Monster Jam: Steel Titans 2 (2021)

This game  might be my new go to example of a botched sequel. I wondered to myself the entire time I was playing it, how a game with so much potential be squandered so badly?

Steel Titans 2 was just released and had a steam sale bundle containing both the first and new game together. It caught my eye and I didn’t know if I wanted to spend $30 on a Monster Truck game without knowing what it played like. Since the first game was only $5 on sale, I figured I’d play that and judge the sequel on the first games merits. And if I didn’t do that, I would have been very turned off of the entire genre because of this new game.

Steel Titans 2 takes everyone great about the first game and ruins it completely. I really can’t find anything worth mentioning that is good about the game as a whole. So this might be more of a rant than anything else.

The tone of the game is messy and incongruent. Right off the bat, during the tutorial, the game has a voice narrated AI take you through the basics. T.I.N.A. is imitating the quirky AI that feels like it was written from an Hollywood screenplay writer for a knockoff superhero movie. Then the game drops you into an open world that is much larger than the first but in a over-the-top cartoon feeling world. Like a theme park made for monster trucks like anthropomorphic characters. It’s bizarre. Gigantic dog houses with bouncing doors, massive skyscraper sized fire hydrants.

The open world is much more fleshed out as a hub world connecting all the story mode areas together, but can be completely skipped over with the simple press of the start button.

The story/career mode is now broken up into chapters, 21 in all, and has no cohesion to the actual game itself. There is no profession other than you go in order. No bringing theming, just a bunch of races. The same head to head and stunt races are here from the first game, but there are a couple other new additions. A waypoint race that takes you through the massive levels and I was only able to do one that was actually fun? Where you could make your own path to the checkpoints and cut massive corners off the race by going straight up and over mountains instead of around them.

The other new event is a demolition track where you must destroy as many items on the track as possible. Sadly this sounds much more fun than it really is. Tons of similar items like a porta-potty, boxes and even mini blimps are placed around the track and you must run them over in a certain amount of time. But the catch is that you have to combo them all together and the combo meter diminishes rather quickly, so miss a single item and you lose your combo. If that wasn’t bad enough, running the items over slows you down and just plain out doesn’t feel fun.

The levels range from realistic stadium events to cartoon lands like a spooky horror themed level or a sci-fi rip off of the first level from Halo. As I was driving through these baffling choices for this game, I was reminded of games like Speed Devils or California Speed, where you would have goofy levels that added to the character of the game. These just feel about as generic as humanly possible. I still remember levels like the Santa Monica roller coaster from California Speed or the track that features a tornado in Speed Devils. Here, every level is so bland and forgettable that I don’t even want to take the time to describe it.

The major issue with the game however, and the one that really brings this down from not just a disappointing game but an honest to goodness bad game is the physics.

The graphics, seem like a downgrade or at least really desaturated from the original, and with the cartoonish nature of the game itself makes the game seem tonaly weird and straddling a line.

After playing the first game on sale for $5 a couple days before I bought this new sequel, I wouldn't suggest anyone buy this. The game seems like a much inferior version in every single way. The original physics were more of an exaggeration to real life, but in Steel Titans 2 they are 100% broken. The power up system really messes with the racing aspect of the game and the tonal shift into a much more cartoon based look again makes the game feel at odds with itself. Sometimes you'll be racing in a realistic stadium, others you'll be driving up to a 10 story high fire hydrant or dog house to unlock new parts of the really off putting hub world.

To say this game is a disappointment is an understatement, as I could see the potential. The hub world allows for more exploration and secrets to be found, the levels could have very interesting environmental changes that brought to mind Speed Devils or California Speed... But sadly the quality of the level design is baffling and making the game straddle this line of fun racer and kart shooter is only further destroyed by the horrible physics engine that seems completely broken. Cars bumping into you can either send you across the road or magnetize to you never letting go. Random clips into geometry making restarting events necessary and the slightest bump can send you flying off course even at low speeds. The opponent difficulty curve is oddly set as even on easy some of the final events can be difficult as the levels are designed for single racers at incredibly slow speeds.

Everything about this game is just inferior to the original game and really does a disservice to the Monster Truck racing genre that is poorly represented in gaming now. I wasn't expecting a whole lot from a licensed game where development must have been hit a bit to the global pandemic, but even with the bar set particularly low... This game doesn't even meet it halfway.

With updates to the physics engine, I can imagine this game getting marginally better, but not enough to ever get me to play it again. 4 hours to complete the main campaign was enough. Too bad I wasted $20 on it, I'm glad I played the original first because this game would have really soured me on trying a much better game afterwards.