Monster Truck Madness Preview

Microsoft is preparing to strap you into the driver's seat of a Monster truck and turn you loose on the track

Start your engines! Microsoft is bringing you a sporting experience few people get to try first-hand - Monster Truck racing. That's right, the ultra-conservative mega-corp whose past endeavors cover golf and soccer is entering another sports arena with Monster Truck Madness. And if the beta we played provides only a glimpse of what we can expect from the final version, this could be the year of the Monster Truck. Or at least a few hours of an extremely entertaining ride.

Developed by Terminal Reality, the same talented bunch that created Terminal Velocity and Fury 3, the graphics in Monster Truck Madness are rendered in highly textured 3-D, giving you an extremely realistic view of this world of big, stubby tires and souped out engines. You'll even see flecks of muck and mud fly from the tires as you tear down the track. From immense trucks and plush landscapes to the Winnebagos and port-a-potties sprinkled along the course, the attention to detail in Monster Truck Madness almost convinces you that you're strapped in the cab of a Monster truck, racing against the big boys.

Microsoft has recruited the announcing talents of Armey Armstrong, a well-known racing personality among monster truck fans. From the starting line to the checkered flag, you'll be entertained by his colorful status reports and comments like "Big Foot is doing it in the air!" and "When it's going your way, it's going your way." But the realism doesn't stop there. You can select your beast of power from one of 10 real-life monster trucks. For die-hard fans, it's a chance to drive the trucks previously worshipped only from the stands or a favorite recliner. And even those unfamiliar with the real thing will probably recognize some of the famous monsters of the track, including Big Foot, Grave Digger, and Sampson, just to name a few.

As for the action, vehicles will feature four-wheel steering and multi-dimensional movement to give players the realistic motion of jumping, rolling, and speeding as they tackle mud, grass, water, sand and other terrain. And this game offers such a wide range of views to play in, from blimp to cockpit, that you'll always have a great seat.

Depth of gameplay appears to be another facet of the game that Microsoft has revved up to the limit. You'll have three standard racing formats to play - drag, circuit, and rally - as well as a tournament feature where you'll create your own customized racing challenges. This feature will be the most entertaining in the networking mode, which will accommodate up to eight players over either a local area network (LAN) or the Internet. And victorious racers will be able to gloat in the Hall of Fame.

Although Monster Truck Madness may not be the only game coming out soon that covers this crazy, wild sport - Psygnosis has something similar in the works with Thunder Truck Rally - Microsoft seems to be going all out to give you the ultimate in Monster Truck racing. And if their final product can deliver on their promises, there's only one thing left to say: "Start your engines!"

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