As any child of the '80s will tell you, monster trucks are awesome. There's no disputing it. It's science, an irrefutable fact. However, just because monster trucks are awesome doesn't mean that every form of entertainment based on monster trucks is awesome. Take Ubisoft's Monster 4x4: World Circuit, for example. Originally released earlier this year on the Xbox and now available for the Wii, World Circuit completely misses the point of what makes monster trucks excellent. Sure, it's got the big trucks, but it also has exactly zero of the excitement. It somehow makes the act of driving these trucks over rows of parked cars, through various sheds and other breakable bric-a-brac, and off of carefully placed stunt ramps, completely and utterly dull. Not to mention that it can't even do you the service of actually including some actual monster truck events. To its credit, World Circuit for the Wii does include some new driving controls that make the game just a hair more enjoyable, but these controls aren't nearly enough to make what was only recently a lousy budget game worth a full retail price tag.
The monster trucks might be goofy, but that's about the only thing this dull and shallow racer has going for it.
So what, exactly, does Monster 4x4 do differently on the Wii? Much the way Ubisoft did with GT Pro Series, its other driving game available at the Wii's launch, this game turns the Wii Remote into a steering wheel. The game comes with a cheap-looking plastic steering wheel attachment that you can plunk the remote into the middle of. By turning and steering the wheel, you'll control your truck onscreen. The only buttons you really need to mess with are the 1 and 2 buttons, which brake and accelerate respectively. The handling of the trucks via this new control method is a little touchy at first, but once you get a handle on it, it works well enough. The slightly more unpredictable nature of this control scheme does occasionally make the game more frustrating, but it also makes it a bit more exciting, since you feel as though you have more direct control over what's happening onscreen.
It's too bad, then, that the actual racing is completely uninteresting. World Circuit includes a few different race types. The normal races include things like stunt ramps, destructible set pieces, pitfalls, shortcuts, and the like. Racing monster trucks, as you might imagine, isn't always a speedy affair. These are big, honking driving machines, so the relative speed of each one isn't great. The game tries to make up for this by letting you create some chaos on the track. You are rewarded for breaking various pieces of scenery set about the track, and by performing stunts. You are given points for doing these things, and you can eventually use the points to upgrade your trucks in a few different stat categories. However, that's really your only reward, and it's a dubious one at best. The actual destruction you cause looks cheap and doesn't hold much satisfaction on its own. As for the upgrade points, the truck upgrades are barely noticeable. You really won't become aware of any serious differences in how your truck performs, so it's a waste of time to even bother.
Stunts are no less dull. To perform a stunt, you simply spin the steering wheel in some kind of random circular motion. Your truck will do some form of ridiculous barrel roll, and that's about it. We'll certainly concede that monster trucks doing stunts like this is crazy, but it's not interesting when it's the same basic stunt done in a few different directions over and over and over again. The only reason to do stunts is to build up your nitro-boost meter, but even that is a fool's errand, since nitro boosts rarely seem to do much to actually boost you past the competition.