard to go by, it’s because they are terrible.
My expectations for Monster Jam were fairly low, even though I haven’t played any of the previous titles in the series. I imagined a roaring, loud noise along with the crashing of tire on metal, debris flying everywhere and carnage in your wake. If they are your expectations you’ll need to leave them at the door. Monster Jam has none of this.
Before we get into the problems, let’s examine the offering. Monster Jam offers race modes, time attack, score attack and hill climb modes. I completed all of the race mode options in under ten minutes. Seriously. The race starts off with you versus an AI opponent and you have to get to the finish first. The ‘track’ is typically some cars, maybe a jump and a turn or two. The longest ‘track’ is about 15 seconds long. If you’ve ever seen monster truck racing you’ll know it isn’t an endurance sport but this translates terrible to the game. It actually takes longer to load a race than it does to complete it. Worse still, if you need to restart it has to do a complete reload, and when you cross the finish line the game will freeze for a literal second before continuing and announcing you as the winner or loser.
My failed attempts at completing the races were always due to handling issues. It’s horribly light and over sensitive with little benefit in having an analogue stick to steer. It feels very much like this engine was built for traditional dpad controls and have never been updated. Time attack is the exact same thing but you’re timed (another ten minutes) and then you’re onto score attack (but you can do these in any order).
Score attack mode puts you in an arena to get as high a score as possible. You get points for crushing cars and jumping over stuff. This is immensely difficult because of the poor handling, but points just pour in regardless. Anytime you hit something or fly into the air (sometimes because you’ve hit something) you will get some points. There are no ‘tricks’ or finesse driving bonuses that I could notice so it was just a case of trying to hit all the cars then jump about a bit. It’s really demoralising.
The final mode at least offers something a bit different. Hill Climb has you navigate a track from start to finish but from a side on perspective – no steering required! It’s instantly the better for it. Instead it’s all about throttle control, but if you’re thinking it’s akin to Trials you would be half right. Indeed, it takes inspiration from Trials in the side-on presentation but you can’t really fail. I just held the accelerator to pass the first three levels, and after that there is some requirement to stop, start, reverse to get better run ups. It’s nice that there is at least something offered a bit different here but it’s a poor imitation.
Despite the lacklustre modes, you never even get that monster truck experience. The cars just rumble a bit rather than roar and all of the cars you crash are oddly coloured green and seem to have a single destroyed state. It’s just a bit lame. The sound effects are terrible and feel again like an older game just upscaled to take advantage of a newer machine.
Monster Jam – Crush It failed to meet even my low expectations. If you simply want to smash things up in a big car then there are many open world games offering this at a much higher quality. The setting really limits what you can do with monster trucks but that should allow for it to be done well. It doesn’t and with the barely usable handling it is probably one of the worst games I’ve played this generation.
Reviewed on PS4