Racing games need to have realism, right? Racing games need to have depth, right? They need to have all kinds of neat features and add-ons for different vehicles, right? Cars need to go FAST, right? Umm, well, actually NO.
In spite of popular belief, racing games DON'T always need to be too realistic, or have lots of depth, or have neat little features. Point and case: Microsoft's Monster Truck Madness II, the sequel to popular Monster Truck Madness. The game isn't all that realistic, the cars don't have many different features or additions... hell, the trucks don't even go that fast, but guess what: the game is fun.
Those who appreciated the original Monster Truck Madness will definitely dig the sequel. Like most sequels in the gaming world, MTM2 improves on its original graphics, sound, and single and multi player support. Let make it simple: all who liked the original MTM should grab a copy of MTM2; all who didn't (for gameplay reasons) should look at something else; and all those undecided... why they should keep on reading.
Graphically, the game looks, as put by our slang-impaired writer Mark Cooke, "booty-kickin". Microsoft did a major overhaul on the 3D engine, throwing in handfuls of nice goodies that please the eye. Those with D3D support (I was running on a Voodoo board) will experience personal heavens such as rain, snow, fog, awesome lighting effects, skid trails, lens flare, amazing water effects, and particles (the actual list is much longer, these are just the ones that caught my attention). Again, this will only be experienced by those with some sort of acceleration, everyone else running in software mode will be severely handicapped.
Overall, objects throughout the game, i.e. cars, trucks, road signs etc., have a descent polygon count and a good appearance. The maps are somewhat complex and textures look damn good. The appearance of MTM2 is a definite plus.
The overall sounds of the game remained relatively the same as its predecessor. Improvements include awesome, fast-paced CD tracks to get those racin' juices flowin', and mic support (during the race, players have the ability to yell profanities at their opponents).
Another aspect of the game almost exactly like the original is the gameplay. MTM2 incorporates very simple controls: gas, brake, turn, and shift gears. Trucks have a very MINIMAL amount of possible adjustments: acceleration, tire cut, and suspension. But lets face it, if your looking for a racing game with all sorts of different adjustments and tweaks for vehicles, then you probably wouldn't be looking at MTM2 in the first place.
Like the original Monster Truck Madness, the sequel has three different modes of gameplay. Rally races and Circuit races use the exact same concept they did before and are available for both single or multi player. The new feature, the summit rumble, basically involves a large arena, in the middle of which there is a square, target-like area. The point is to be in this area for as long as possible; players gain 10 points every second for being on it, 0 points for being near it, -1 points for being away from it, and -50 points for getting "booted" out of it. In other words, it is king of the hill with monster tricks.
Similar to other drug-induced feelings, MTM2 does have its disadvantages and drawbacks. The lack of realism is probably the most apparent. I know that I said before that realism shouldn't matter, and in most cases it doesn't, but the one major area where lack of realism really has a negative effect in MTM2 is during collision. Especially during multiplayer, where lag makes a big difference, the collisions seem a bit off: cars crashing causes too drastic or to minimal damage. Example (taken directly from my personal experience playing on the Zone): you feel like you're really haulin' ass and ram a car head on, but there seems to be no effect. Later, a car that is going furiously slow barley touches you and you fly fifty feet off the summit.
All in all, Monster Truck Madness 2 is a damn fine game. Many areas of the game have been given drastic improvements since the original Monster Truck Madness (namely the graphics), while other remain surprisingly similar. However, actual racing game fanatics should definitely pass this one up, as it offers no real features, tweaks or changes for the vehicles as well as an incredible lack of realism. Your average trailer park, lite beer drinkin' gamer just looking for a good time (playing games...get your mind out of the gutter) should definately take a look.