Title: Monster Jam Steel Titans
Developer: Rainbow Studios
Publisher: THQ Nordic
Genre: Racing, Simulation
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Age Rating: PEGI 3
Release Date: 26/11/2019
Price: £26.99 – Rapid Reviews UK was very kindly provided with a review code for this title.
Monster Jam Steel Titans, for those that are new to this franchise of games, is a monster truck racing game. Featuring all the licensed trucks, locations and stadiums (based on the real sport of the same name) that fans will be familiar with.
Gameplay wise, it’s a tough one to decide exactly which genre suits it best. From the outset, it comes off mostly as a racing simulator, complete with lots of in-depth tutorials.
Each tutorial covering a myriad of aspects to the game and race types. All of which are nicely voice acted, which was helpful and also added a sense of quality and production value to proceedings.
Even flicking through the dozens of game, sound and visual options gives you a good sense of customisation. Things like advanced rear-steer give you the choice of how you would like to control the rear wheels, definitely one for the hardcore “trucker.”
Yet, on the other hand, it feels much more arcadey. Owing in most part to the “feel” of the controls and the upgrade system being a “buy and go” affair instead of any kind of in-depth levelling and customisation integration.
However, when you fire up a game, you’ll soon realise that there is a strong emphasis on physics. Especially when you get into the stadium and stunt courses. You’ll be required to pop “wheelies” and “stoppies” and two-wheel driving by carefully balancing throttle, brakes and steering.
It isn’t all about showmanship though, there are also outdoor races such as circuit races and checkpoint runs. The latter of which provides you with an open space where you race against your rival trucks to each checkpoint. Which route you take, however, is up to you.
Sadly there’s no online multiplayer here (at least at the time of review) which I feel was a missed opportunity. There is a 2 player split-screen mode, however. This was a lot of fun, especially playing hide and seek with my six-year-old daughter in free-roam mode.
Do The Monster Mash
Once you graduate from Monster Jam University, you’ll begin your career. Here, there are dozens of races covering Outdoor Racing, Arena Trials, Arena Championship, Stadium Trials, Stadium Championship and World Championship. You’ll want to complete as many of these as you can, as this is where you’re going to unlock more monster trucks and earn that sweet moolah for your upgrades.
Speaking of which, everyone is here. From Gravedigger and Megalodon to Monster Mutt and everything in-between. There are hours of grind here for those looking to fill their roster of machines. Even after completion of the main career, Rainbow Studios have even added a Career+ mode for those still looking for more challenge.
Upgrading is a relatively simple affair. Simply pick from Engine, Transmission, Suspension, Tyres or Chassis, hand over the cash and you’re all set. Upgrades do have a significant effect on your vehicle, so you would be wise to pick them up at the earliest opportunity.
Sadly, what Monster Jam Steel Titans has in production value and licensing, it lacks in polish and optimisation.
The trucks themselves look fairly decent and the game runs smoothly in both handheld and docked modes. However, where things fall down is in the finer details. Environments and textures for example. Shadows also took a huge hit on the Switch version.
Oddly enough, the visuals looked much sharper in docked mode, though in handheld, things looked noticeably blurry. Which is normally the other way round for many Switch games.
Also, the lack of any kind of “living” environments was a big missed opportunity. Some CPU vehicles and NPC’s peppered throughout the different areas would’ve been a nice touch and would have added a sense of realism to the experience.
In terms of sound, things were much better. Each truck sounded nice and powerful. Screeching and skidding around the various surfaces was pretty satisfying.
Most of the licensed music tracks were decent enough, with lots of Rock/Metal songs that really fit this style of game. That said, there weren’t too many popular songs in there (or at least not that I knew of) so they weren’t exactly memorable to me. Aside from the Hans Zimmer’esque oddity that was thrown in. I’m assuming this was included for dramatic effect.
As I mentioned earlier, there is voice acting in Monster Jam Steel Titans, which was as unexpected as it was a welcome addition.
Monster Jam Steel Titans falls just short of an essential purchase. With the Nintendo Switch getting so many racers now. High profile games such as GRID Autosport, super realistic racers like WRC or niche titles such as RISE Race the Future or GRIP, it’s hard to see exactly where Monster Jam fits in.
With it falling just short in the graphics and audio departments, with its odd omissions of any form of online multiplayer (which could have elevated it to huge success) instead opting for two-player split-screen. With it lacking the polish and finer detail in favour of production and licensing, it is still a really fun game to play and many will feel that this definitely fills that Monster Truck shaped hole in the Nintendo Switch market.
Aside from what I’ve covered throughout this review, I only have a few minor gripes with the game, which might or might not simply be down to my play style.
The first of which is the CPU trucks AI, which I felt a touch unfair and on the robotic side. For example, when racing against the other trucks, I noticed them racing in perfect single-file formation, whether in front or behind. There didn’t seem to be any tussling or jockeying for position like you’d see in other racers. It also made it very difficult to make up lost positions as your opponents would race bumper-to-bumper.
Secondly was the physics. Since the game puts a strong emphasis on physics-based gameplay, it was jarring to me every time I fell foul to some wonky physics. Especially in the later stages when my truck was upgraded and a lot quicker. I found myself constantly being flipped over by a twig on the track!
Lastly was the HD Rumble. I’m a huge fan of HD Rumble, particularly when it is implemented well. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case in Monster Jam Steel Titans. Given the huge amount of options for the rest of the game, HD Rumble gets “on or off.”
No incremental settings. This ordinarily wouldn’t be an issue if it weren’t so strong. I tried both with the Pro Controller and the Joy-Con in handheld and it was just too much. With every acceleration, slide, crash and gear-change feeling like I was holding a wasps nest in my hands. Which forced me to turn it off.
It’s fair to say then that Monster Jam Steel Titans is a lot of fun and definitely fills a void in the market. With hours of fun in career, 2 player shenanigans and all the famous trucks for the fans, it’s not without its flaws.
I’m sure if Rainbow Studios were to continue supporting this one with patches and content updates it could be truly great.
Rapid Reviews Rating
You can purchase Monster Jam Steel Titans from the Nintendo eShop on the following link, https://www.nintendo.co.uk/Games/Nintendo-Switch-download-software/Monster-Jam-Steel-Titans-1687018.html#Overview
You can find and read our reviews on OpenCritic.