Reviewing a bad game clearly designed on a small budget presents problems. If the graphics are blocky and the physics engine’s a mess, are these flaws due to a lack of skill on the developer’s part? Or are these issues results of a lack of funding? Either way, at the end of the day the critic’s task is to tell you why a game is or isn’t worth playing. I’d be lying if I said Monster Truck Destruction is worth anybody’s time or money, even at a paltry five dollar asking price. Whether or not this inadequacy is rooted in creative or financial setbacks, at the end of the day, is neither here nor there.
Monster Truck Destruction is, as you likely guessed, a monster truck game. In many ways, the game feels like it wants to play like a late 90s/early 00s era racing game; there are strains of everything from Burnout to Tony Hawk to N64 titles like Beetle Adventure Racing here. Yet whereas most of the games I just listed were, in their day, colorfully vibrant games that were fun to play, MTD is barely even playable let alone fun. When the game does manage to get past its pesky start up crash bug, MTD is an astonishingly dull affair.
The game glitches out with some regularity, as I just mentioned – and not just at boot up. Sometimes the lights directing you to begin the race don’t load, leaving you stranded at the starting line until you simply restart the race. And setting aside the game’s many technical issues, the controls themselves are somewhat strangely designed. The accelerator, for example, is defaulted to the same key used to steer the truck forward. This schematic means turning your vehicle can feel like piloting a cruise ship, unless you let off the accelerator entirely to maneuver. For sharp turns, letting off the gas makes sense – but having to cease acceleration entirely any time you need to alter direction gives the handling a start/stop quality that’s awkward and unwieldy.
MTD, like many racing titles of the past 20 years, allows you to earn cash prizes in races or destruction derbies which you then pour into modifying and upgrading your ride, or buying a better one altogether. This might have been more fun if the races and derbies themselves were more engaging. Yet the problems with this game’s most basic mechanics are legion.
The races are almost always between just you and one other driver, who ends up taking an entirely different route through the course. There goes any chance the player has to feel “neck and neck” with his or her competitor, since once the race starts you’ll likely only see your rival out of the corner of your eye somewhere on the other side of the race track. This turns every race into a lonesome and uneventful affair. Imagine running through a Mario Kart 8 level on practice mode, without bots. That’s the kind of isolation this game has to offer. The online mode, currently in beta, alleges that you can race up to 4 people online. I’ve never managed to get beyond the “now loading” screen for the multiplayer, so I can’t really comment.
The one thing MTD does half way right is its actual destruction derbies. In these sections, you attempt to pull off as many tricks and jumps as possible in a short time limit. This is where the Tony Hawk influence comes in though, granted, there’s less to do with a monster truck than a skateboard whilst hurdling through the air. It’s fun being able to “design” your own tricks and stunts; with some polish, charm, and variety, the derby mode could become a big toy box that allows for different play styles, tactics, or techniques (again, much like the Tony Hawk’s Pro-Skater series). In its current form, the derby mode feels like a glimmer of what it could be with more funding or with more competent development.
Many of these issues might have been partially assuaged if MTD had been designed with a more striking visual flair. The monotonous level design, crowds that look straight from the N64 era’s WWF games like Wrestlemania, and wonky demolition physics that make all objects look made of cheese don’t help matters. A game like this seems like it might benefit from more zaniness: for example, I’d love to try jumps and tricks in a firetruck, or go-cart, or horse and buggy or something. If the game was funnier or more charming, it would go a long way. Also, more level variety – perhaps with settings outside ‘bland Monster Truck Arenas 1-20’ – would have been much appreciated.
Unfortunately, the game provides very little variety in any respect. Many of the trucks look as similar to one another as the levels themselves do. And once you’ve played the game for an hour or so, you’ve already basically seen all this game has to offer. Arguably, you see it all within 10-20 minutes of play.
Trying to play MTD with a controller is an even stranger affair, as it requires the use of both analogue sticks to steer and accelerate at the same time. As peculiar as it sounds, I like the way this makes the game feel like an RC car simulator. Despite this novel comparison, the controller is otherwise unplayable; the game doesn’t seem designed with the analogue stick in mind. There’s no precision when using a gamepad, which you need to make some of those sharp turns. Things only improved slightly when I switched back to keyboard and mouse.
The racing component to the game likewise feels undercooked. The tracks, if they can even be called that, are way too short, dull, underwhelming affairs, especially for a game where racing is such a key component. It seems the developers of MTD would have been better off fleshing out the Tony Hawk-esque elements, since that’s the only thing this game really has going for itself.
Even for its relatively low price, I can’t recommend Monster Truck Destruction to anyone. Even setting aside the game’s extreme glitchiness – which, again, renders the thing nearly unplayable since it only loads past the opening screen about 70% of the time for me – and even setting aside its poor controls, there’s just not a lot of content here. There’s nothing graphics-wise, gameplay-wise, or design-wise, to breathe life into the game’s stale presentation and borderline broken mechanics. The central meta-game feature of upgrading your truck feels purposeless, since the grinding necessary to get better vehicles is such a chore; and since you’re only working hard to play more boring races.
Monster Truck Destruction frankly offers players little incentive to endure its glitchy, repetitious level design. Even the soundtrack is dull and run of the mill: metal-lite music that sounds like white noise even at low volumes. That isn’t a compliment, by the way. If you’re looking for a fun retro-style racer/ Tony Hawk clone that’s fun and well designed, the Nintendo 64 has a bevy of titles that suit this description perfectly. That being said, Monster Truck Destruction doesn’t even come close. Even at such a low price, and even granting that the game was made on a shoestring budget, this game flat out isn’t worth playing.