Review by TheFanBoyDestroyer
"Exciting is it's name, exciting is it's game"
F-Zero Truck, or near enough
Excite Truck is to the Wii as Mario Kart was to the Nintendo 64. A fun fast paced racer that didn't take itself to seriously and delivered upon hours and hours of gaming bliss. In this technical day of age with High Definition visuals and state of the art graphical enhancements it's pleasing to be able to play a game that returns to the basics of video games. While Excite Truck won't win any awards for stunning environments or a robust online experience it is a game you can play and actually have fun playing it, unlike so many next generation titles that are available on the market.
Now while I did make a vague comparison to Mario Kart 64 earlier, the two are very different in terms of content and gameplay but ultimately they deliver the experience that the system intended. Excite Truck is more so in league with the popular arcade racer Burnout or the critically acclaimed F-Zero GX. Don't let the name fool you; this game has little to do with earlier Excite titles. Instead it becomes a brand new franchise altogether blending old school racing with innovative controls that fulfil promises made by Nintendo to reinvent the way we play games. While the controls may not be as precise as an Xbox controller the idea isn't to win the race but to beat yourself. An odd concept but one that's works perfectly in execution. So enough joyous praising of a game that was sorely missed at launch in Australia, what about the nitty gritty everyone wants to know about.
Games should be played beyond 5 hours before reviewing
A misconception by almost every single video game reviewer since day one has been the game's supposed lack of depth. These reviewers have done themselves an injustice by passing this game before even bothering to delve deep into it's core. In truth from first glance Excite Truck is about racing around locations from China to Mexico against five other opponents as you try to collect a set amount of stars. Stars are obtained by winning the race in first place, navigating your truck through a plentiful amount of trees and even by leaping to massive heights using a sometimes-picky boost. From this doomed first glance there is one racing mode, nineteen tracks that only vary from desert, snow, bushland and swamp, a bunch of trucks and some kind of challenge mode. Sadly this is where most people wrote the game off as shallow and something that wouldn't even pass on the Super Nintendo. Unfortunately for them, they are so incredibly wrong.
Like any typical Nintendo racer the actual racing is broken up into Cups. Developer Monster Games have kept it simple and started at bronze, which almost acts as the tutorial into the world of Excite Truck, despite a few short lessons before hand. It won't take long before you blitz through the four courses in Bronze Cup and obtain those fabled S ranks. S Ranks are the heart of Excite Truck, feasting it with it's addictive replay value that will have you coming back for more until you've obtained every single last one. Obtain an S rank in every Cup and you'll unlock a new mode, do the same there and Mirror Mode opens. While not technically counting as 47 courses that is still a huge amount of things to do, especially when some of those S Ranks are as frustrating to achieve as collecting all the blue coins in Super Mario Sunshine was.
There are two more gameplay modes worth noting. Challenge mode has two difficulties, one of which again is only unlocked by achieving all S Ranks. There are only 6 challenges, a little lacking for something that seems so easy to implement. Never the less this is a nice little bonus for those that want a break from spinning and drifting their way to victory. The other mode is the disappointing multiplayer that pits you against one; yes only one, of your friends. You choose a course, choose a vehicle and start racing. There are no opponents on the track and the race usually becomes a one sided affair making this portion of the game hardly exciting as the name says. With the rest of the game taken into account however you can rest assured we will be shouting for a sequel that gives us the same memorable multiplayer experiences that Mario Kart 64 did all those many years ago. So while these two other modes are a neat little extra the brunt of the enjoyment comes from the Single Races.
You'll be driving trucks through figurative door opened by a figurative company
This is no ordinary Racing game. Traditionally you have to race the fastest and beat the clock or beat your opponents. While that still plays a very important role in the game it does not decide the overall standings, especially when the game focuses mainly on you racing yourself rather than the A.I opponents. They become more of a tool to achieve more star points, which are ultimately the means to victory and obtaining the S ranks. So instead of racing the goal is to fly high, spin, drift, ram, dodge, boost and glide that by successfully executing will give you the stars that decide your rank for that track. This adds a whole new level of complexity to Excite Truck by where you can no longer rely of finishing first anymore but must rely on mapping out the tracks, boosting at the right time and getting your mind around some of the unique tricks that will have you racking up the points in no time. At the beginning of a race it's usually the standard to ram into as many opponents as possible, which begins your way to gaining a massive amount of points. Thanks to some nifty items such as an exclamation mark that will morph the terrain and a power item that will temporarily make you faster and untouchable the goal of the game becomes that much more enjoyable. There is just so much depth to how you race that you need to experience it for yourself.
It wouldn't be a Wii game without new controls that abuse the motion controls and engage you into the gameplay. While Excite Truck may not have the exact pixel perfection that analogue stick controlled games have it honestly doesn't need them. You'll be moving so fast it will eventually become second nature anyway. One major issue with the game however is how responsive the tilting of the controller can be. After 30 minutes or so though you'll have completely forgot about how touchy the controls are and just how much fun this game is. To play Excite Truck you hold the Wiimote horizontally like a classic NES controller. The D-Pad acts as either the main menu navigator or the boost that can be used by pressing any direction you see fit. The 1 and 2 buttons are for braking and accelerating respectively and A will help you reset your vehicle if you head in the wrong direction. One of the best options in Excite Truck comes from the + button and I can guarantee that everyone will use this at some point while playing this game.
Even Celine Dion fans will have something to do
Audio wise the game has made thousands of Nintendo fans quiver in disgust. Honestly I have been able to endure the background music with very few visits to the Dentist and even the grinding of the trucks engines is passable for okay. Never the less the music which sounds like a wild combination of Queen, ACDC, Iron Maiden and Classical Music can be switched off so to speak. Excite Truck is the first game to feature MP3 playback capabilities in which you'll be able to stream music off an SD card. If you're able to work around putting music onto your MP3 then I highly recommend doing this even if you can withstand the music. Nothing beats listening to your favourite tunes, rock preferably as you jump a thousand feet into the air over a massive gorge while spinning to pile up more stars than you need. While it may not be as ambient as Halo 2 or memorable as Twilight Princess the sound is not going to melt out your eardrums like rumours may lead you to believe.
What really surprised me was just how gorgeous the game looked, especially on a 40inch LCD screen. The trucks are crisp and even reflect the surrounding environments though their crashing physics could do with a little work. The four environments are beautifully detailed even though at the speeds you'll be travelling you'll hardly have a moment to marvel at your surroundings. Comparatively to Twilight Princess I'm going to have to be controversial and say I was pleased with this games visuals more so than the Wii's killer app.
Buy Excite Truck. It proves once more than Nintendo is a company of quality and even if the game doesn't push the visual boundaries of the Wii or has a somewhat annoying soundtrack it will keep you entertained for weeks, even months to come. The solid single player experience and remarkable depth that seems to avoid mass attention is the defining reason for doing yourself a favour and filling the void left behind by a lack of First Party titles. While it may not win any technical awards Excite Truck is undoubtedly one of the best games available on the Wii. This is off-road racing like never before and you'll only be doing yourself an injustice by not experiencing the Excitement.
Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 02/27/07
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