Monster Jam Steel Titans sounds like a powerful title, and whilst that much is true, the product that it pertains to is anything but. I wont waste your time trying to sugar coat any of this, because in truth, the whole ordeal doesn’t get that much right to begin with. Now, I’ve no doubt whatsoever that die-hard fans of the concept (and maybe even three year olds) will appreciate what’s on offer, but if you’re here looking for a decent trek, look elsewhere. Monster Jam Steel Titans is as bug ridden as it is flawed, and has all the depth of a puddle.
The game immediately welcomes you to a short and informative tutorial, in which here, you’ll learn the basics of play. There’s no real story to be mindful of; you take on the role of a generic avatar that’s in it to win it, with no composure present whatsoever. Straight off the bat, this is a pretty major drawback. Sure, not every single racer needs a plot premise to lean on, but when you’re making a game that’s already fairly niche, you would expect to see even just a light framework to follow. That’s not the case here, it’s all just race to win.
Nevertheless, once you’re through the game’s painfully lengthy loading screens and have come out the other end of the tutorial, you’ll be plopped onto a fairly small, confined world map. Here, you’re free to patrol the rather dull environment as you hone your skills, nabbing a few needless collectibles along the way. Should you need to, you can open up the Monster Jam 101 from the pause menu and dive into some more extensive tutorials that range the likes of outdoor racing, head-to-head racing, two-wheel skills, and more besides.
Skipping the tutorials wont leave you bare, simply due to how easy the game is to understand. Outside of the game’s optional tutorials, you can dive into quick-play. Here, you can race across a range of different modes; circuit racing, freestyle, timed destruction, and so forth. Everything is well laid out and easy enough to digest for the most part, or at least in regards to its menus and its interface. Though, it’s the career mode that will most likely be where you spend the majority of your time here, if indeed it’s all relatively fleeting.
The career spans a number of events, beginning with outdoor racing and arena trials, and going all the way through to stadium championship and world championship. Pretty much anything you do in the game is self explanatory, and to a degree, somewhat arbitrary. I say that because there’s almost no meaningful structure to any of the proceedings. It’s all just so bland and as a result, so repetitive. Seriously, I grew bored of the whole affair after just a few hours, thanks to the fact that I was just doing the same tedious stuff over and over.
Outdoor racing sees you taking on outdoor events, mainly waypoint and rhythm racing; both of which are merely point-to-point races that serve about as much excitement as watching paint dry. Arena trials and arena championship, on the other hand, is more focused on performing stunts in tight and confined maps, with a few short circuit races thrown in for good measure. Finally, stadium trials, stadium championship, and world championship, is pretty much a mix of everything; short races, lengthy races, stunts, head to head, and more.
Throughout your career you’ll earn credits, with more credits dished out for better performances. You’ll then use these credits to purchase new monster trucks, with most of them priced in such a way that you’ll need to lose hours and hours of your life before you even acquire a handful. The kicker, however, is that you can also use these credits to bulk up the capabilities of each truck; acceleration, top speed, bounce, traction, and stability. Each can be improved a number of times, but in truth, I barely felt much difference per-whack.
That’s the fundamentals really. Whilst Monster Jam Steel Titans has quite a bit of content variation going for it, none of it truly amounts to anything worthwhile. Whether you’re going head to head against a single foe, circuit racing against a band of opponents, rallying it from point to point in an attempt to reach all waypoints first, or, whether you’re just performing stunts or anything besides, it all feels samey-samey. It doesn’t help matters that the game gets one of the most important aspects of the whole experience completely wrong.
What’s that? The freaking trucks. They’re a nightmare to control. I completely appreciate that Monster Trucks are hardly the most fluid vehicles to handle in the world, but Steel Titans just takes it to another level. Surely these powerful machines should feel, well, powerful and weighty? You would think so, but that’s not the case. Here, they feel like fat cars on an ice rink, and no, I’m not exaggerating in the slightest. Not a single truck feels good to use, regardless as to how many times you upgrade them, they feel, quite literally, shite.
Everything from the weight of each truck, right through to the turning (and overall handling) is far too off. This leads to constant bouts of failure and mostly being flung off-track through little fault of your own. Get hit by an opponent? Kiss goodbye to first place. See a sharp turn coming up? Slow the hell right down and turn like grandma on a walking frame. Come across a long range of bumps in the road? Better get your momentum perfect to circumvent the daft physics. If this is how these trucks handle in real life, I’ll cross that off my bucket-list.
The only time in which I could maintain first place was by racing far too safely, which kind of removes the whole point of excitable racing. Hell, even the stunts are relatively daft. Whilst you can indeed take to a ramp at high speed and perform some outlandish feats, the likeliness of you doing that through skill rather than luck, is small. This makes playing the stunt-based modes a living hell. Still, that being said, you can just wheel spin on the spot to reach max score in an attempt to bypass these events entirely. Yes, you really, really can.
That takes me to my next issue with the game, the AI. The AI seems immune to the game’s physics. I lost count of how many times I rubbed paint with countless other trucks, or hit a bump in the road, only to be sent flying high into the air whilst they all trudged along not bothered. This makes the balance of the game’s difficulty completely uneven, and most of the time, tends to tip the scales against your favor. If that wasn’t bad enough, the game houses some baffling design choices that only make things massively more irritating.
Regardless as to what event you’re participating in, you’re usually penalized for leaving the track by even just a fraction. That alone is absolutely fine. What isn’t fine, is the fact that if you remain off-track for more than a few seconds (easy to do in a game as loose as this) you’ll be teleported back on to the track. This process takes a lot longer than it should, and is oftentimes the cause of you constantly being dropped into last place. Things only get more frustrating than that, mind, because there’s a ridiculously nasty bug in the game too.
On more than one occasion my rear wheels had left the track, with an on-screen prompt informing me of the problem. I managed to get back on the track before being teleported, and proceeded through the course. Some two minutes later, I was randomly teleported to the place that I should have teleported to in the first place, not only putting me in last place, but putting me way back across the track; leaving me no room for return. Issues like this, alongside its framerate spikes and its aforementioned drawbacks, are not acceptable.
I refuse to believe that the developer was not aware of such noticeable faults, yet still decided to release the game anyway. It’s poor practice, and something to be ashamed of. The whole package is just utterly unrefined, and more to the point, not at all fun. Each and every event remains dull throughout, and given the lack of a decent progression structure, you’ll be hard-pressed finding a meaningful excuse to carry on. Trust me, there are far better racing games on the Xbox One, ones better developed, and much better presented.
In regards to the game’s visual and audio design, I’ve very little to commend the game for. Steel Titans looks like a late-end Xbox 360 game. The textures are muddy, the details are scarce, and everything in between just screams last-gen. I’ll say as much about the audio design, being that it constantly throws out poor tracks and generic cues from beginning to end. If you’re looking for a decent monster truck-based game, you most assuredly will not find that here. Do yourselves a favor and skip this by, save yourselves the disappointment.
Due to a range of technical issues and poor design choices, Monster Jam Steel Titans utterly fails to capture the excitement of its source material. Not only do the trucks handle like fat cars on an ice rink, but everything from the wonky physics, right through to the game’s numerous bugs, collectively pulls the entire experience short of even substandard quality. Furthermore, even if things worked well, the core content is too tedious and repetitive.
This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox One. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version.Want to keep up to date with the latest Xt reviews, Xt opinions and Xt content? Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.