I'll admit that when first assigned Microsoft's Monster Truck Madness, I wasn't too eager to break open the box. Having never attended an actual Monster Truck event, I imagined fairground stadiums with their typical patrons - beer swillin', tobacco spittin', hicks from the Midwest - who love anything with big tires and lots of horsepower. I didn't expect a game based on the sport to be any more sophisticated.
I may live to regret admitting this, but I had a blast playing MTM. Seeing the water and mud fly off the studded tires as I plowed through rivers and tore down roads while racing against some of the greats like Grave Digger and Snake Bite brought out my racing alter ego. When I soared through the air and returned to earth with several body-jarring suspension-testing bounces, I practically jumped from my chair from the impact. One unamused co-worker commented on my uncharacteristic hollers as I rolled my rig and missed a critical checkpoint.
MTM is truly a Monster Truck experience. With a choice of 10 famous Monster Trucks and the legendary Monster Truck announcer Army Armstrong providing the racing commentary from the starting line to the checkered flag, MTM seems pretty close to the real thing. But where actual Monster Truck events are limited to races in coliseums on muddy tracks lined with crushed cars, MTM action includes routes that traverse rivers, canyons, and highways. And since you're not required to stay on the road, the driving surface seems to go on forever (gravity and grade permitting).
MTM also boasts an impressive list of options. Giving you the ability to customize your vehicle based on the track's condition, participate in four different events, view the race from at least half a dozen angles, and compete against up to eight other players for a coveted first place in the Hall of Fame, MTM never fails to have all the right racing stuff.
Graphically MTM falls a bit short in a few areas. While the background scenery is well-designed and impressive, quirky graphic glitches appear when backing up in close to immovable objects (track railings and hills), and from some angles the vehicles look blocky. (Although when you're flying over a gulch and bracing for the landing, you'll hardly notice ...)
MTM performs like the vehicles it showcases - larger than life, lots of action, and big fun. And although I still don't plan on attending an actual Monster Truck event, pretending to take the wheel of one of these babies was downright entertaining. Anyone got a beer?