Racing games are fairly frequent nowadays, and, to be perfectly
honest, they're rarely any good. Some are plain trash (like most F1
sims - fortunately, the flood seems to have stopped lately); some
are almost good (like Colin McRae 2); but almost none are
excellent. As well, notice how car racing is the most frequently
abused genre: we rarely see motorbikes, boats, and all the other
things that go fast. MBTR is a new entrant into the scene, and it
doesn't use the cliché car theme - it's all about trucks, baby.
The first thing that you will notice (okay, perhaps not the FIRST
first, but you'll see it soon enough) are the graphics. They are
absolutely stunning. I must repeat that. The graphics in this game
kick some major booty. Very, very sweet. Unfortunately, this comes
at a price - don't expect to turn on "True Colour Textures" if you
don't have a GeForce 2 Ultra, and don't expect to turn all the
settings on if you have anything less than a GeForce 2 on a P3-600
or so. Having played it on a P3-450 with a GF2 at 1024x768@32bit, I
must say I could have used a higher framerate.
The second thing you will notice is that you can't drive. At all. You
will notice that your truck understeers, wipes out, does 180 degree
turns and completely fails to obey polite requests to powerslide.
However, this is no fault of the game: it is, indeed, purely none but
your own. The game goes to great pains to accurately model the
handling, performance and other characteristics of these 5 tonne,
1360 horsepower road kings. There is a pretty nice intro to truck
racing in the game (which I rather wish were displayed as text,
and not simply read aloud), which will give you a rough idea why
they are so hard to handle.
But once you understand how the truck works and how to handle it
more or less properly, you will find a wealth of options to help you
fine-tune it. Everything is flexible in the game: suspension, tyre
pressure, anti-roll bars, shocks, springs, gear ratios, even the
amount of diesel to load in the truck, for maximum enjoyment.
Another aspect that is customizable is the opponent difficulty,
though I'm not quite certain what that changed when I moved it
from 80% to 1% - I was still getting slaughtered by the opponents,
and I still had virtually no hope of catching up. Most strange. There
is much you can change in the options menu, too - up till the
regulatory 160 km/h speed limit (you can take it off, and watch
yourself hit a wall at 240 km/h instead of 160).
One more grudge that I have about the game pertains to the
menu. Quite frankly, I think it's completely unusable (albeit very
nice). It's not always clear which menu you are located in (some
menus are usually greyed out, others are not, with no apparent
pattern), and choices aren't obvious. Moreover, if you go into a
submenu somewhere, you have to actually look and read the
menu options before clicking something - your first guess will be to
click the "Start Menu", but that's the wrong one - that brings you to
the main menu (why not call it Main Menu instead?).
There are several modes of play (to which we're generally quite
used to, so little needs to be said about it). There is the
championship, single race, practise and multiplayer. There are
close to a dozen tracks, some of which you may even recognise
from other racing games (like the Nürnburgring and Donnington
Park). This will also make you realise that you've driven around
those tracks before, but in cars that can actually handle; as well,
you will also likely realise that every turn feels like a hairpin. But
enough rambling about my incompetence at driving a 5-tonne
truck. There are things to enjoy, like, for instance, the replay
mode. While it lacks some fundamental features (like free camera
rotation and zooming), it's fairly decent, and definitely adds to the
enjoyment of watching your own race (if you're into that sort of
thing). What turned me off, though (and what ultimately resulted in
my never watching another replay), is that the replay ignores car
damage: so if you execute that head-on collision perfectly and try
to watch it in replay, you won't see much. Incidentally, while on
the subject of collisions, I must praise the damage model of the
game. Most damages are accurately modeled and executed, and
allow for great fun at smashing cars up. Unfortunately, the more
serious collisions wind up overloading the algorithms, and result in
very strange things happening, like trucks flying very high up in
the air, or executing other acrobatic manoeuvres.
So can I recommend this game to anybody? Most definitely so.
This is a new take on the racing genre, and lends itself to a great
deal of enjoyment. However, I hesitate to recommend this to
everybody: the learning curve is probably vertical, and mastering
the handling of the trucks will be very difficult. I recommend
turning on ABS (though do not turn on brake help - that's just plain
useless), as it helps somewhat in the learning stage. The graphics
are absolutely stunning, and the game displays a great degree of
polished, skilful implementation of the Mercedes license. Try the
demo first, and see if it floats your boat. But I can see this as being
just a niche game (though an extremely good one at that).