Truckzilla – Monster Truck Mega Ramp Mania from Moldovan dev Midnight.Works arrived with nary any fanfare and this reviewer decided to take a punt on what looked like a lightweight racing game. Unusually for current releases, it’s a PS4 only joint with no PS5 version in the equation at all.
Your first task upon loading Truckzilla is to select a monster truck to play either career mode or one of thirty single events. Whichever you choose, you’ll snag an easy trophy for just starting either. If you chose career mode as we did, you’ll bag another for simply completing the event.
One thing that is immediately apparent is that the only thing that you’re battling here is the environment. There are no AI opponents at all. Nor multiplayer in any form. The arena that you play through the seventy campaign levels remains the same all the way through. We get the impression that the devs may have had more arenas in mind, but for whatever reason went with variations on the same theme.
The only thing that changes from stage to stage is the ramp layout and the number of gems you have to collect in the time limit. Upon doing so, you’ll be faced with the option of either going back to the main menu or restarting the level you’ve just completed. Nothing obvious like ‘next stage’ here, nope. This is in part due to there being a random chance to win in-game currency or vehicle skins but it really breaks the game flow.
It gives a general feeling of inconsistency when it comes to the UI at any rate, further compounded by some menus only being navigable with the analogue stick or the d-pad. It’s maddeningly inconsistent.
Oddly, we noticed that if you win an event with seconds to spare, as the game is totting up your score; in itself utterly meaningless; the game timer is still continuing and you’ll trigger the fail state. Similarly, you can fail an event but if your vehicle is headed for a target as time expires, your momentum will continue after the fail message and you’ll win after all.
At least having one arena means you’re not as subject to the technical shortcomings that become very evident in the event series. The titular mega ramps make themselves known. This is all well and good to start with as you only have to tackle the one ramp. Things come unstuck when you have ramps chained together and the cobbled together nature of the tracks becomes a problem. The Unity engine gives devs a well-supported cross platform development suite, but a racing game engine it really isn’t.
The handling for the monster trucks is best described as idiosyncratic at best. This coupled with the stages makes for a very frustrating experience. The spongy suspension and what you’d think are minor bumps mean you can lose control and either spin out or flip altogether. Never mind that you’re facing a strict time limit as you do so. We struggled with the initial vehicle we unlocked, often not making a jump at all. So we saved our credits for ever more powerful trucks, culminating with the most expensive one.
Even then we struggled to complete them in the latter stages due to the handling. One particular ramp comprised of a cargo ship hull and the part you drive up on the left proved elusive in anything but the most powerful and expensive truck. Despite that, we still had big handling issues and problems like carrying so much speed that you hit the bottom of some of the ramps and spun out due to the handling model being inadequate. Or another spot where we’d be going full pelt and a tiny little divot would flip the truck. Heck, we’ve driven F1 cars in dedicated simulation games at higher speeds than the perceived speeds we encountered in Truckzilla and never once feared losing control. A standard F1 kerb could flip one of these trucks. So handling and track design aren’t great.
As well as the issues we’ve outlined, there’s pop-up a plenty. The likes of which we’ve not seen since the halcyon days of Gran Turismo on the original PlayStation. As we said, Unity simply isn’t up to the task. The draw distance isn’t massive but the pop-in is very evident. When you’re trying to line up for the next ramp, not to mention the next one immediately after, it makes for tough sledding. Performance was as bad on our PS5 as it was our PS4, though the latter sounded like it was going to take off.
It was with no small amount of relief that we finished the events, never to return. All these factors led to us not having much fun, if any, from the events mode. Given this, we were glad that the relaxed arenas of the campaign were a far less troublesome prospect.
If you end up going for the platinum trophy as we did, you’ll soon go with the path of least resistance. For example, the final level of the campaign yields six thousand credits for having collected ten jewels in a minute. Whereas the penultimate level yields just a hundred less for collecting seven in the same time.
The grind is inevitable as you’ll likely have completed everything the game has to offer fairly quickly. The only saving grace is you can bypass the menus by simply retrying upon completing a level to get a quick turnaround on levels. The grind is still tedious but we managed to get it done. At least the levels are randomised somewhat in terms of obstacle placement.
Sound effects are rudimentary at best, with a monotone engine note that rises in pitch. You get the odd clunk and bang from collisions and that’s it. There’s a volume control in the menu for in-game music. But no in-game music at all. Pretty funny. Did someone simply forget?
In conclusion, Truckzilla is a bit of a shabby mess, its only saving grace being that it’s fairly cheap at £7.99 and it showers you with trophies. The technical shortcomings make the event mode so joyless thankfully don’t affect the campaign levels. The menus are horrible to navigate, so the less time spent in them the better.
We had some fun in the campaign but barely any in the single events. They felt like watching the Vikings against the Raiders on Sunday. That finished with a single field goal being the only score of the game with no offensive production. In Truckzilla’s case, the production felt offensive.
+ The grind for a platinum isn’t as hateful as some we’ve played
+ At least there’s only thirty ramp stages
+ Relatively cheap
- The ramp stages are a disaster, a fun vacuum in fact
- There’s a music volume option but no music at all
- Performance is consistently poor across PS4 and PS5, pop-up is very evident