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Review – Excite Truck

posted on January 26th, 2007 by matt

Excite Truck has a lot to live up to. First, it’s one of only three first-party titles to launch with the Wii, and you know that consumers were looking at Nintendo for a reason to give their crazy new gaming interface a chance. Second, with Monster 4×4 World Circuit and GT Pro failing to meet expectations, Excite Truck may be gamers’ only source for a good racing experience. Thankfully, Excite Truck is running on all cylinders, delivering an awesome, and somewhat complex, arcade racer.

Developed by Monster Games (which developed Infogrames’ NASCAR games), Excite Truck is an arcade racer that brings to the table a totally new way to drive your virtual vehicle, with help from the innovative Wii-mote.

Just how rugged is that rack?

Most of you are probably wondering about how the game handles, so I’ll get right to it. The game controls wonderfully. You orient the remote like an NES controller, where the 2 Button is the accelerator, 1 is for the brake, and any direction on the D-Pad is your turbo boost. The real innovation is in how you steer your car. To turn, you simply move the remote as you would with a steering wheel. It takes a little getting to used to (mostly because some of you will face the controller towards you when you should face it towards the ceiling), but once you do, you will start to understand how amazing racing games can be on the Wii. After playing Excite Truck with its amazing driving control, you will demand a Gran Turismo game for the Wii. It’s just that good.

After you get the control down, you get to experience the rest of the game. You have two main modes: Challenge Mode and Excite Race. Excite Race is where you will spend most of your time. It has four different cups, with an average of five tracks per cup. The courses have a nice variety to them, spanning the globe, from the frozen tundra of Finland to the sandy beaches of Fiji. You will visit the same locales more than once as you progress in the game, but the layout of the course changes each time. And it’s not like Gran Turismo where they change one turn and call it a new track. Nintendo is not that lazy. There’s definitely enough variety to sate your appetite.

At the end of each race, you are awarded a medal on how you drove. To get higher grades, you must perform vehicle-based tricks. These include grabbing major air when hitting jumps, drifting around corners, landing correctly, ramming players Burnout-style and some others, all controlled by a few basic movements with the wii-mote. The more you do, the higher the grade.

This, coupled with the fact that you need to physically drive the car, makes Excite Truck extremely complex. You are continually trying to perform tricks, sometimes throughout an entire lap. Hit a jump, land correctly, drift around a corner, ram an opponent, drive through trees without getting hit, then hit another jump, etc, all in succession. This is definitely not a passive game like most racers. Your hands are going to be all over the place.

What an exciting truck.

One thing that caught me by surprise is the way you win. You don’t have to come in first. Points from tricks also contribute to your ranking. First place is worth a huge chunk of points, but you still don’t have to be in first to get the required A medal to officially pass the race. To win, you really have to have your head in the game, and it creates a lot of much-needed pressure for the player. The AI isn’t the greatest, so basing it on how well your computer opponents race would have been somewhat of a let down. Nintendo chose correctly with this seemingly unorthodox method of progression.

They even went further with it by locking newer difficulties until you get all S medals. Want to unlock the Super Excite difficulty? Be prepared to get S medals in every single race in the game. This makes mastering the trick system even more crucial; you have to learn all of its abilities to see everything Excite Truck has to offer.

The other mode is Challenge Mode, which is broken up into three categories: Gate, Ring, and Crush. Gate has you driving through, what else, gates that are laid on the track. Ring has you hitting the clouds, making your way through aerial rings. And Crush has you going against other racers in a battle-royale that is not limited by racing. You get to travel the entire area much like you would with a GTA game. It’s a cool chance to play some of the tracks with that kind of freedom, and I wish they offered even more, or added another gameplay mode that let you do that for all the tracks.

Probably the best addition to the game is the mp3 import function. If you have an SD Card, you get to listen to whatever song you want while driving. The in-game music isn’t horrible, but there are far better driving songs than the ones Nintendo supplied. Once you play the game with your own music, Excite Truck turns into a whole new beast. Pop in some crazy techno music or awesome rock n’ roll and you’ll find yourself lost in the game. You really feel a sense of speed when listening to a song with a fast beat, and I hope every developer for the Wii includes this function. If the original Xbox did it, so can the Wii.

I did find a few problems with the game, however. First, it’s an off-road racer, but most of the tracks only let you travel down a few predefined routes. You would think you can just blaze through the trees, but a magical barrier will show up that blocks your way. Some of the courses are badly constricted, too. There will be many times where you think you’re going the right way, when you meet a semi-invisible barrier that stops you in your tracks. It wouldn’t have been as bad had they made the barrier more noticeable, but it only comes into view when you are close to it, which is already too late.

As if a girl could drive a truck. Someone install an oven on board so she can get to work. Where is she going, the mall? And so forth.

The second problem is the multiplayer mode, which is only a 2-player split-screen affair. It definitely would have been better with full 4-player support, and it is weird that Nintendo left it out when they call their system “all-inclusive.” You can definitely have fun playing Excite Truck multiplayer, but not as much as you may have hoped.

As for the graphics, if you don’t expect Project Gotham 3-style visuals, you will like Excite Truck’s graphical presentation. The courses are big, and cover a lot of different terrains. Go off a high jump and you can see the course for miles. Trucks have a nice sheen to them, and look pretty cool when busted up. Visuals are not as good as those found in Burnout, but they get the job done.

In the end, I can find no serious fault with Excite Truck. It’s surprising that it got rather average scores when it’s this good. The controls are great, it has a lot of depth because of its trick system, and offers plenty of variety with the courses. I guess it could stand to have a better multiplayer mode, but I wouldn’t say it is average because of it. I guess 7 is the new 9.

Definite thumbs up. If you want a good racer for your Wii, Excite Truck is your answer. But I do suggest getting an SD Card if you buy this game. It makes it a much better experience. And most cards are pretty cheap nowadays, so no excuses.

2 Comments

  1. rawr said on April 6, 2007:

    im havign trouble importing my itunes into excite truck ne 1 help me???

  2. Matt said on April 6, 2007:

    The music that you buy from iTunes is in a protected format (m4a?), and
    it can only be used in iPods. It must be an .mp3 file for Excite Truck
    to recognize it. The easiest way to format those files into mp3’s is to
    burn the songs to a CD, which iTunes lets you do, and rip them back onto
    your PC, converting them into mp3’s in the process. Make sure they’re 128kps versions;
    it will save space on your SD card. Hope that helps.      

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