First impressions of Monster Jam: Steel Titans — What the truck happened?

Like the other members of SSG, it’s my job to be fair when writing about the games that are on my mind. And I feel like I’ve been following that rule with ease in every article I’ve written so far. No matter how upset I seem when talking about a game’s flaws, I’m still able to detect its positives and complement them without any reluctance. The reason I say all of this is because I bought Monster Jam: Steel Titans on day 1 (June 25, 2019), and it’s been kind of a shaky launch week for THQ Nordic’s first stab at the Monster Jam license. So while we wait for the game’s first patch (I’m gonna wait until that drops before writing a full review), I’ll briefly discuss where Steel Titans nails its backflips and where its engine sputters.

I’ll start with the good — You’ve got officially licensed Monster Jam trucks, which is a big plus right off the bat (Even though you have to unlock them one by one). There is no difference between each truck in terms of how they drive, but the driving physics are easy to get the hang of and allow you to perform all the tricks these trucks are famous for. The team at Rainbow Studios has also been kind enough to provide you with a hefty number of stadiums, arenas, and cross-country tracks to tear up the dirt on. There’s no online multiplayer to share said tracks with, but you have the option to race against a friend via split-screen. Combine all that with several types of events to put on, and you have a meaty monster truck package under the hood.

I know it sounds like Steel Titans has already been a success in the short time that’s passed since its release, but now we get to the part where the game starts to bust a flat. Although the driving itself is solid, it can more often than not be hindered by the graphics. I don’t know whether or not this is just a case of bad console optimization, but this game (On my PS4 Pro, at least) has a a stressful amount of frame drops and pop-in. I know PC versions will almost always have the best textures, resolution, and framerate (I tested the PC version at PAX East 2019 and was very impressed), but the console versions still shouldn’t be this bad of a downgrade in comparison. Whether or not Rainbow Studios will re-optimize said graphics in patches remains to be seen. In terms of other issues, I can accept the AI being somewhat slow or robotic, but what really made me mad was that a few races started me in reverse gear for some strange reason. That’s not exactly gonna help you rake in the in-game credits, now will it?

What really blows my tires about all this is that this is yet another Rainbow Studios racing game that doesn’t quite live up to the hype. This developer has many years of racing experience with games/series like MX vs. ATV, Star Wars Racer: Revenge, Pixar’s Cars, and Splashdown, and yet they’re continuing to go downhill. How they didn’t learn their lesson from the unpolished-on-day-1 mess that was MX vs. ATV: All Out is a mystery I’ll probably never understand. It could be budget cuts, it could be laziness, it could be rushed development, or it could even be all of the above. It’s anyone’s guess at this point.

I understand that it sounds like I absolutely loathe this game, but I don’t. In fact, I want to highly enjoy it, but I’m not enjoying it at the moment. I’m really hoping the PC version is at least a little better than its console counterpart, and if it is, I can at least recommend it to adamant Monster Jam fans. If you’re not, just leave Steel Titans in the garage for now. Sorry Rainbow Studios, but you’ve got to go back to the drawing board and fix these problems quickly if you want this Monster Jam partnership to work.

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