Platform: Nintendo Wii
Review: Excite Truck
Developer - Monster Games
Publisher - Nintendo
With the launch of any new console comes varying games to show what the new kid on the block can do. With Nintendo recent launch of the Wii various games also launched to show how developers could utilize the wiimote to play different games in different genres. Excite Truck is one such game and although I was optimistically cautious I would have to say that I was left with an early indicator of what the wiimote can do in driving game and walked away with a feeling that I enjoyed my time with it.
In this day and age of next-generation talk gamers are very much focused on what the new consoles can do visually. Nintendo has made it clear that when they were developing the Wii their focus on was improving the gameplay experience from the console, not just injecting more visual power. That being said one has come to expect that games for the Wii will not be up to the standards of what the other two consoles (PS3 and Xbox 360) are capable of. Although this is somewhat true Excite Truck is still a good looking game. The environments are somewhat impressive and varied while managing to run at a constant framerate. I did come across some slowdown now and then, and even some tearing of the on screen environments during racing, but overall this was far and few between and it did not take away from the total visual experience. I was also caught off-guard by the realtime land deformation feature (discussed in the gameplay section) as it happens so seamlessly and looks pretty darn good.
The game has the ability to run in 16x9 mode and in the Wii's maximum 480p resolution. Unfortunately I was not able to see the 480p mode as I am still waiting for my component cables to arrive. That being said I did hook the Wii up to my home theater (Infocus IN76 and 80 inch screen) and I was pleasantly surprised with how things still looked. Sure, it does not have that high definition crispness, but it still looked pretty good. Once I get my component cables I will let you know how much better things may look. Overall this game has some visual panache to it with some cool effects (e.g. smoke effects and relective water) but this is a first generation Wii game and it will no doubt be surpassed as developers manage to understand the Wii's graphical chipset and make even better looking games.
The music added to Excite Truck is definitely a hit or miss affair. As this game has a backroads country feel to the best way to describe the added music would be that of a 'redneck' feel to it. It definitely feels like the music has a bit of that cheesy southern twang to it. It may appeal to some, but it did not appeal to me. Fortunately you do have the ability to turn off the in-game music and play your own music from any collection of MP3 files you may have on an SD card which the Wii supports by plugging it into the card reader. As for the rest of the sound effects, from the vehicles banging into each other, hitting various bumps or objects on the tracks, to the sound you get when you hit the various power ups and fly thru the air, all is done quite solidly and help to make the game that much more enjoyable.
I think it would only be fair to tell you right off the hop that if you are looking for a deep simulation racing experience then stop right here. With a name like Excite Truck one should surmise right away that this is not a deep racing experience and I have to tell you that it is not. Excite Truck is an all out arcade racer with insane stunts and far from realistic racing. That being said, this game is a simple, fun and a much needed diversion from those sim-based racing games out there and it may even appeal to some of you sim-racing fans as a change of pace from figuring out gear ratios or the camber of your wheels.
The main selling feature of Excite Truck is how you use of the wiimote to control your vehicle. To do this you basically hold the wiimote sideways and this simulates your steering wheel. Turn it left or right and your truck responds accordingly on screen. Should you tilt the wiimote forwards or backwards your vehicle will also respond as such on screen and this will assist you in your endeavor when landing monstrous jumps. Acceleration and braking are handled via the 1 and 2 buttons and turbo is handled by hitting any direction on the d-pad.
Getting used to controlling your vehicle will take some time as the wiimote is nothing like any steering wheel you may have used in previous driving videogames. However, once you get some time with the game, and figure out the feel of the control, it does seem to become somewhat natural and you will find yourself really enjoying the control. I should also mention that Monster Games even felt compelled to use the rumble and speaker features built into the wiimote to further the control and overall gaming experience. As I played Excite Truck I found that the use of the wiimote really added to that feeling of racing on the edge of your seat and in many ways made for an even more enjoyable game. The ability to control your vehicle using the wiimote in such a simple but yet intuitive manner was quite refreshing.
During your various races power-ups play an important role that make the game that much more fun. There are of course your traditional turbo boosts, but there are also other surprises that fill the track. There are "POW" tokens that makes one's vehicle invincible for a short period of time. There are also Exclamation Marks that, once picked up, affect specific areas of the track. This is the land deformation feature mentioned in the graphics section of this review. I found that most of these Exclamation Marks caused the track to change shape allowing me do such things as hit a massive jump, throw my opponents into the air or open up hidden short cut routes. All of this added to each race and I found myself making some active efforts to find and hit each Exclamation Mark to see what would happen next.
Something that some gamers will definitely be disappointed with is the length of the game. The learning curve is not that substantial and any gamer with an adequate amount of skill should finish the game a day. However, that being said, there is some incentive to play through all the tracks more then once to earn the highest rank on each track as this will allow you to open up the Super Excite Mode. To score high on any given track you don’t need to finish first either. Points are awarded for your driving ability via stunts, drifts, taking the opposing vehicles out and driving close to obstacles (e.g. trees. Upon finishing a race your total points are added up and you can reach the highest rank without having to win the race as long as your total points are high enough.
There is more to do here then just progress through the expected circuit mode. Monster Games added three different minigames to satisfy those looking for a quick fix of arcade racing. One of these is a slalom challenge where you have to drive through various gates on a track, another one is a jump challenge where you have to launch your vehicle through rings and the final challenge has you crashing into opponents vehicles in a demolition challenge. I found these minigames a nice diversion from regular racing and in someway they manage to hone your skill for further vehicular mayhem on the available tracks.
Multiplayer is also a feature in Excite Truck, but this is by far the biggest disappointment of the game as it is limited to the same screen and not online. I know that Nintendo has been very cautious, and somewhat slow, in their implementation of online for any one of their past or current consoles. However the Wii has built in Wi-Fi and one would expect that a game like Excite Truck would take advantage of this Wii feature, but it does not as Nintendo has still not fully committed to the realm of online gaming. This fact hurts the multiplayer aspect of Excite Truck as you are very limited in terms of the number of players you can play against and the fact that there are no computer racers to round out the field of racers on the track. Bottomline, the multiplayer component of Excite Truck does not live up the title of the game as it just is not that exciting.
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