With all the silly humor and arcade-styled exaggeration you'll find in most any modern truck racing game, it's pretty easy to forget that truck racing actually is a legit motorsport in some corners of the world. Primarily popular in Europe (though not without its own following stateside), professional truck racing is more akin to the tight-cornering style of F1 racing than the more Americanized, NASCAR style of "drive around in a big loop" racing. Now, XS Games and Jester Interactive has released Super Trucks Racing, thus bringing the sport of racing jacked-up big rigs to the PlayStation 2. Super Trucks Racing doesn't bring a huge variety of race modes to the table, nor does it aim particularly high in production value, but despite these facts, the game can still be recommended simply for the fact that it emulates its chosen sport surprisingly well and does so at a meager price.
http://image.com.com/gamespot/images/2004/reviews/550862_20040120_embed002.jpgSuper Trucks Racing is simulation truck racing through and through, and it's mechanically and technically sound in most every way.
Super Trucks Racing features 15 different trucks, as well as 15 available tracks. Each truck is represented by a real-life racer and racing team (all European, mind you), and concordantly, each track is based upon a real-life track as well. The game features five gameplay modes, including a basic single race; an arcade mode, where you must place at a certain level to continue racing; a time trial, which is fairly self-explanatory; a two-player, split-screen versus mode; and a championship mode, where you take part in one of five championship cups, which span multiple courses across the world. Championship is essentially the heart of Super Trucks Racing, as completing the five different championships takes quite a while, since they include practice runs, qualifying runs, and actual races. Furthermore, championship mode is where you'll unlock the game's bonus tracks and drivers. All in all, there's a fair amount to do in Super Trucks Racing, and although an online mode might have been a nice addition, it's hard to complain about what the game does provide.
As Super Trucks Racing is heavy on real-life features, it seems only natural that the gameplay would be based on a similarly realistic style. When racing, you definitely get the feel that you're racing an oversized big rig, since controlling your truck is a fairly unwieldy task at first. Save for a few exceptions, most of the game's tracks are heavy on hairpin turns, so overshooting a turn will throw you off the track pretty easily, which can be disastrous. Ultimately, you'll have to learn to brake early, and you'll have to carefully manage your speed, because slowing down too early can lead to wrecks with other trucks, and obviously, slowing down too late will result in flying off the beaten path. Trucks are statistically different in the categories of speed, acceleration, and handling, and picking the truck that excels in the category most suited for your style of racing is of high importance for you to succeed in the game. There's also a pretty incredible array of options available in the game's settings menu that allow you to tweak your truck, so you can personalize your tire pressure and traction control levels, and you can customize your front and back ride heights. In fact, you can even tinker with your anti-roll bar level.
Above all else, Super Trucks Racing brings a nice air of authenticity to how it chooses to mimic its represented sport. The AI of your opposing racers is quite well done, and the driving physics are very faithful to how you would expect these kinds of vehicles to move and perform. Little touches, like how driving on a rainy course makes controlling your truck that much harder, and how wrecking your truck also makes control a more difficult task, all really make the game feel representative of the true sport. Unfortunately, all of this also leads to a bit of a problem, as the game is so intensely based on realism that unless you're someone who really seriously gets into simulation-based racing mechanics, the game just doesn't feel nearly as exciting as most other racing titles on the market. Sure, you can get these trucks moving pretty fast, but most of the time you'll simply be carefully navigating trucks around tight corners and trying your best to avoid any wrecks or slide-outs. But, hey, if what you want is some seriously lifelike truck racing, then you'll certainly have little to complain about here.
Super Trucks Racing's no-frills approach is also readily apparent in its production values, since they are simply enough for what the game requires and not much else. The game's graphics are effectively comparable to a first-generation PS2 game, thus showing off some nice polish in a few areas and revealing a distinct lack of any real detail in others. The most detail has clearly gone into the truck models, which look a whole lot like real racing trucks, complete with sponsor logos and souped-up engines. Additionally, you'll see some nice light reflection off of the bodies of the trucks, as well as some pretty decent damage modeling when you wreck. The game's array of tracks all look fairly true to their real-life counterparts, but aside from this fact, they aren't all that great. Most of the background and crowd textures are just flat and low-resolution, and it's pretty apparent that very few polygons were used on any of the tracks. Fortunately, the game does run at a steady frame rate throughout, and overall it's quite technically sound, performance-wise.
http://image.com.com/gamespot/images/2004/reviews/550862_20040120_embed003.jpgThere isn't much to Super Trucks' graphics, but what is there is decent enough.
There aren't many sound effects to speak of in Super Trucks Racing, but what's there is good. Engines sound appropriately realistic, and crashing into other trucks or walls makes a nice, authentic-sounding thud. There's no announcer voice or anything to that effect in the game, and there are only a scant few musical tracks that play throughout, consisting mostly of bland, inoffensive techno tracks that are more boring than anything else. It's really unfortunate that there isn't more to Super Trucks' graphics and sound, but thankfully, there's nothing definitively wrong here, either, to take away from the overall experience.
In many ways, Super Trucks Racing is a welcome surprise. It's been a long time since any company has tried to do anything with the concept of truck racing, outside of a lot of slapdash, parody-filled schlock. Super Trucks Racing is certainly not this. On the contrary, it's quite serious about being a simulation-style truck racing game, and in that capacity, it definitely succeeds. Plus, when you take into account its budget pricing, it just makes an already decent product that much better. All told, the game is definitely not for everyone, but if you're a fan of truck racing and have been dying for a solid representation of the sport, you shouldn't hesitate to pick up Super Trucks Racing.