Monster trucks are massive, 10-metric-ton vehicles with huge wheels, heights which allow them to tower over other vehicles, impressive top speeds (given their size), and a tendency to crash spectacularly. In Terminal Reality, Inc’s Monster Truck Madness, you get to pilot one of these awesome racing machines against the computer or up to eight other people via LAN or the Internet!
Before you begin a race, you can choose your level of difficulty, your monster truck (the trucks differ only visually, unfortunately), the race type, and the track you want to race on; determine how many opponents you will race against; and tweak the specifications of your truck. All of this is done through a series of intuitive and easy-to-use menus.
There are four different kinds of races available to you in Monster Truck Madness: Circuit, Rally, Drag, and Tournament. Circuit is a traditional on- and off-road race to complete all laps, which are completed by passing through all of a track’s checkpoints, before your opponents do. Rally is identical to Circuit mode, except that there is only one lap, the track is not constructed in a loop, and there is a greater emphasis on and reward for choosing to go off the obvious course in order to reach checkpoints. This last point is why I love Rally so much! Drag is like a traditional drag race: you maneuver your vehicle to the starting line – without going over it – wait for the starting light to turn green, then floor the accelerator and beat your opponent to the finish line. Frankly, unless you enjoy launching your monster truck down a very short track, this is what I consider the worst kind of race. Lastly, Tournament pits you against multiple AI opponents in a series of race types, with points awarded based on position at the ends of races, and with the winner being the one who has the most points. This last mode doesn’t really seem to fit, since there’s nothing to be gained by completing a race, and you can’t compete against other humans.
Before a race begins, you can tweak the specifications of your vehicle in three different areas: tire type, suspension, and transfer gear. These control your monster truck’s traction, stability, and speed-to-acceleration ratio, respectively. For example, deep-cut tires allow a truck to maintain traction on even the roughest terrain, but its deep grooves will cause the tire to lose traction on more solid terrain, such as gravel roads and concrete. Although the default settings are good for the majority of tracks, if you want to win against the AI on high difficulty levels or against skilled humans, you need to learn how to adjust your vehicle’s configuration for a given track’s conditions. Thankfully, the options are easy to grasp and limited only to their most essential types.
Beyond the rules of the race types, the gameplay itself is very arcade-like. The physics aren’t complex, so you won’t have to worry about your truck’s wheels locking with your opponents' – or the plentiful scenery. Instead, when they aren’t traversing jumps with unbelievable grace, tearing down straightaways, or miraculously driving on water without sinking, the trucks are sliding through corners at high speed, careening off the terrain, and getting involved in spectacular crashes! Thankfully, these three things can and do happen independently of one another, so you don’t have to drive your vehicle like it’s a glass mobile home (or something similar). Much of the scenery easily gives way to the awesome might of the monster trucks, often causing the tracks to become littered with felled signs, scattered safety cones, and helicopters miraculously floating on water. Also, if you manage to flip your vehicle, the game will typically right your truck and set you back on the track so that you can continue. For those situations in which the game refuses to right your truck, you can call a helicopter (or, depending on the track, a mechanical dinosaur!) to lift you right side up.
The game’s graphics are, for its time, somewhat good. On maximum settings, textures are crisp and sharp, although any particle effects which aren’t smoke effects are simply colored pixels. Ironically, though, the game actually looks best when using the built-in software renderer instead of hardware acceleration. Some 3D objects, such as the podiums, suffer from perspective warping.
The game’s AI doesn’t give a challenge to serious drivers, but for everyone else it will give you a good challenge – especially under the Professional difficulty level. They’ll cut corners, take shortcuts, and otherwise have optimized their vehicles for a given track. However, on Rally tracks, if you’re willing to go seriously off-road, you can easily beat your opponents as they’ll mostly stick to the roads.
Besides having catchy (albeit low-quality) music, the game can also play music (audio) CDs. Also of note is the decent in-game color commentary given by a fellow named “Army” Armstrong. While his comments are quite suitable to various racing situations and are non-obtrusive, some of his commentary doesn’t make sense; it doesn’t pertain to the action directly in front of you and you’re not told who is involved (i.e. Armstrong commenting on a truck that is behind you and is not named, slamming into a line of scenery).
Apart from the out-of-place Drag races and the Tournament mode, I would, overall, give Monster Truck Madness 5 out of 5 points for its insane and fun races and simple - but effective - vehicle customization. So what are you waiting for?! Download this game now and experience its unique brand of down ‘n dirty racing for yourself!
If you’re using Windows XP and lower, you can simply extract the “Monster Truck Madness” folder from within the ZIP file for this game, open up said folder, and run MONSTER.EXE. If you’re using Windows Vista and higher, follow the steps already outlined, but place the folder in the root directory of the hard drive you wish to use (i.e. C:/) in order to avoid issues with User Account Control (UAC).
This game has been fully tested under Windows XP, Windows 95, Windows 98, and the 64-bit version of Windows 7. Although Windows Vista compatibility is, in my experience, always iffy, it should still work under both the 32 and 64-bit versions of Vista. Also, this game should work just fine under the 32-bit version of Windows 7.
If you decide to run this game under Windows Vista or higher, you’ll find that software rendering mode will give you some bizarre colors – symptomatic of an incorrect color palate. Unfortunately, the usual fix of manually forcing a certain DirectDraw compatibility entry in the Windows registry (or downloading a program to automate the process) won’t work here, so you’ll have to use the inferior hardware acceleration mode instead.
Monster Truck Madness has an integrated – and indeed helpful – Windows Help file. This format is no longer used on Windows Vista and higher, so you’ll need to go to http://support.microsoft.com/kb/917607 to download the program needed to run the game’s help file.