Video Game Review
Developer: Monster Games
If Wii owners are hoping for a Gran Turismo clone, they’ll have a lot of trouble finding one. Racing simulators like Gran Turismo rely on powerful hardware as the foundation for their high quality graphics engines. The Wii simply isn’t powerful enough. Therefore, the emphasis has to be more on a fun experience rather than one that takes a page from real life. At the launch of the Wii, Nintendo made sure that there was a fun and exciting racing experience on the system with Excite Truck. While it might not be the prettiest racing game out on the market, it’s a great game nonetheless.
Excite Truck is a rally racing game that uses the Wii’s motion controls to interact with the game. The idea isn’t necessarily to win the race but to gain as many stars as possible to increase your ranking for a particular course. You gain stars by your performance in the race, pulling off stunts, and taking out your competitors. After scoring an S score (the best possible) for each race in the Excite class, the Super Excite class is opened up. New trucks and paint jobs are opened up as you progress through the game although most of the game’s unlockables are opened up by playing the game enough times rather than successfully completing elements of the game. There are also challenge stages where you need to pass through a certain amount of checkpoints, gain a particular quantity of stars, or take out a given number of enemies. There is a multiplayer option for the game although it is limited to two player split-screen with no option for online play.
The biggest issue concerning most racing games is how it handles. This problem is even more prevalent since this title relies on the Wii’s motion controls. Gas, brake, and speed boosts are all assigned controller buttons. The controller is held horizontally-long. Steering is controlled by tilting the remote to the left or right. You also need to tilt the remote forward and backwards to manage the truck’s balance during a jump. You can perform a speed boost anytime you want for as long as you want until you overheat your vehicle. The tilt controls can get take a while to get used to. It is easier to control when using the Wii Wheel; although it must be said that the Wii Wheel was not available when this game was released but it works perfectly with the game. There are times where the controls can be a bit frustrating since the game controls are incredibly sensitive. The first instinct you might have when you’re in trouble during a wicked curve is to steer aggressively. The game doesn’t respond well to that; it runs much better with gentler actions. It plays well though but the tilt controls don’t really add much to the experience. It doesn’t feel like the game is any more realistic with the unique controls. It would have been more fun if the game had Gamecube or Classic Controller support because even towards the end of the game, the tilt controls still feel gimmicky.
The Wii sacrificed graphics for controls. It’s not that Excite Truck looks bad but there are times when it looks boring. Some stages like the wooded areas look great but other areas like the deserts look pretty bad. The game runs fast when you’re using a speed boost but outside of that (which is about 80 percent of the time), the game doesn’t feel as fast as it should. It’s not sluggish enough to feel like you’re racing at a snail’s pace but it does hurt the experience a little as you go from racing through trees at breakneck speed to driving around what feels like the speed limit in the middle of a city. The textures look good and the water effects look nice but some of the background objects like bushes and shrubs look pretty ugly. For a Wii launch title, it really doesn’t showcase what can be done with the Wii’s horsepower. It’s not an embarrassment, but it could have been better.
The good news though is that despite lame controls and lackluster graphics is really fun gameplay. The single player experience can be quite exhilarating. It’s not quite as good as Burnout 3, but the game really gives a white knuckle experience. Racing is quite a rush and pulling of stunts and jumps are very satisfying. The only real criticism about the gameplay experience is the rubberbanding in the game. Sometimes you feel like you’re dominating a race and taking out your opponents but they’ll constantly be on your tail. It can be a bit disheartening at times but you won’t think about it much as you’re trying to navigate the game’s extremely fun courses. The courses offer shortcuts which encourages the player to keep an eye open for an open path hiding between a forested area. There are also icons that are littered on the course that modify the course’s terrain (which can make the course more dangerous for your opponents or yourself). There’s also a power-up that makes your truck invincible for a short period of time which allows you to take shortcuts without worrying about crushing your truck. It’s an intense experience that draws you in. The game is a model for the phrase “just one more race” because it is such a rush. The multiplayer is a bit limited though, since you can only play two players but it doesn’t matter much since it is always more fun to share the experience with someone else. There is no online multiplayer since Nintendo did not have any online games until well after the Wii’s launch. Despite this, the content of the game doesn’t feel lacking. The gameplay content is strong enough that the lack of four-player multiplayer or online multiplayer isn’t a huge detriment.
Nintendo could have had a huge problem on their hands with Excite Truck. The Wii’s controls were being called gimmicky before the system launched and playing Excite Truck will not change anyone’s minds. The graphical sacrifice the Wii made to focus on the motion controls makes this game easy to pass on because other rally games like Motorstorm seem like a more visually appealing experience. Excite Truck is able to set aside these two issues because it delivers incredibly solid gameplay and makes for really fun time. It’s an incredible affair that any Wii owner should at least try once because chances are they’ll fall in love with the experience.