ExciteBike started off as a one-off NES dirt bike racing title that built up a strong reputation over the years due to its sheer class, style and quality, plus the fact that even back then there was a comprehensive track creation mode included. So high did its popularity become that it even received a Nintendo 64 successor from then Second Party developer Left Field. With that company now relegated from the Nintendo ranks, though, another team has been enlisted in the form of Monster Games, a US outfit most known for its NASCAR experience. And in bringing the 'franchise' back they have substituted bikes for monster trucks. Is the core gameplay still present, though? That is what we aim to find out!
The Wii has so far had quite a poor showing in terms of the graphical quality for its first generation line-up, with even Zelda (despite looking marvellous) still appearing like the slightly spruced GameCube game it is. But Monster Games has definitely worked hard to make ExciteTruck look like it fits in with the new generation of titles that are coming out right now. All the trucks are solidly rendered in 3D and zoom along the various terrains at break-neck speeds without any hitch at all, plus there are the expected shiny effects on vehicles, blinding glare from the sun, reflective water aspects and the trademark blurring that helps drill home that sense of ultra speed. It all looks extremely 'nice'...but nothing more as on the whole it is pretty-but-bland. Locations are impressive to some extent, but lack extra special touches you expect from Nintendo games, such as trucks having interesting characters behind the wheel. Okay, it is a straight up arcade racing fest, but even the N64 game had different bike riders to give the game more of an identity. And as for the soundtrack, it is best to just gloss over the incessant guitar noise that pours forth from the screen. Seriously, just stick some of your favourite MP3s on an SD card and use those instead, or even turn the volume down and put a CD on...
The 'bike' part of the equation may have been removed completely, but the 'excite' side certainly has not. Monster Games has previously been involved in the creation of high quality NASCAR racing titles, all of which focus on crazy speed racing - and guess what? They seem to have been the perfect candidates for this new update with 'Truck truly being all about the crazy fast-paced racing! The primary aspect of ExciteTruck is that holding the Wii controller on its side like a NES pad and precisely moving it around controls each vehicle. Holding it with the D-pad facing upwards, simply slightly turning to the left or right will result in accurate on-screen movements, whilst also rotating it forwards or backwards alters the angle at which your truck moves (something that comes in extremely handy when flying through the air and looking for a smooth landing!). The fact that these aspects alone are carried out so perfectly immediately lifts Monster Games' efforts above any other racer on the Wii. Sounds like it bodes well for the rest of the game, right?
Well, it is right in a way, as ExciteTruck does exactly what it should do – excite the pants off you by offering up the craziest racing you will have seen since Burnout. Speed is of the essence and the game serves up non-stop action all the way, with boosting available by holding ‘up’ on the d-pad (well, technically it would be ‘right’, but since your controller is now on its side…you get the idea). However, since you must be careful to not over-heat your engine and burn out (*ahem*), other options come in very useful as well. First of all there are large stretches of water that cool your engine, allowing longer bursts of boost. But then there are the key features – the boost-inducing abilities.
Each of the locations you can zoom around is stacked full of opportunities to grab more boost power. Hit a bump and fly into the air, hold back on the controller to get a greater trajectory, also tap the boost button as you take off to initiate jet thrusters to 'grab air' for even longer and this will all result in stars appearing on the screen. The more stars you get the stronger the boost upon landing will be. Then there is the option to also spin whilst flying; by holding '1', a direction on the d-pad and then tilting the controller up and down at either side you are also granted more acceleration. As if that was not enough, tilting forwards and backwards to the right degree in order to land all four wheels safely on the ground at the same time speeds you up even more. Do you see a pattern here? There are LOTS of ways to boost, meaning that beating the five other opponents should be a walk in the park. Of course that would be too easy and to counter it the other trucks can boost to their hearts' content to keep in the game.
Therefore, tactics are required and these come in the form of trying to hit icons dotted around the tracks that change the terrain for your benefit and the opponents' detriment (short-cuts for you, disastrous happenings for them, such as the landscape collapsing around them or them being flung into the air as land rises quickly!). In addition to these are POW icons that set off an annoying siren, but put you on permanent boost complete with invincibility, meaning you can safely attempt tree runs to get even more boosting (tree runs involve narrowly missing many trees in a row, rather like Burnout where you near-miss with other cars). Finally there are Truck Smashes, where you are encouraged to crash into other vehicles for...you guessed it...more speed and points! Gaining points is far more important than winning a race, so working through the main mode lacks some of the tension you would expect as you can fly through without coming first, just as long as you fulfil the point requirements of a track...Then there are the three mini-game challenges as well as the plain racing element – race through as many slalom style gates before the timer runs out, launch yourself through as many rings as you can and crash into other opponents. Nothing spectacular, but even so it proves to be great mindless fun. Whether the whole experience is as fulfilling as it should be, however, is another matter entirely.
And this is why ExciteTruck has to be judged as lengthy in some ways, but quite short-lived in others. That may sound amazingly contradictory, but the difficulty levels do ramp up the more you play through, meaning that if you stick with it you will definitely get great replay value in the long-term. However, sadly there are some issues with the sheer lack of any meat to the game. It all feels rather unfinished, as if deadlines were too tight and things were wrapped up quicker than expected. Firstly a split-screen four-player mode is criminally absent, meaning that the only real fun can be had with just one other friend. Then there is the fact that once the main racing challenge and points modes have been done away with, you are left with nothing more than the objective of playing through those yet again, only this time on a harder setting. This may be enough for those starved of racing fun on the Wii, after being highly disappointed with Ubisoft's two efforts Monster Truck 4x4 and GT Pro, but anyone else will grow weary soon after purchase...
The controls are simply wonderful thanks to the sublime use of the Wii controller for all truck-related movement. Monster Games has really got the hang of the system right from the start. Hopefully this is only the beginning for them!
This definitely looks a cut above the competition, with lovely effects strewn throughout and constant high-speed action. Shame some locations seem sparse in detail.
Sadly the soundtrack grates on the nerves very quickly, but at least the sound effects are pleasing and you can use your own MP3s via an SD card.
Unfortunately, despite being such an enjoyable game, it feels rushed into completion and lacks not only four-player split-screen, but also the wealth of extras you would expect in a Nintendo game. Disappointingly short-lived...
ExciteTruck may not live up to its amazing NES and N64 predecessors, but it certainly holds its own on the Wii so far, proving to be a far better racing experience than both Ubisoft's efforts, Disney's Cars and EA's Need for Speed: Carbon...and yet it feels incomplete to some degree. With solid sales around the world so far, hopefully Nintendo will green light a sequel so Monster Games can show us what they are really made of. Brilliant fun, nonetheless, but it has short-lived appeal...
Never played a huge truck racing game before, I have to be honest...if that's the normal standard, then I get the feeling I wouldn't be such a fan :
Nope, it was me - Mike just agreed on the same score. And yes, the innocent smile can indeed be so sarcastic! Hehe!
Anyway, cheers for the comment Hi Sexy - definitely a very enjoyable game and shows off how delicate the motion of the Wii controller really can be.
It's fun but value is shit. I would have given it a four for value.
Excellent review raz, seems like good fun. Will probaly buy this when it goes down in price.
Yeah, 7 is definitely right. I think I've been playing it at a more leisurely pace than many others so far (I've not finished Gold on the first difficulty, for example, while some have complained of finishing the entire first difficulty in one night), but I'm having great fun with it. Unfortunately I can already see the lack of length and things to do despite not finishing it, which is a real shame as it's actually some of the most fun I've had on Wii so far.
Nice review Adam!
Blimey there are some dodgy grammar mistakes in that article!
First of all there are large stretches of water that cool your engine, allowing longer bursts of boost. But then there are the key features
F-Zero has sections that refill your boost meter, so it's kind of similar.
As for mistakes - yeah, sorry, due to rushing last night and not proof-reading :roll: Hopefully most of the issues are ironed out now, though. Apologies folks!
If anyones interested my brother found this in Stafford ASDA on Sunday for 27.99
This is probably the best game on the wii (next to Zelda of course!). Certainly the best driving one!!!
I agree on the music - its not too bad but with your own music it makes it much better.
If Criterion need any persuasion about a Burnout wii they should seriously take the control system from this game, it's superb.
What's that coming over the hill, is it a monster (truck)?
Real bargain Paul! Should be useful info for a lot of our readers, thanks :
bdgr, I totally agree that Criterion should crank something out onto the Wii. The controls would be amazing! :-D
I picked this game up through trading some of my old DS games and I think it's cool. I haven't had a chance to play multiplayer yet, although I hear it isn't its selling point; shame it's only 2 player. I'm enjoying the experience though, the controls make all the difference. I'm not big on racing games, in fact (other than Mario Kart) this is the first racing game I've ever bought myself.