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Monster Jam: Urban Assault
By Tim McGowan
Mar 18, 2009,
7 :05 am
While I was playing Urban Assault for the first time, my roommate entered the room and asked about it. After watching me play for a bit, he remarked, "If I were still twelve years old I would love this game." It didn't take me long to realize he had written my review for me.
Monster Jam: Urban Assault is a simple game, despite its many different play modes. You can participate in the World Series, in which the goal is usually to crash into things while doing easy-to-perform tricks. Every third level, you are pitted against another truck for a very brief stadium race. Speedster mode lets you race monster trucks around longer tracks. Smasher mode asks you to either gather points by launching down a ramp strategically or destroy the most valuable objects in a large arena. Finally, Stuntman mode offers three different types of stages to test your stunt-jumping abilities.
The game's central gimmick is nitrous boost. The only way to win races or get enough air to perform tricks is by boosting your speed at the right time. And the main way to get any nitro is by crashing into stuff. Building up stunt and destruction points raises your nitro meter, allowing you to do even more, and so on.
While it sounds like a highly varied game driven by a neat gimmick, it manages to fall short. Each different play mode seemed unique and interesting when I first started them up, but they all nosedive into monotony. The central problem is stage design. This is essentially a stunt racing game, no different from your average Tony Hawk or snowboarding game. What makes those games fun to play is breaking high scores and looking for secrets in diverse and unique settings. Monster Jam: Urban Assault has stages in different settings, yes, but they are not particularly unique. The objects you're smashing up in one stage are pretty much the same as the objects you're smashing up in another. The stunts require no special talent or combinations to pull off, and even if they did, most of the stages give you the same amount of room to maneuver and gain air. In fact, the scoring system encourages you to pull off every kind of stunt possible in every non-racing level. It ranks you based on several factors, including the number and distribution of different stunts performed.
The sound is notably annoying. In most stages there is an announcer who voices over your actions, often repeating the same things over and over. But he doesn't limit his commentary to the flips you've done or the parts you've lost. He spends most of his time informing you that you've gotten a new "spectacle point," a star that is awarded when you gain a certain number of points and lost when you go long enough without getting any. The goal is to get five spectacle points in a row, which helps your overall score and can be a neat challenge in itself. But since the game awards the first spectacle point in a series for doing almost any kind of trick or smashing into any object, the announcer is constantly telling you that you've earned a spectacle point. I found no way to turn this off in the options. Most of the other sound effects are inoffensive, but Speedster mode has a special musical treat to enjoy: very bad metal. I suppose it would be too much to ask for a monster truck game without such music. It would be like asking for a skating game without bad punk.
For your efforts in completing modes, gathering points, or accomplishing various tasks, you can unlock many different trucks. I don't follow the world of monster trucks, but from what I know, most of the ones included are real trucks. I tried several different trucks and noticed no difference in performance among them. I imagine it would still be fun if you are really into monster trucks, and want to unlock your favorite. You can also earn short movies of a few monster trucks tearing up cars and whatnot. In the age of YouTube, unlockable movies are becoming one of the least rewarding rewards possible.
Monster Jam: Urban Assault is laughably easy, even on the harder difficulty setting. This makes the game pretty boring if you're an adult, but I can easily imagine my 5-year-old nephew really loving it. It's a game about crashing giant cars into big obstacles. It's easy to control and easy to beat. It has multiplayer racing and it saves high scores on stages, allowing competition among friends or family. There's a lot here for someone more easily amused and not good at videogames. And I admit, like my roommate, I thought monster trucks were way cooler when I was much younger.
Overall: 5/10I managed to have some good fun with Monster Jam: Urban Assault in each mode, although that wore off quickly. The stages are too repetitive for it to have lasting value. In the end, this isn't a game for me, and it probably doesn't have enough difficulty to appeal to most gamers. However, it should please children who like monster trucks, which is as good an audience as any.
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