Everything is bigger in America, so it should come as no surprise that monster trucks originated in the States. Monster Truck Championship, however, was developed by Polish developers TEYON and published by French developers NACON. They’ve clearly done their research though, as Monster Truck Championship is a delightful slice of old-school driving fun.
Driving a monster truck is certainly a different experience than a traditional car, and there is a useful Tutorial section where you should start. Here you will learn the ropes of driving – with particular regards to how a monster truck has both a front and rear steerable axle – but also how to pull off a variety of tricks. Monster Truck Championship has you racing these mechanical behemoths, but you also need to fling them up in the air with some rotation to properly succeed.
After the Tutorial, there is a no-frills approach to the rest of Monster Truck Championship. From the main menu you have the choice of Career mode, Quick Play and Online Multiplayer.
Career mode will be where you spend the majority of your time. You start off with a bog-standard truck and very little money, but must climb the ranks of three different leagues to be the Monster Truck Champion.
All event locations are in the States but there are no discernible differences between locations. Every racetrack and arena looks similar without anything to distinguish between them.
Each division has ten events in total, usually with two to five disciplines in each event. These can include your standard Race-type, the quicker Drag Races, a Freestyle event where you need to outscore opponents using tricks, and Destruction mode. Destruction mode plays almost identically to Freestyle mode, but with extra points awarded for crushing cars or smashing through caravans.
Some events require a buy-in price but winning them awards much more money than a free entry event does. Prize money can then be used to purchase vanity items in the garage, but also upgrades to improve your truck such as new engines, brakes and suspension. Not all items are available at once though; you first need to unlock them through progressing in the career mode to then have the option to purchase them.
In the garage you can also fine-tune your truck, with loadouts for a racing setup as well as a stunt setup. This neat little touch means you don’t need to worry about swapping around tuning setups in between events.
Money can also be earned through sponsorship deals. As you progress, various fictional companies will come to you with offers consisting of challenges and rewards. The challenges can vary from ‘Win one event’ to something far more elaborate such as ‘Score 2,500 points in a single reverse donut trick’. Completing a sponsorship challenge will reward players fiscally, but it can also unlock new parts in the garage too.
Money isn’t solely for the garage though; you can spend money hiring team members. You have five slots in total to employ crew, unlocking over time as you progress, and each team member comes with several buffs to either your income or truck performance. For example, an engineer may improve truck grip and durability, but will require an extra percentage of any income you receive. Conversely though, a financial specialist can increase any income you receive, whilst also reducing the entry fee for events. Having these options can help you tailor Monster Truck Championship to how you want – whether that be earning the most money or challenging for top spot on the global leaderboards.
None of these ideas in Career mode are new or revolutionary, but they are tried and tested. As a result, this mode works well.
When you finally make it to a racetrack, or an arena, you will notice the graphics have an older-style feel to them too, i.e. they are sub-par. Textures and overall fidelity have a distinctive last-generation feel to it. This is not a deal-breaker by any means though, as the racing itself is solid.
There is the usual scrum at the start of a race as eight huge trucks jostle for first place, which makes overtaking tricky in the right kind of way. Head out in first place and you can have a clear track, but on higher difficulties any error of judgement will be punished.
Drag Races consist of a bracket of eight drivers going head-to-head in knockout rounds. Again, on the higher difficulties it is essential to get a good start by getting your revs in the sweet spot as you begin.
Freestyle and Destruction modes take place in closed-off arenas, and tricks can be chained together for higher scores. We’re not talking Tony Hawk’s level of skill chains here, but combo multipliers do make all the difference when aiming for high scores. There is also enough leniency between tricks to ensure your combo keeps ticking over.
Quick Play features all the same modes along with Time Trial mode where you can stipulate from a number of options to suit your needs. Multiplayer however only features Race and Drag Race; there aren’t any trick-based events to be had against real-life opponents.
Monster Truck Championship on the Xbox One offers an unusual vehicle to play around with and does so well enough. It could be argued that there isn’t too much on offer to justify the £33.49 price tag, but what is present is a decent Career mode and a multiplayer mode. Where racing games have developed and evolved over time, Monster Truck Championship takes it back a notch or two, but that is by no means a bad thing.