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Monster Jam Maximum Destruction

Score: 40%
ESRB: Everyone
Publisher: Ubisoft Entertainment
Developer: Eidos Interactive
Media: Cart/1
Players: 1
Genre: Sports

Graphics & Sound:

Not far from my house, on the way down to the Outer Banks in North Carolina, a big, black truck with green flames painted on it sits outside near the road. You might pass it without even noticing, since most guys with trucks have them jacked up and sporting a crazy paintjob down in backwater North Carolina. But, when you see the words 'Grave Digger' painted on the side along with a scary, ghoulish face, you know you've hit Monster Truck paydirt. And, with the USHRA (United States Hot Rod Association) seal of approval, Ubi Soft may well have hit their own form of paydirt with Monster Jam Maximum Destruction. If you can conjure up a mental image of Grave Digger, Wolverine (thanks, Marvel!) or Blue Thunder, you'll find yourself right at home in this game. Sorry, but when the action commences, the smaller-than-life trucks don't carry quite the flair they have in your local arena, but they sure tear stuff up! The tracks are smaller, the trucks are smaller, but the action is plenty crazy. Graphically, the only thing better than a ring full of trucks on steroids would be a first person view through the windshield of one of these bad boys. And, on the small screen, I'm not sure that would be very gratifying. What we have here is nice, but don't say I didn't warn you when you see the last track variation and start hoping there's more to Monster Jam. The musical effects and sound effects aren't terribly memorable, certainly nothing to write home about. The action is what counts, and you'll see and hear plenty of it. If you're a huge fan of Monster Trucks, it may be more than enough for you.


With two modes to choose from, let me reiterate an earlier statement and suggest Monster Jam is lacking somewhat in depth. Arcade Mode is a 1-shot brawl match against a field of competitors in any truck and arena you've unlocked. Quick satisfaction, to be sure, and over quickly. Championship Mode takes you through progressive stages of devastation to see who will be crowned victorious in the Monster Jam battle. Along the way, from rookie to superstar, you'll have the chance to soup up your rig and add all kind of goodies in the garage. You can switch out trucks, trading for new models you've unlocked, or just max out one truck you especially like to drive and proceed to conquer all. Either way, you'll learn to move through each of the 8 Monster Jam arenas, devastating objects to win points and gather objects to give you an offensive or defensive edge against opponents. Unlike the real-life sport, this version includes serious military weapons (and some inspired by sci-fi) like guided missiles, machine guns and EMP bombs. Grabbing one of these power-ups will grant you a limited period of time in which to blitz the other guys. Earning enough points can send you or an opponent into a berserker rage, and then even with power-ups engaged all bets are off. Playing through Championship Mode, you'll watch your stats after the race to see where you ended up in the pile, and your position determines the amount of winnings you'll collect. Winnings are tied into upgrades in the garage, and well, you've done this before.

And this is basically the weak point of Monster Jam. Even if you love these trucks, the action here is so limited and repetitive that only a crazy, rabid, raving fan could hope to find more than a weekend's worth of fun. Not because there isn't fun to be had in destroying arenas by crushing cars and chasing down other trucks, attacking them with weapons and trying to stay alive in a hail of bullets. No, the problem is a lack of variety and a formula for gameplay that wears thin after a short while. Upgrades don't seem to make the difference they should, so I almost started feeling Ubi Soft was throwing me a bone trying to give me something to 'earn' so I'd be pumped to play and win the next battle. And, I'll admit I had fun, but not so much fun that I could consider Monster Jam more than a spot of forgettable entertainment.


It's not hard to mash buttons and win every time. It takes a few rounds to learn the patterns and judge the best weapon (machine gun, in my opinion), but anybody worth their Destructive Driver's License will have figured this one out within the first 2-3 tracks. And, having figured it out, the challenge level of Monster Jam drops considerably. At a higher difficulty level, enemies are harder to nail, but the same strategies work just fine.

Game Mechanics:

Driving each truck should feel unique, but other than some adjustment in strategy for trucks that are either very tough or very flimsy, other stats just don't seem to make a big difference. Things like Engine, Tires and Body relate to qualities you can see, but nothing so dramatic as we'd find in a more demanding racing game. Basically, the big prize after races is looking for the next fun truck to be unlocked so you can look at its cool picture and then watch it turn into the same, blob-sized blob on the screen. About the only recognizable element of any truck is color and sometimes shape. Try strategizing over your upgrade choices, and you'll go crazy. Use the money, buy what you can and continue to kick butt. Even without upgrades, most trucks have what it takes to beat the other guy, except for stamina. Endurance under fire is the one quality in a truck that will prevent you from ending things early. Build up a fairly tough truck, and you'll go all the way, baby!!

Actual battery-save ability makes this a nice game to pick up and put down, as it should be. You can even build multiple profiles. What you CAN'T do is play with another GBA owner, and I'm completely flabbergasted at the lack of any multiplayer mode for Monster Jam. If this isn't a case where multiplayer would raise a game from average to good, I don't know what is.

Without any multiplayer and offering limited single-player appeal, Monster Jam may sound like a pretty weak gaming experience. Strangely enough, it manages to be a game that is just enough fun to keep your attention and give you incentive to hang in and keep charging. Sure, the power-ups may not make the world move, but they are fun to earn and add to the truck. Plus, the promise of being able to earn up to 50 (!) trucks kept me hanging in there long after I probably should have put this one up to dry. So, I guess that should tell you all you need to know. Big fans will definitely want a copy for the road, and even casual fans should give this one a try to see if they have the stuff to reign supreme over the other Monster Trucks. Like the trucks themselves, Monster Jam comes on strong and makes for a nice spectacle, but may not be the kind of thing you'll want to be riding in day after day.

-Fridtjof, GameVortex Communications
AKA Matt Paddock

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