New driving controls add barely a smidgen of excitement to this Wii port of a thoroughly boring monster truck racer.
- New steering controls work fairly well
- Sometimes stuff catches on fire or breaks.
- Racing is wholly boring
- Destruction and stunt elements are vastly underwhelming
- Graphics and audio leave much to be desired
- Minigames are just dumb
- This used to be a budget game, and now it costs full price.
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 awesome. Take Ubisoft's Monster 4x4: World Circuit, for example. Originally released earlier this year on the Xbox and now available for the Wii, 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 service of actually including some actual monster truck events. To its credit, World Circuit for the Wii does include some new driving controls that make the game just a hair more enjoyable, but these controls aren't nearly enough to make what was only recently a lousy budget game worth a full retail price tag.
So what, exactly, does Monster 4x4 do differently on the Wii? Much the way Ubisoft did with GT Pro Series, its other driving game available at the Wii's launch, this game turns the Wii Remote into a steering wheel. The game comes with a cheap-looking plastic steering wheel attachment that you can plunk the remote into the middle of. By turning and steering the wheel, you'll control your truck onscreen. The only buttons you really need to mess with are the 1 and 2 buttons, which brake and accelerate respectively. The handling of the trucks via this new control method is a little touchy at first, but once you get a handle on it, it works well enough. The slightly more unpredictable nature of this control scheme does occasionally make the game more frustrating, but it also makes it a bit more exciting, since you feel as though you have more direct control over what's happening onscreen.
It's too bad, then, that the actual racing is completely uninteresting. 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 various pieces of scenery set about 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 a waste of time to even bother.
Stunts are no less dull. To perform a stunt, you simply spin the steering wheel in some kind of random circular motion. 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 a few 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 a fool's errand, since nitro boosts rarely seem to do much to actually boost you past the competition.
What is there besides the normal races? Just basic split-screen multiplayer races and a few multiplayer minigames for up to four players. These minigames include such gems as monster truck soccer, which is precisely what it sounds like, and monster combat, which has you driving around, trying to launch as many flaming barrels at other drivers as possible. 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 used to be 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 even much of a sense of speed on display here. You constantly feel as though your truck is chugging along at a snail's pace, and the boost effect just adds a bunch of cheesy motion blur. There's not much audio beyond the revving of overly grimy-sounding 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 poor, the content is lacking, and last, but certainly not least, Ubisoft is now charging $50 for what was a budget game less than a year ago. There's no excuse to charge full price for a driving game this hollow and boring, and there's no reason for you to bother playing it.