Monster Jam Showdown Preview – Drivin’ Round on My JCB

Monster trucks. There’s something that sparks inside you when you hear those words, right? Your inner child suddenly starts bouncing up and down like a Duracell bunny, dreaming of the ultimate clash of the titans flying through the air, flipping over and landing over a row of beaten up car chassis. It’s the ultimate playground of nonsense and there’s no way sitting down and watching trucks designed to shapes of frikkin’ Megalodons is not going to put a smile on your face.

Upon invitation to Cardiff Principality Stadium of all places, we were hugely excited to check out Monster Jam Showdown but also to see a full live Monster Jam show with a 40,000 something crowd. There are press events, and then there’s eating a burger whilst Grave Digger does a 180 in the air in the Welsh capital.

And what a thrill it was. Of course, I was there in an official capacity to check out Milestones’ upcoming Monster Jam Showdown, their video game based on exactly what was playing out in front of us. It’s familiar territory for Milestone having created some of the best known racing games over the last decade including the RIDE series, Moto GP, Monster Energy Supercross and of course the two utterly brilliant Hot Wheels Unleashed titles. They know what they’re doing behind the wheel and Monster Jam Showdown is no exception. In the half hour or so we got to play we checked out the traditional stadium modes where you have a set amount of time to pull of as many tricks as possible to a crowd of thousands (weirdly recreating exactly what we were witnessing live at the Principality).

The mode naturally gave me Tony Hawk vibes but with like, y’know, much bigger wheels. Tearing it around the stadium floor with ramps aplenty gives you a solid amount of chances to flip your car, spin it on to one side, get as much air as you possibly can and try not to land in the crowd (my colleague Claire managed to land her car in the audience, killing hundreds of kids and their parents/guardians in the process, presumably) and pull off some sick manoeuvres. Though if you do some stuck a quick tap of RB (as we were playing on PC builds with Xbox controllers) and you’re back on your feet. In a live setting it wasn’t so easy for the trucks that flipped and couldn’t get back up. Shout out to Grave Digger who caught fire during a trick and ended up on his back. Yeesh.

Still, there’s a fair amount of learn in terms of tricks and I was impressed that it wasn’t as easy as jumping in and pressing some buttons to see what happened. My attempts landed me last, 7th, 6th and eventually 1st in the rankings once I began to learn the moves and was able to pull of some very cool tricks that got the crown cheering for me. Thought that might have been the 40,000 odd people in the stadium thinking about it…nah, definitely sure it was for me.

What was cool was being able to play as the Monster Truck ‘characters’ within the game. We were fortunate enough to see classic Monster Jam trucks such as Grave Digger, Megalodon and even the Marvel branded trucks such as Black Panther (loved a donut trick and was excellent at it), Iron Man (pure speed and power), Thor (driven by the only woman in the showcase and absolutely hammered it) and The Amazing Spider-Man (my personal favourite who was zipping about the track and flew through the air like a paper airplane). As far as I could tell the Marvel trucks weren’t in the game, but the original characters were very much present and correct, allowing you to play as Megalodon in the game whilst we tore it across the stadium in real life. Like playing FIFA at Wembley during the FA Cup Final. It was a beautifully weird juxtaposition.

Elsewhere in the game Claire and I managed to squeeze in a quick race against each other and this is where, for me, the game came alive. Away from the stunts and the tricks of the stadium based modes, Monster Jam Showdown sneaks in a racer that felt more like classic Milestone games and certainly was a lot of fun. Yes you’re stick racking up points for crazy skills and tearing it into boxes and whatever items you can find over the track to crash into but the simplicity of just being first past the post was thrilling in enormity of a frickin’ Monster Truck. Yes, they’re heavy and tough to get around and I think I respawned my truck more times than I correctly took a corner but the fun of the race never let up, with my colleague and I leapfrogging each others positions in the race multiple times.

A few nights before the event myself and Claire had a quick race against each other on Milestone’s Hot Wheels Unleashed 2, just to get a feel for the probable similar handling in Monster Jam. It was superfluous. These beasts surprisingly handle different than tiny go karts tearing it around plastic tracks. Who knew? There’s a whole new way to drive that has to be learned if you want to succeed in Monster Jam Showdown, it certainly isn’t easy and if you’re looking for a racer to give you a bit of a test, you should keep an eye out for this one come the end of next month when the game launches.

Until then, I left the event excited for the games release, aware that there’s plenty of the game I’m yet to see and check out. Whilst what we played I imagine was a close to complete build, the handling felt a little janky in places, particularly when you find yourself in a position a monster truck probably shouldn’t be in. Still, the aforementioned respawn button is your closest friend in that regard and a quick hold will get you back to where you need to be.

Monster Jam Showdown launches on August 29th on every platform, so you can be damn sure you’re not missing out. Finger Guns will cover the game every step of the way so look out for our full review in a few weeks time. Until then, altogether now….MONSTERRRRRR TRUUUCCCKKKSSSSSSSSSS.

A big thank you to Amy from Plaion and Vikki from Premier Comms for inviting us and making the day so easy given how difficult we made it for ourselves. We had a wonderful day watching giant trucks catch fire in the name of video game previews.

(And shout out to Plaion for sorting us out with some Monster Jam merch, including a Megalodon plushie…you heard me….)

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