LOS ANGELES--Nintendo's first big first-party-developed racing game for the Wii is Excite Truck, a racing game where you drive, of all things, trucks. While many might have assumed Nintendo would go back to the classic game coffers for new Wii titles, few could have guessed that the company would take a beloved NES game like Excitebike, and change the vehicular formula so drastically. Nonetheless, that's the direction Nintendo went, and Excite Truck is here at E3 2006, very much in playable form. We had the opportunity to get hands-on time with the game previously, but something about Excite Truck's brand of arcade-inspired trucking that drew us back to it once again.
We basically got to see the same brand of action we reported on in our previous coverage of the game. We drove a big yellow truck against five other trucks in a desert-themed track. This time, however, we paid extraspecial attention to the controls of the game. As we said before, Excite Truck uses the same basic gameplay formula as the Excitebike series, with lots of big, protracted jumps. Sticking the landing is a key component in winning races, as great landings not only keep you on the track, but afford you big speed boosts. Often what you'll have to do is tilt the Wii controller backward or forward to make sure you land on the correct tires to keep yourself aligned with the terrain.
To say that the notion of steering Excite Truck by tilting the controller left and right, rather than with the traditional analog or D pad controls, took some getting used to--well, that'd be an understatement. We'll freely admit that it didn't take long for us to veer off in some wild direction because we naturally wanted to use the D pad to steer. But lo and behold, once we got past our own human inadequacies, we figured out how to steer the damn thing and do it pretty well. That's not to say that we weren't all over the place, mind you. Excite Truck is a powerslide-heavy racing game, and it's also exceptionally fast, which makes getting a handle on the truck sometimes difficult. Not to mention that all the gigantic jumps sometimes lead to you flying off in an inopportune direction, but thankfully, it's not too terribly difficult to get back on the track, even when you've horribly crashed. If you do crash to the point where your car just up and stops, a little button-mashing minigame appears in which your task is to quickly fill up a meter. Filling it resets you at a decent spot on the track behind your opponents.
In actuality, despite our relatively bumbling driving skills early on, we never really found ourselves totally out of contention in a race. We'd always find ourselves right behind the opponent racers after just a short period of halfway-decent driving. Whether this was some kind of rubber-banding artificial intelligence quirk, or just something specific to this demo of the game wasn't entirely clear. All we know is that while we certainly didn't win any races, we never were so far behind as to just be totally hosed.
Excite Truck seems like it could be quite an enjoyable title once it launches alongside the Wii system itself. We're a little concerned about the potential artificial intelligence rubber-banding, and we're not entirely convinced that our bad driving involved no fault of the steering sensitivity of the controller; but if nothing else, we'll be looking forward to checking out more of the game in the near future. Stay tuned to GameSpot for further coverage of this promising little racer.