Review — Monster Jam: Path of Destruction
Platform(s): Xbox 360, Playstation 3, Wii, Nintendo DS, PSP
ESRB Rating: E
ESRB Descriptors: Mild Violence
Official Site: http://www.monsterjam.com/videogame/
Get It Now: Amazon.com, GameStop.com
The Scoop: Activision brings back the monster truck mayhem with their third entry in the Monster Jam series and the first on the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 since 2007’s Monster Jam, which was also Activision’s first Monster Jam title.
What’s Hot: Monster Jam: Path of Destruction bills itself as the most authentic monster truck game to hit consoles. Now, I am going to be honest with you. I have never seen a monster truck show before. So, while I was playing this game, I decided to do a little research on YouTube and watch a handful of monster truck events to get a better idea on how these behemoths handle in real life. The more of these events that I watched combined with playing more of Monster Jam over the last few weeks have helped me get a better understanding of what you can and can’t do while in the driver’s seat.
With that being said, the controls and handling of the monster trucks in Monster Jam is rather authentic. The left thumbstick controls your front wheels and your turning while the right thumbstick controls your back tires. While these vehicles can be rather quick, they’re certainly not going to be mistaken as a rally car by any stretch of imagination. You have to hit ramps and jumps accurately and judge your speed accordingly, otherwise you’ll be tipping over and flipping around the track the whole time. Once you learn the discipline of these monster machines, you should be able to conquer anything in the game. I was genuinely impressed with the game’s driving engine along with the two-thumbstick wheel scheme.
The main attraction to the game is the career mode. In career mode, you compete in different events to earn XP towards your ranking. When you rank up, you unlock things such as additional monster trucks (all 28 trucks are officially licensed), events at one of eight real-life arenas such as Lucas Oil Stadium and Qualcomm Stadium, and additional decals, vinyls and upgrades for your truck.
Career mode has several different event types to play through. These range from pulling off tricks and destroying (almost) everything in “Freestyle” events, beating the clock in “Gate Rush” events, and getting down to some nitty gritty racing action in “Stadium Racing” and “Circuit Racing” events among others.
Multiplayer is also supported via offline play. However, since this review is in the minority that doesn’t own a second controller for any of his consoles, I was unable to test any of the competitive options in the game.
Sound wise, the sounds of the engines are incredibly loud. It almost got to the point where I thought Activision forgot to supply me with a free set of earplugs that I could wear while playing the game. The game also features audio tips and tricks from the drivers of these mean machines, as well. Sans some of the generic rock tunes that play in the background at the menu, it’s a solid auditory experience.
Graphically, the trucks of Monster Jam look terrific. Each truck is given enough detail to make it look like you’re really driving the real thing. The stadiums and arenas themselves are par for the course, though. If you’re going to be looking hard at the authenticity of the stadium builds in the game, you’re not going to see a whole lot that will help you get an idea on how well they were done. However, that’s just a minor nitpick.
What’s Not: In career mode, you earn these decals and upgrades for your truck throughout the game. However, there are a few issues with this. Decals are minimal at best. In fact, creating your own truck in this game doesn’t have much depth to it. It seems like a minimal effort in the customization department and certainly doesn’t offer the player very many options on how to show off their car. Odds are that you will have to be very creative with what little you get.
Upgrades are another disappointment. Rather than racing as one truck and building them up during the career mode, everything you earn gets upgraded to every truck in the game. The worst part is, you have no control on what upgrades to add. It’s all an automatic process. If you are a person who likes to tinker and adjust things to your liking, you’re going to be really disappointed.
Want to pull off these cool tricks and stunts in the “Freestyle” mode? No problem! Just unlock how to do them! That’s right, in order to learn how to do some of the stunts in the game, you have to unlock “Stunt Challenges” via the different stadiums. Considering “Freestyle” events are one of the big events in the game, being left without a proper tutorial or even a hint until I unlock these “Stunt Challenges” is rather frustrating.
“Circuit Racing” events in the career mode are a complete disaster. The tracks for these events in the game are better suited for motocross events, honestly. You can barely get two-wide on the tracks, the A.I. constantly gets in your way, and some of the track layouts are complete rubbish. When you crash or tip over, you’re not given enough time to try and reset yourself before you get penalized for a respawn. I understand that a proper racing event is key in a racing game. But for monster trucks, it just doesn’t work here.
Let’s not forget the complete lack of online multiplayer in the game, either. To me, a racing game should have mandatory online play of some shape or form. This is a game that can have plenty of replay value when played with or against a human opponent. As I said above, I only have one controller for my console. The only single player experience that the game comes with is the career mode. No quick races or quick events where you can set your own lineups just for fun or practice, either. You either play career mode or you better have a second controller handy.
Speaking of replay, it’s very minimal. You could probably sit down on Friday night and be finished with the game before the noon kickoff of Sunday’s football festivities. Once you complete anything, there’s really no other reason to go back and replay any of the events unless you’re looking to squeeze all of the Achievement Points out of the title.
Final Verdict: Monster Jam: Path of Destruction is a game that both impressed me and disappointed me at the same time. The driving mechanics and controls are superb and really nail what monster truck driving is all about. However, the lack of depth and the exclusion of online play from the title is what really kills it, even for a title with a $40 tag. The foundation for bigger and better things is here, though. It’s going to depend on Activision and Virtuos where the game franchise goes from here. In terms of audiences, monster truck enthusiasts and younger audiences will eat this game up, there’s no question about it. For the general racing fan, perhaps a rental is your best bet.Review -- Monster Jam: Path of Destruction,