reviews\ Jun 22, 2002 at 8:00 pm

Monster Jam Maximum Destruction - PS2 - Review

We all have our destructive side that finds pleasure in seeing things get smashed to pieces or blown up in glorious eruptions of flames and smoke.  Perhaps this is the reason that people go to monster truck shows or to demolition sites when they blow up old buildings.  Either way destruction does go well in games, especially when vehicles are concerned (such as the enjoyable Twisted Metal: Black).  Joining the ranks of vehicular destruction is Monster Jam: Maximum Destruction.  


Gamers begin the game with a choice of twenty-six monster trucks (with a few more to unlock) and eight worlds to select in most of the modes (such as a jungle temple or the Vegas Strip).  The three modes--Exhibition, Season and Mini-Game--each have their own challenges.  Still both Exhibition and Season share the same three game playing modes: Death Match (a last man standing wins mode), Cash Grab (acquire as many Cash Power-Ups) and Points (earn enough points by destroying other trucks and parts of the environment).


Mini-Game offers six playing modes that range from races to Deathmatch-style battles in new settings.  The races are made up of Stadium Race and Canyon Race.  The others are Lava Island, Stadium Freestyle, Arena Challenge and Stadium Challenge.  While the Mini-Game mode offers many unique challenges, it’s the poor AI that ruins it all.


The other monster trucks seldom seem to attack one another; instead, they all seem to be driven towards destroying only you.  Many of them always seem to know when a Weapon Power-Up re-spawns, often beating you to it without any resistance.  And forget trying to slam into them!  You’ll find them slamming into you more easily than you can and the only time you can properly smash into them is when a truck helplessly gets stuck between an object and a wall.


While the controls are so easy to manage the game suffers from a number of “stutters” that draw away from the smoothness of the driving.  Collisions are usually met with slight momentary delays in sound and the image would sometimes freeze for a second or two.  During the Lava Island challenge, when your vehicle is thrown off the edge of the island you’re greeted with an awful bug that turns your screen pitch black for a long period.


Gamers can bring a friend to the fray for a little two-player multiplayer action, but unfortunately this does make for an awfully “bumpy” session.  The game freezes during collisions on some occasions and this does interfere with the flow of the game. You can, though, play almost any game mode except for Season Play Mode and the Stadium Freestyle Mini-Game.


Interesting enough, the monster trucks themselves look spectacular.  Many range from the ordinary to the bizarre while others are based on Marvel comics characters (Spider-Man and Wolverine) or WCW wrestlers (Goldberg and Sting).  The environment looks awful, however, and backgrounds (such as distant cities) appear like a childishly rendered flat backdrop from an elementary school play production.


The sound doesn’t have much going for it in terms of a moving soundtrack and that leaves the sound effects of the truck’s engines and sputtering of the tail pipes that pretty much take it’s place. Thankfully the announcer does not pop up very often, yet his assessments of the match is often vague.  Once he noted--during a Death Match challenge using Gravedigger--that “Gravedigger is going down in flames” when clearly the vehicle was not even damaged.  


Sadly, Monster Jam fails miserably in all aspects and does not provide an entertaining title worthy of those fans that enjoy a good vehicle smash-and-bash.  Gamers should definitely look elsewhere to satisfy their destructive craving.


#Reviewer's Scoring Details


 Gameplay: 4.8
Depending on the monster truck you choose the controls still handle like a dream.  Gamers will easily learn the driving controls and how to use boosts and weapons to their advantage.  Yet when these Power Ups are not available, you are forced to slam into an opponent . . . a feat that is somehow very easy for them and extremely difficult for you.


The battle arenas don’t look that interesting and many of them are quite awful.  Although there are things in the environment you can interact with, such as pillars or parked cars, every other arena are basically flat backgrounds and lack the pleasures of discovering many secret areas.


Graphics: 5.2
Unfortunately, while the game itself doesn’t present itself all that well gameplay-wise, the visuals are somewhat striking in certain aspects.  The monster trucks themselves are actually quite impressive and are highly detailed--especially those trucks with outrageous features such as the Reptoid truck’s “fanged” front grill.  And since there are twenty-six monster trucks from the very start, it’s fun seeing them all in action.


However, despite the decent appearance of each monster truck, this doesn’t save the graphics from the horrors of a not-so-good background and this is really unfortunate because there are eight worlds to select and play through.  Also, with the sketchy frame rate, the game seems to suffer from a number of hiccups during collisions, which happens often in the game.  And the damage inflicted on the monster trucks really isn’t at all very realistic . . . unless you’ve seen car crashes where tiny wrenches pop out of the vehicle.


Sound: 4.0
The game’s long list of weak points also includes the sound.  The running soundtrack is noticeably toned down to almost nothing and, considering all you’ll ever hear is the roar of engines and the slamming of trucks, a soundtrack with hard hitting tunes would have been very welcome.  Regrettably, the only signature theme is the same one that plays in the main menu.


While the sound effects are in the so-so category--the engine roar is quite nice and the crunching sounds of your truck crushing parked cars is equally so--there will be times when other monster truck drivers sometimes yell back at you.  There is also no running commentary, although a male announcer does come on to tell you that you picked up a Power Up, destroyed an opponent’s truck or are about to blow up.


Difficulty: Hard
The game includes four difficulty settings: Easy, Normal, Hard and Extreme.  While the default setting is on Normal, the game feels entirely way too difficult and will no doubt force players to go straight to Easy, which doesn’t provide much of a challenge.  Immediately gamers will think “If this is Normal, I’d hate to see what Extreme is like.”


The difficulty is in the battle instead of the controls and gamers will be frustrated with the unfairness of the opponent AI.  The other monster trucks don’t seem to be attacking one another and the minute you cross their line of sight, they will abandon everything and attack you all at once.  Also, Power Ups don’t spawn very often but when they do the other trucks seem to know about it first and beat you to it.


Concept: 5.5
With emphasis on destruction, gamers with a taste for vehicle mayhem will be drawn by Monster Jam and the abundance of playing modes and monster trucks it possesses.  It’s good to find a game with dozens of features and Monster Jam has its heart in the right place.  There are also several unique challenges and interesting mini-game ideas but none of them seem to provide anything close to fun.


Gamers can use money earned during an event to purchase such items as new tires, shocks and even a better engine but the upgrades seldom make much of a difference.


Multiplayer: 4.6
The good news is that another player can join the action in mostly any game-playing mode.  The bad news is that by adding a second player the game’s noticeable little “hiccups” become annoyingly more noticeable than before.  These little moments happen more during collisions, often times you’ll hear the grinding crashing noises three or four seconds after the collision.


Overall: 4.7
Monster Jam is a good idea that, somewhere along the line, has forgotten what it was really meant to be: a fun and challenging monster truck title.  Fans of vehicular destruction will only find disappointment with this title and should invest their hard earned cash on the more superior Twisted Metal: Black.

Below Average

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