Monster 4×4: Masters of Metal (PS2)

Dudes like monster trucks. Dudes like video games. Dudes like rock and roll. Put the three together correctly and you’re guaranteed a winning combination. Monster 4×4 – Masters of Metal combines those ingredients and dishes out thin but fun racing title. If lots of dirt, huge jumps and car crushing sounds like fun, welcome home.

There are three kinds of races in MoM. First up are the legally sponsored arena races, where players race head-to-head against another monster truck, doing laps around a dirt track packed with lots of bumps and jumps. There are also in town races, not unlike Smuggler’s Run. These races will send and five other trucks racing all over town, battling to be the first to reach checkpoints. There are also trick competitions, where players will have to grab huge air and crush the most cars to advance through the ranks.

Gamers used to hundreds of options will hate MoM — controls consist of gas, break, and nitro in later levels. There’s one camera angle, a 3rd person chase view which works well most of the time. During some of the dirt tracks it gets a little tough to see from all the dust being kicked up, and it gets a little hard to see your truck if someone is knocking on your back bumper — still, it’s no worse than any other 3rd person view out there.

With so little options, players should have the controls down by the end of the first race. The first thing you will learn is that the brakes seem to turn whatever turf you’re on into ice instantly. Anything more than a gentle tap will send you sailing off the track. Fortunately the trucks lose speed rapidly just by letting off the gas, so there’s no reason to ride the brakes.

I found the graphics to be pretty good. I saw no major jaggies and the framerate kept up despite the terrain. The graphics of the drivers themselves are kind of cheesy, but that just adds to the whole redneck motif. Alongside the graphics are the sounds. The soundtrack consists of nonstop generic metal riffs which reminded me of the old Destruction Derby audio tracks. The truck sound effects are good, but the in game announcer is a little goofy (which didn’t make or break the game for me personally).

Like all games, there are a few annoying quirks you’ll have to get used to. For example, while your truck can smash trucks, buildings, hot dog carts and everything else, trees are immortal. Even the smallest tree will stop your truck dead in its tracks. Another odd thing is how your truck takes damage — or how it fixes itself, rather. While bumping a car out of my way I managed to knock off my front wheel. Seconds later, another wheel popped on. Another time I misjudged a jump and somehow severed the rear axle off my truck. Moments later a new one popped on — I even won the race!

Monster 4×4 – Masters of Metal isn’t Gran Turismo, but then again it doesn’t pretend to be anything its not. I think this game caters directly to its target audience. If you like racing games where you can pick up a controller and win the first few races right off the bat (and smash a few cars in the process), give MoM a shot.

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