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“Monster Jam Showdown” SGF: Play Days 2024 Preview


This past weekend, at Summer Game Fest: Play Days in Los Angeles, the good people at Milestone S.r.L. and Plaion Games gave me an opportunity to play the monster truck game Monster Jam Showdown, which will be released August 29th for PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, Switch, and PC.

What follows are my impressions of this vehicular game.

Monster Jam Showdown Summer Game Fest Play Days 2024

In Monster Jam Showdown,

you drive one of dozens of real monster trucks in both off-road races and trick exhibitions.

And I do mean real: among the many actual monster trucks in Monster Jam Showdown are Grave Digger, El Toro Loco, Megalodon, Pirate’s Curse, Dragon, Solider Of Fortune, and Earth Shaker, to name but a few.

And as you’d expect from a game with monster trucks, Monster Jam Showdown is decidedly more arcade-y than a simulation, even though it’s made by Milestone, who are best known for such realistic racing sims as MotoGP 24, Ride 5, and Monster Energy Supercross 6.

This was evident when I started the demo, which opened with a 8-person race in the Saltstorm Speedway in Death Valley, during which I realized that while the controls were not like those in Mario Kart Deluxe 8, they were clearly more forgiving than those of Gran Turismo 7 or Forza Motorsport, and that includes when the latter is played with all the assists turned on.

Monster Jam Showdown Summer Game Fest Play Days 2024

Monster Jam Showdown also…

differs from those realistic racing games by having tracks with multiple pathways, big jumps, and floating targets that, when jumped through, will refill your nitro tank (which happens over time as well).

In the case of the Saltstorm Speedway, it has a fork just after the starting gate, and a second later on, not to mention a number of jumps that would destroy the suspension of a non-monstrous motor vehicle.

Splits, jumps, and nitro-refueling targets were also present in the second race I ran, in Alaska, and in what’s called a “Showdown Race” because instead of racing 7 monster trucks, I was just racing 1.

It was during this event that I noticed something that separates monster trucks from other off-road vehicles, and thus Monster Jam Showdown from other off-road racing games: monster trucks are top heavy. Like, really top heavy. And when you combine that with the snowy / icy roads of Alaska, well, the fear of flipping is very real.

Monster Jam Showdown Summer Game Fest Play Days 2024

As a result,

driving in Monster Jam Showdown is trickier than it is in such off-road racing games as well, Forza Horizon 5 or DIRT 5.

It’s why Monster Jam Showdown feels like a very different game than, well, you know. It’s kind of like how the off-road Forza Horizon 5 and the on-road Forza Motorsport are both racing games, and have similar controls, but are still very different.

The irony being that while Monster Jam Showdown may be different from Forza Horizon 5, DIRT 5, et al., it actually has a mode that’s a lot like another game…just not a racing game.

In Monster Jam Showdown‘s “Freestyle” mode, which was the last part of the demo, I had a couple minutes to drive around an enclosed area with lots of jumps and destructible objects in the hope that I would score more points than other drivers who’d done this event.

Monster Jam Showdown Summer Game Fest Play Days 2024

In other words,

it’s Tony Hawk: Pro Skater 1+2 but with big ol’ trucks. Doubly so since you use the right thumbstick to do tricks. Hence why, a couple times, I was able to spin and flip El Toro Loco like it was breakdancing in a monster truck-based remake of Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo.

Though what’s odd about “Freestyle” mode is that you don’t have your nitro tank. Which seems like a missed opportunity (and, in my case, the reason why I wasn’t able to make some big jumps).

Then again, I’m never as engaged by game modes where you show off, so “Freestyle” having issues wasn’t actually an issue for me, since I know I’ll never play it. When I play Monster Jam Showdown, and I will, it will be as a racing game.

How fun of one, though,

remains to be seen. Sure, the two races I ran were engaging, but it’ll take a lot more to make me commit to calling this game “good.” We’ll just have to wait until Monster Jam Showdown is released for PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox X|S, Xbox One, Switch, and PC on August 29th to be sure.



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