Sure, it's the Beverly Hillbillies equivalent of sports, but face it, getting into a truck cab perched atop four ludicrously gigantic tires to skid, plow, and roll through sand, mud, and other slop is not without its appeal. Microsoft's Monster Truck Madness was an improbable success and its sequel, Monster Truck Madness 2, is just as likely to get gamers to listen to their inner Bubba and take those garish big rigs out for a spin.
Monster Truck Madness 2 improves upon the original by throwing in nine new trucks, eleven new tracks, and an honest-to-goodness sports license. The designers wisely recognized that the subtlety of monster truck racing cried out for the added nuance that only a professional wrestling tie-in could bestow. The resulting WCW and NWO license means gamers can drive rigs based on the likes of Stinger and the Outlaws as well as receive a hearty FMV victory salute from Hulk Hogan himself. This time around the trucks also sport deformable bodies to reflect the pounding they take during races.
While Monster Truck Madness 2 does have a limited garage feature to modify your truck, nobody's going to confuse this with Grand Prix II - the focus here is squarely on straightforward, arcade-type action. Monster trucks aren't exactly precision machines, so while you might not experience the adrenaline rush of high-speed racing, you'll be busy struggling to keep at least two wheels on the ground as you slide, skid, and spin through every race. Owners of force feedback joysticks will face a happy extra obstacle in their fight to control these unwieldy mechanized beasts. Monster Truck Madness 2 considerately provides three skill levels and an option for automatic gear shifting, allowing you to take your time getting used to the slippery bouncing mayhem that dominates races.
Monster Truck Madness 2 has a good mix of both rally and circuit tracks, including the obligatory romp through oil derricks, a tropical island laced with water hazards, and a happy jaunt through a lightning-torn graveyard, complete with caskets. Most tracks feature harrowing jumps and encourage a healthy dose of cheating. As long as you hit your checkpoints, feel free to ignore the track and set your own path. Races can be customized with variable weather conditions - including rain, snow, dense fog, and more - for an extra challenge. And while you can challenge the computer in a race setting, you can't try to beat it in the new multiplayer-only Summit Rumble, a monster truck version of King of the Hill. Too bad, because the Rumble is a gas.
While 3D acceleration isn't required to run the game, playing it on the minimum machine will force you to shut off features to get it to run at an acceptable rate. That said, 3D acceleration is a must if you really want to enjoy Monster Truck Madness 2. A Direct3D-compatible card will get you a great frame rate as well as a bucketload of eye candy including reflective water, beautiful sky effects, and the lovingly detailed truck textures. To really enjoy Monster Truck Madness 2's cool graphics, set a race for "pitch black" and ogle at the graceful sweep of headlights careening through the track.
Monster Truck Madness 2 isn't perfect, even as an arcade racer. While it logs best race and lap times for every track, a career or simple season mode would have been a welcome addition. But if you've an itch for wild, fender-busting racing action, Monster Truck Madness 2 might be just the thing to scratch it.