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Mar 1, 2021
Rainbow Studios For $40, Monster Jam Steel Titans 2 look like it’s going to deliver a hell of a bang for your buck. With 38 licensed trucks, loads of outdoor and stadium events, plus online multiplayer and dozens of in-game collectibles across its five open worlds, it promises an experience that dyed-in-the-wool monster truck fans have demanded for years. Yet it soon becomes clear that for all its bells and whistles, there’s no real depth to Monster Jam 2–and it’ll probably disappoint those who are hoping for an improvement on Rainbow Studios’ 2019 lackluster debut, especially now the series has a genuine challenger in the surprisingly compelling Monster Truck Championship . At its core, Steel Titans 2 feels like a game without an identity: Excite Truck without the excitement. Just when you start to get into its unique and weird world, there’s something there to pull the rug from underneath you and remind you that it’s just, well, boring. Doubts about the game sink in almost immediately, with its unbearable tutorial–one that unnervingly sets the tone by treating you like a six-year-old who’s never played a racing game before. T.I.N.A, the game’s overtly happy announcer, almost sarcastically screams “WOAH!” and “AWESOME!” every time you complete a basic task, including after a six-second lesson where you literally hold B to reset your car. Awesome indeed. MORE FOR YOU Still, this sort of thing is forgivable once you get to the actual meat of the game, even if the tutorial outstays its welcome by explaining every little thing that follows. Once you’re allowed to explore the first of five worlds, it starts out quite fun: you and your pair of starter trucks have free rein of Camp Crushmore–the first zone of five–and each region lets you interact with the environment based on your vehicle, unlocking daft challenges and bonuses. On Series X, MJST2 looks decent enough. It doesn’t deliver seamless 60fps graphics, and its environments are cartoonish–the stadiums are drab, but at least they’re true to life–but the framerate is consistent, and bugs are rare. It’s dependable, much like its arcade-like driving mechanics. Controls are reliable, even if gravity is unpredictable. The dual-axle steering on both analog sticks is intuitive, to the point that you’ll never use brake; easing off the gas is all you’ll need to succeed at literally everything in the game. Sometimes, you’ll never take your finger off the accelerator. In terms of licensing, 'MJST2' gives fans what they want. Rainbow Studios Monster Jam Steel Titans 2’s true strengths lie in its open-world races, whether it’s a waypoint scramble or a fixed circuit, especially the ones that see you driving in the opposite direction to half the field, or where you navigate figure-of-eight crossovers. Races can be tight and competitive, once you find your level–so long as it isn’t easy mode, which is an absolute cakewalk. Sadly, vehicle damage is only cosmetic, which is a massive shame, as it’s crying out for that extra level of in-race strategy. The real highs of the Monster Jam Steel Titans 2–and something you’ll wish there was more of–come from its two-point races from one side of a map to another, where you’re forced to navigate terrain from entirely new angles, getting the most out of its relatively uninspired maps. There’s a lot of risk; land the wrong way off a jump and it’s game over. Planning is key, and the minimap is critical to success. However, moments of joy are regularly undone by the game’s odd AI. Not only is it incredibly unbalanced when it comes to difficulty–and, occasionally, really stupid–it’s just soulless. There’s no aggression; tactics don’t seem to exist; vehicles act like you’re not there; you never feel like you’re up against opponents as colorful as their famous trucks. Pac-Man’s ghosts had more personality 41 years ago. The AI can be soulless and stupid. Rainbow Studios Then there are the stadium events, which really do hammer home how boring the game can get. Between its head-to-head races, demolition events, two-wheel trick shows, and straight-up stunt shows, they’re usually over before they’ve really hit their stride. Not only are they way too easy, but they’re repetitive. Each real-life stadium’s design is limited and doesn’t lend itself to the game’s arcade approach. You often find yourself winning stadium events within the first ten to 30 seconds, but you can’t end your run early, so you’re forced to sit and wait for the timer to run out, especially as there’s no incentive to keep going. The two-wheel skills mode is especially tedious–I won one by simply holding down the accelerator until I was left on my roof and the combo timer ran out. Annoyingly, I still had to do two more runs to make the whole thing end. The Arena Championship Series will push your patience to its absolute limits. It’s one of the few times I’ve been so bored by an event that I didn’t even finish it. I’m not usually a quitter, but after completing 30 repetitive events–dropping just eight points out of a possible 240 along the way–the series just kept. On. Going. Maybe it ended after 40 events? 50? No idea. Nothing can convince me to continue, or presumably do the same thing another three times just to win the World Finals. Ultimately, Monster Jam Steel Titans 2 has a lot of great ideas, but in its quest to offer the broadest appeal, it forgets to refine its strengths to deliver a real sense of satisfaction, or even finesse–its litany of typos is testament to that. Leveling up individual trucks feels pointless; each area is uninspired; winning most events, apart from those fun, open-world skirmishes, feels inevitable. For fans or kids, there’s plenty of action here–but if you’re looking for a real challenge, or longevity, cross your fingers for Monster Jam Steel Titans 3. Or just stick with Monster Truck Championship. Disclaimer: I was provided with a copy of Monster Jam Steel Titans 2 in exchange for a fair and honest review. The Xbox Series X version was played for review purposes. Follow me on Twitter . Check out my website .