Monster 4x4: World Circuit manages to make the act of driving comically gigantic trucks through destructible environments a complete and utter bore.
- Sometimes stuff breaks apart or catches on fire
- A bunch of goofy-looking monster trucks.
- Racing is wholly boring
- Destruction and stunt elements are vastly underwhelming
- Graphics and audio leave much to be desired
- Minigames are just dumb
- So many obnoxious guitar solos.
As any child of the '80s will tell you, monster trucks are awesome. There's no disputing it. It's science; an irrefutable fact. However, just because monster trucks are awesome, doesn't mean that every form of entertainment based on monster trucks is inherently awesome. Take Ubisoft's Monster 4x4: World Circuit for the Xbox, for example. Like Monster 4x4: Masters of Metal, Ubisoft's last attempt to craft something monster truck-esque for gaming consoles, World Circuit completely misses the point of what makes monster trucks excellent. Sure, it's got the big trucks, but it also has exactly zero of the excitement. It somehow makes the act of driving these trucks over rows of parked cars, through various sheds and other breakable bric-a-brac, and off of carefully placed stunt ramps, completely and utterly dull. Not to mention that it can't even do you the solid of actually including some actual monster truck events.
World Circuit includes a few different race types. The normal races include things like stunt ramps, destructible set pieces, pitfalls, shortcuts, and the like. Racing monster trucks, as you might imagine, isn't always a speedy affair. These are big, honking driving machines, so the relative speed of each one isn't great. The game tries to make up for this by letting you create some chaos on the track. You are rewarded for breaking cars and sections of the track, and by performing stunts. You are given points for doing these things, and you can eventually use the points to upgrade your trucks in a few different stat categories. However, that's really your only reward, and it's a dubious one at best. The actual destruction you cause looks cheap and doesn't hold much satisfaction on its own. As for the upgrade points, the truck upgrades are barely noticeable. You really won't become aware of any serious differences in how your truck performs, so it's just kind of a waste of time to even bother.
Stunts are no less dull. To perform a stunt, you simply hold down the right trigger button before coming to a ramp, and then press a direction on the left analog stick while in the air. Your truck will do some form of ridiculous barrel roll, and that's about it. We'll certainly concede that monster trucks doing stunts like this is crazy, but it's not interesting when it's the same basic stunt done in four different directions over and over and over again. The only reason to do stunts is to build up your nitro-boost meter, but even that is sort of a fool's errand, since nitro boosts rarely seem to do much to actually boost you past the competition. The thing that gets you wins in this game is finding shortcuts. Find the right shortcuts and you'll always win, because the opponent intelligence is rather suspect. They'll almost always completely blow right past an obviously shorter route to follow the beaten path, making it extremely easy to blaze right into first place on just about any course. The split-screen multiplayer functionality is a little better in this respect, though with four players going, it can be tough to see exactly where the shortcuts are anyway.
What is there besides the normal races? There are the pure races, which pull the stunts and wacky pitfalls out of the equation; and duels, where it's just you and another truck one on one, instead of the usual six-truck races. So, in effect, these other options actually go out of their way to make the races even less interesting by removing even the minute level of chaos to be found in the normal races. The game does include a couple of multiplayer minigames, like monster truck soccer, but even with their wacky nature, there's just nothing interesting or engaging about these games. Driving the trucks is still just as boring in the minigames as it is in the races, so these games aren't useful for more than just a menial distraction.
Monster 4x4 is a budget game, and nowhere is that more apparent than in its presentation. The graphics look about on par with a PS2 game from a couple of years ago--just with a steadier frame rate. The trucks are blandly designed, the various destruction effects look cheap, and the environments are just a muddled mess. Apart from ugly textures, it's just impossible to tell where you are or what's going on half the time. All the tracks are supposed to be set in various historical locales, like the Egyptian pyramids, Mount Rushmore, and such, but apart from very occasional glances at something like the Sphinx, you might as well be racing through some anonymous dirt track somewhere outside Santa Fe, New Mexico. The game does occasionally feature some nice lighting effects, but that's the extent of its graphical pluses. There's not much audio beyond the revving of truck engines and an insane amount of wailing guitar solos--enough to where you'll question your love of electric guitar by the time you're done playing.
So, to recap: Monster trucks are awesome, but Monster 4x4: World Circuit is not. The racing is bland, the destruction is minimal, the excitement is nonexistent, the presentation is mediocre, and the content is lacking. So, what are you waiting for? Run out immediately and don't buy Monster 4x4: World Circuit.