Monster Trucks. We’ve all dreamt of driving one at some point, wishing to experience the sheer power that a machine of that kind has. Enter MonsterTruck Rally, a new racing game from XLab Technologies that aims to fulfill that dream, and while it has monster potential it ultimately is lacking strong treads.
The game features a veritable list of five monster trucks, five tracks, and three game modes in all: Career, Practice, and Multiplayer. The trucks and tracks are unlocked from credits that you receive at the end of each race, which are very easy to accumulate as you play. Options allow you to change the music volume, steer sensitivity, auto-acceleration, and tilt horizon.
The controls are simple enough: tilt the device to steer, touch the left side to brake, and touch right to accelerate. There is no option for touch-steering, but I found no problem with the accelerometer controls even while riding in a shaky vehicle. When in-game, buttons are available to change the camera view (behind, cockpit, or bumper), as well as to respawn when things aren’t going your way.
When I first entered the Career mode, the first thing I noticed was the amount of polish that the developers have put into the game. The 3D environment and cars look beautiful as you race down the track. The wheels turn like they should, and objects on the track do not allow the truck to simply pass through them. The cockpit view is very similar to that of Real Racing’s. The frame-rate remained very high on my 3rd-Generation Touch throughout my playing period.
However, this awe at the polish soon turned to frustration as I discovered that the physics engine made the game very difficult to enjoy. No amount of braking seems to help stop the constant fishtailing that the truck experiences. Crashing into objects will sometimes send you hurtling several feet backward with the same speed you made contact. Icy levels are practically unplayable as the car is constantly skidding off-track. The AI drivers provide no help, as they seem to speed around the track with no problems.
Practice mode allows you to practice the tracks using your unlocked vehicles. There’s not much incentive to do this other than to try and see what driving line works best for you, as lap times are not saved.
Multiplayer seems like the mode that would help this game to really shine, as you would be playing against other people instead of the flawless AI. However, during my experience, the XLab servers were down, so I was unable to experience it myself.
Overall, MonsterTruck Rally is one of the many games that showcase huge potential with poor execution. The highly-advertised physics engine is flawed, and the AI experience no pitfalls like the player constantly will. I really wanted to like this game, but that hope was dashed as I smashed into a tree the hundredth time.
Even with the annoying gameplay issues, MonsterTruck Rally exhibits wonderful 3D graphics and it appears that XLabs updates the game often with new tracks and trucks. With the price currently at $0.99, fans of the racing genre and monster trucks should pick this up and experience the beautiful graphics and the multiplayer once the servers are up and running again.