Eclipsed only by National Football League playoff games and Taylor Swift stadium tours, Feld Entertainment’s Monster Jam series routinely manages to pack major coliseums around the United States of America by combining ridiculously loud, oversized trucks with a style of racing that’s a unique off-shoot of head-to-head autocross – capping off the evening with a whole bunch of carnage. Though the events are primarily targeted at family audiences who may not completely understand the finer aspects of auto racing, and are occasionally inspired by the production values of Professional Wrestling, Monster Truck racing as a sport only continues to grow as we progress deeper into the 21st century. And given the kind of on-track product that Monster Jam has delivered throughout the past twenty years, as well as the very specific group of people packing arenas night after night to see the Anderson family defy the laws of physics with a thirty-thousand pound Willy’s panel van, it’s only natural there’s some sort of video game counterpart to go along with it.
Unfortunately, Feld Entertainment and Monster Jam have routinely let down their fans when it comes to pushing out a virtual rendition of their sport, and Tuesday’s release, Monster Jam: Crush It, is the latest in a long line of embarrassing products which do more harm than good to the sport.
I’m not here to review Monster Jam: Crush It for the Xbox One and PlayStation 4, as the video above displays exactly why this is a title to be avoided within the first two minutes. Vehicle physics appear to have been an afterthought, the game locks up for a good few seconds after each event, and you can actually progress through a large portion of the $20 game within minutes. Aside from the admittedly nice lighting engine and surprisingly high fidelity truck models, it’s actually quite sad to see a motorsports sanctioning body of this size allow a video game so utterly broken and disastrous to represent their brand on this level. At one point in the video linked above, the player is somehow able to drive straight up an invisible barrier and ride around the outside of the stadium in a gross display of absurdity, with legendary monster truck commentator Scott Douglass spitting out random one word adjectives in no particular order.
I promise you, he’s much better live.
So obviously, regardless of whether you or your offspring are into Monster Trucks, or have attended an event within the past year and you’re looking to increase your library of racing games on the PlayStation 4 or Xbox One, don’t buy this game. You’ve been warned.
But what really gets to me, as a monster truck fan dating back to the mid 1990’s when heavy manufacturer support turned the PENDA Points Series into a highly competitive form of off-road drag racing, is that it’s now almost a tradition to watch titles bearing the Monster Jam namesake fall horrendously flat among pretty much anyone who’d be interested in them to begin with. I want to make one thing clear: Monster Truck fans have not been clamoring for an ultra-hardcore simulator among the likes of Grand Prix Legends, even though it would be pretty awesome for a solid developer to tackle the uniqueness of this extremely popular form of auto racing entertainment. Monster Truck fans simply want a title on-par with other racing games that somewhat aims to replicate the touring stadium show they see on Fox Sports. They haven’t gotten that.
What we’ve received instead, are several misguided efforts over a fifteen year period – dating all the way back to Monster Jam: Maximum Destruction in 2002 – that use the official Monster Jam license as the selling point for what would otherwise be entirely forgettable driving games. And I use the term “driving games” rather than “arcade racers”, as Maximum Destruction wasn’t even a racing game – it was a Twisted Metal clone; a barely passable car combat game with simple AI and a repetitive campaign mode. In the years that followed, no matter which developer had been awarded the Monster Jam license – and there have been several – the result was always the same; a generic off-road racer that sort of reminded you of Bugbear’s FlatOut, but created with a quarter of the budget and featuring few redeeming qualities.
Now from a business standpoint, these kinds of games make sense, as let’s be honest here – the majority of people playing Monster Jam games will be young children. Most older auto racing fans don’t really consider Monster Truck racing to be on par with the Traxxas Off-Road Championship, or Global Rallycross, so it’s only natural that Feld would instruct developers to push out an entry-level racing game that can be played by kids without much difficulty. First and foremost, monster truck racing is a show, and most motor racing fans beyond the age of sixteen don’t want a show, they want motor racing. Yet what’s really interesting, is that if you comb through reception of the officially licensed Monster Jam titles that have been released over the past fifteen years, it seems even the kids – the intended target audience – are completely sick of this shit as well.
As you can see above, that’s nine years of Feld Entertainment ignoring fans who want some sort of simcade Monster Truck experience for their home console, instead continuing to instruct developers to push out titles that in some cases are a rip-off of Trials HD, at least according to YouTube user HillarysClit. Now, I could stop there with my carefully selected YouTube comments and end the article on that note, but I’d like to show you just how brain dead Feld can be, and that they should be listening to these fans.
SteamDB notes that around 3,000 people own Monster Jam: Battlegrounds, which was a TrialsHD clone featuring lighthearted, unrealistic stadium events as diversions that came out on Steam in June of 2015. By comparison, the base package of Monster Trucks released by the guys at Sim-Monsters.com for the freeware vehicle sandbox simulator Rigs of Rods, has reeled in more than 26,000 downloads. This is a community modification for an obscure vehicle sandbox (meaning there are NO gameplay elements whatsoever) that’s an absolute pain in the ass to both install and configure, and yet it has theoretically outsold the most recent pair of officially licensed Monster Jam games.
Feld as a business believe these people are the minority, and now for the fifth straight console game in a decade have given the thumbs up to ship a horrendous licensed product that makes a mockery of an otherwise interesting brand of motorsports entertainment, despite the numbers that they’ve supposedly spent years crunching indicating the market is more than ready for a somewhat competent attempt at replicating what it takes to drive a thirty thousand pound monstrosity.