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Monster Jam Showdown

Monster Jam Showdown Preview: Milestone continues to prove its arcade racing excellence

We've been hands-on with the upcoming game all during our time in Los Angeles for Summer Game Fest.

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Milestone is quickly becoming one of the top racing developers in the world. Following years of MotoGP titles, several Ride games under its belt, two popular Hot Wheels Unleashed projects, and a sprinkling of Monster Energy Supercross in there too, Milestone has a broad array of racing experiences to choose from across the arcade and simulation space. This August, the developer will be adding a new series to its line-up, one that uses a different kind of vehicle than we're used to, albeit while tapping the experience gathered while developing the Hot Wheels games.

I'm of course talking about Monster Jam Showdown. The off-road arcade racer will be coming to PC and consoles at the end of August, and with that release date a couple of months away I had the chance to dive into the game during my time in Los Angeles for Summer Game Fest. The preview session was only very brief, but during the session I got a sniff of a few of the different game modes and all three of the available regions, all while becoming more and more familiar with the driving mechanics at the same time.

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Monster Jam Showdown is based on the Monster Jam brand, meaning you get access to a whole slate of actual branded monster trucks to drive. Whether it's Earthshaker, El Toro Loco, Grave Digger, Sparkle Smash, Yeti, Zombie, Pirate's Curse, or the vehicle I selected, Megalodon, there are a lot of options to choose from. Each of the trucks seem brilliantly detailed, something that becomes more and more apparent as you get into a race and see the damage and destruction engine rip them to pieces until only a metal frame remains each time you collide with the environment or a rival racer.

As this is a monster truck racing game, the mechanics aren't as smooth and responsive as that of other racing titles. These trucks have very little downforce and huge amounts of torque and slide with the most minimal input, which means regardless of terrain, it always feels as though you're gliding around the track and struggling to stick to a racing line and to avoid crashes. It's definitely a game that requires an adjustment period, as these trucks feel as though they more closely resemble watercraft with how they handle instead of regular four-wheeled automobiles. This was definitely something I faced a bit of trouble with when previewing the game, especially so when Milestone tasked me with mastering airborne controls that allow you to adjust how your truck is moving through the air to either notch up some tricks or instead to safely land after a jump. This system revolved around using the analogue sticks as orientation levers and will, similar to the core driving systems, take a bit of practice to master.

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Monster Jam ShowdownMonster Jam Showdown
Monster Jam ShowdownMonster Jam Showdown

Looking at the playable regions, Milestone has settled on offering three locations. Colorado is more mountainous and offers a lot of dirt tracks, Death Valley presents a drier climate with lots of rocky obstacles and hazards to avoid, and Alaska introduces a frozen wasteland to slip and slide through. Each has their own challenges, but I didn't notice a major difference in how the controls and driving mechanics are altered depending on region. The trucks felt like a handful to drive regardless of whether that was on ice, dirt, or mud. What I will say about the locations is that they are visually very different and offer a lot in their unique presentations.

Monster Jam Showdown will feature 10 game modes at launch, three of which I had the luxury to test. The more traditional Circuit Racing asks you to compete against a collection of other racers for a multiple lap showdown. If you've played any racing game recently, this mode will feel very familiar. Head-to-Head is also very easy to visualise as this is a literal one-on-one race against a rival truck. There's not a whole lot to add here. The Freestyle mode however really put the aerial mechanics to the test. The idea in this mode is to win by racking up the best score through maintaining a combo earned by destroying billboards and other destructible objects, by successfully completing drifts, and doing the occasional flip and trick when in the air. Due to my inability to master the aerial mechanics during the preview session and still attempting to come to grips with the driving systems too, I was abhorrent at this mode and failed miserably, but it does prove that there's a lot more to this game than what may seem available on the surface.

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When you add all of these modes, locations, available trucks, and the control mechanics and match them up with boosting systems and a variety of online and offline multiplayer elements, it does seem pretty clear that Milestone is onto another arcade racing winner here. Monster Jam Showdown doesn't have the precision of the Hot Wheels Unleashed games, but it does offer something unique, and no doubt that will interest many when it makes its arrival on PC and consoles in a couple of months.

Monster Jam ShowdownMonster Jam Showdown

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