Admittedly, it’s been many years since I’ve been involved with monster trucks. My son when he was younger loved the Hot Wheels toys, and so a small collection amassed over a few years. We’d build our own arenas and destructible items and the hours would slip away smashing and bashing. Recently, a Facebook ad scrolled through my feed announcing a new Monster Jam game. The last one I played was back on the Wii, and so that tinge of nostalgia with my son hit, and I thought this would be a great time to rekindle the fun of playing with monster trucks. Would Monster Jam Steel Titans 2 bring ear to ear smiles of toying around with these behemoths, or would I be left feeling like a giant flat tire? Read on!
A few years back, THQ Nordic and Rainbow Studios, well known for their racing games like MX vs ATV, released Monster Jam Steel Titans. The game was a refresh to the Monster Jam IP, but came away with some critical gameplay flaws. Now, Rainbow is back with Steel Titans 2 and aiming to improve on their misfires with their previous entry. Booting up the game, you’ll be given a fairly clean tutorial with a ‘starter’ monster truck and shown the basic ropes of the game’s structure and controls. Returning players from the first game should find a slightly improved physics system, and the controls of the truck do handle better too, but let’s be clear, this is not a sim game and still very much plays like an arcade racer.
Steel Titans 2 has a multifaceted progression structure that, after settling into understanding how it works, I found I really enjoyed. There’s a blend of semi-open world areas where you’ll be plopped into 1 of 5 contained environments. These range from grass lands and desert to even some funky sci-fi regions that all base a facsimile off a class of Monster Truck. It’s clever level design, and each of these open environments offers several unlockables to be discovered and then matched with an appropriate truck once you unlock it for some bragging rights and a neat-o little animation of sorts. There’s generally a hidden creature type truck also in each of these environments to be found for added fun. As you unlock new environments, you’re always welcomed to drive back to previous ones through some gates, which really opens up a massive playground in the end game stage.
Apart from the free roaming environments, you’ll also be partaking in various events in points-based tournaments. These range from Freestyle Destruction, to Circuit Racing, and Two-Wheel skill challenges, among others. I personally found these to become repetitive after about 8 of the 20 tournaments in, as they all follow a small pool of event categories, and the arenas don’t typically vary all that much. Thankfully the stars of the shows — the vehicles — break up some of that monotony.
The monster trucks themselves are bountiful in this game, sporting 38 in total to be unlocked via several routes. These are found by winning tournaments, locating world collectibles and secrets, or even a small batch of paid DLC. Having not followed Monster Jam for so long, I was personally surprised at all of the crazy designs that were being sported these days! My favorite was an Octopus themed vehicle, whereas my daughter loved the Unicorn truck, of course. There’s likely a truck for everyone at this point, which is quite fantastic as a sport.
Each individual truck also has a progression tree. The more you play, the more performance pips will fill in, allowing it to be a mightier version of itself. However, I did learn that max performance isn’t always best. In the circuit races that typically take place within the larger environments, having a super-quick monster truck on floaty tires resulted in me toppling over again and again, ultimately struggling to stay competitive with the pack. I wish the progression tree would have had maybe more cosmetic alternatives or attachments to unlock along the way, but I can appreciate the licensing restrictions that would prevent that.
Overall, racing and driving the trucks is quite straightforward with improvements to the controls from the first game. And while it certainly takes its liberties with fictional landscapes, I would be remiss if I didn’t say that I missed a more traditional arena experience littered with crunch cars. The arena events that do exist felt haphazard. There are demolition events, but you’ll be smashing heavily replicated fences, crates, semi large dice, floating blimp things, and a couple of crunch cars that will be littered across the arena. It just felt off to me, and there was no real forceful impact in driving over any of these objects, leaving a bland experience. Where’s great use of HD Rumble when you need it? That being said, taking damage to your truck is also a bit of a wildcard I found when interacting with these objects. Many times, pushing through a few fences would result in the majority of my body panels flying off, leaving me with just my roll-cage and frame. In other instances, I could barrel roll half a dozen times, and only take minor body damage. I think there’s room for improvement here in the future.
There’s a fairly robust multiplayer aspect to this game as well, offering Online Multiplayer, which regrettably in tune with the majority of games on the Nintendo Switch I attempt to play, I continually ended up by myself in an empty lobby, never to actually engage with anyone. However, to mitigate that, Rainbow has also integrated local Wi-Fi system Multiplayer, but even more importantly, you can jam with a friend in table top mode or on your TV in Split Screen play. That being said, they made an incredibly awkward decision to map the gas and brake to the super tiny, indented SL & SR buttons, which makes playing nearly impossible, and without button remapping, this feature became a major letdown for me. Then again, if you have your wrist straps that came with your Switch you can use them to make the buttons easier to press.
Monster Jam Steel Titans 2 performs reasonably well on the Nintendo Switch, however given this game is a multi-platform title, you’ll find some shortcomings still compared to other platforms. My biggest complaint honestly was that the third environment area was at night time, and without some of the advanced lighting techniques seen on other consoles, I found myself slightly stumbling about in very dark areas. In general, there’s no severe FPS drops apart from environmental transition points which is always nice, and the overall fidelity is what you would expect here too. You’ll still find some clunkier areas of the game, but I suspect these are platform agnostic. Physics of the trucks can act up, particularly in the free-range environments, and I did encounter audio bugs and even controller input problems and lag with the Joy-Cons which was a bit strange.
If toying around with the big wheels of monster trucks is your jam (see what I did there) then Monster Jam Steel Titans 2 provides a reasonably fun arcade experience with only some minor annoyances. While the game caters to a younger audience, I still think older fans will have some fun here, and particularly if you partake in controller-based (not Joy-Con) split screen action. Monster Jam finds more of the groove with this sequel, and the series will surely only gain traction from here on in.
Monster Jam Steel Titans 2 Review
- Graphics - 6.5/106.5/10
- Sound - 6/106/10
- Gameplay - 6.5/106.5/10
- Lasting Appeal - 6/106/10
Final Thoughts: WORTH CONSIDERING
Monster Jam Steel Titans 2 improves on its predecessor and delivers an engaging arcade monster truck experience for all ages. With a solid progression system, loads of trucks (fan favorites and more to unlock), and fictional environments to toy around in, there’s plenty of truck hopping fun to be had. You’ll have to navigate some minor to moderate grievances that may potentially effect hardcore players more so than younger kids, but we’re still talking about an enjoyable Monster Jam experience here.