Voice Module








In Memory
Sean Pettibone


(Nintendo for Wii)

With its mixture of arcade and off-road racing, Nintendo's ExciteTruck for the Wii is an immensely playable and addictive driving game. The game is all about speed, with massive boosts, jumps and ever-changing terrain keeping players on their toes. It utilizes the Wii controller effectively with unique control system allows precise steering, body English and stunts to be performed easily. Multiple play modes include both solo and multiplayer games, with challenge and standard arcade modes included. It's not the deepest game you'll ever play, but ExciteTruck delivers a thrilling racing experience that shows off the Wii brilliantly.

ExciteTruck doesn't take long to suck in the player, with an addictive mix of speed, challenge and fun. This is an arcade-style racer at heart, and as such it doesn't need much of a learning curve. You can immediately feel the difference Wii's controller makes, since you merely need to tilt it to steer the vehicle. It takes some getting used to, and it's not as precise as you'd think, but the responsiveness is good enough, and any detraction this method causes is more than compensated for with the increased tactile feedback. The controls seem odd initially, but quickly becomes intuitive and second nature. During the race, you can control the angle of your trucks easily, and this extends to the trucks while airborne. Twisting the controller allows you to change the angle of your landing, while tilting it up or down lets you control the angle your land on. It's a subtle method that's probably not immediately noticeable, but it makes a huge difference in how the game plays. During each race, you can implement a speed boost by pressing down on the Wii's cross-pad controller, this makes you move faster but you need to be careful since over-use can cause your engine to overheat, which slows you down. While the courses are fairly open, they all have barriers that you can't cross. Doing so puts you out of bounds and you'll have to reset your position which costs you valuable time and puts a serious crimp in your style. You also need to be careful not to crash into things while jumping and avoid contact with other racers, unless you think you can destroy. However, you can earn stars for collisions, if they are spectacular, but the time lost makes it harder to win races and move forward. You begin with a limited number of trucks and vehicles to choose from, but you can unlock more by winning races, completing cups and finishing the challenge races.

What's more interesting about this approach is that the racing involves more than going from start to finish. While you're rewarded for finishing first, your main goal during each race is to earn stars. These can be collected in a variety of ways: by drifting, making big jumps, going through rings, smashing into opponents and other things. Each race has a minimum requirement of rings, and you need this number to pass through to the next level. Excitetruck's includes several levels of racing, which can only be unlocked by completing all the races on the previous level. The levels themselves are surprisingly fluid. At the early stages, start off relatively simply, but players can affect the course layout by hitting special icons which cause the levels to change forms immediately. When hit, there's usually an explosion that causes a massive jump and accompanying rings to rise out of nowhere. This makes the gameplay less predictable and more challenging, and is an ingenious way of keeping players on their toes throughout. Each course provides a variety of obstacles, such as deep water, trees and mountains that need to be avoided. Crashing into other vehicles or going off the track is another way to penalize the player, but makes the gameplay all the more challenging. You'll face off against dozens of opponents, and they're fairly aggressive. Excite Truck requires players to experiment with the best routes and methods to maximize their score.

Unlike many other racing titles on the market, ExciteTruck doesn't pretend to be a simulation and instead focuses on the action. The gameplay is made more fun by its exaggerated physics where the trucks can perform massive jumps, spin in the air and boost to almost unreal speeds with very little effort. This is still plenty of collision detection, and you'll crash into objects and other vehicles, but the game doesn't punish you for this. In fact, after a crash, pressing down on the button increases your boost meter, which allows you to catch up very quickly. Each race is timed, so you need to keep pace or you'll be disqualified. The game is surprisingly easy to learn and should be accessible to both newcomers and veteran players alike. Speaking of veteran players, those who remember the NES days will be happy to know that this is loosely based on Nintendo's classic ExciteBike, this quasi-update brings several new elements to the traditional gameplay while keeping many aspects of the original intact such as the boosting, massive jumps and overheating. The simple, straightforward gameplay is another throwback to the first Excite title, and Excitetruck definitely has some of the old magic. There's definitely a mixture of old and new here, which makes the game enjoyable on so many levels.

One of things you've probably heard repeated again and again is the fact that Wii is less powerful than some of its competitors in this generation. Judging by the graphics and slick visuals in Excitetruck, the system is more than capable of creating an excellent visual experience. The game's frame rate is incredibly fast, and the levels themselves are quite detailed with different environmental effects such as water, snow and ice along with weather like rain and snow which adds some realism to the game. The trucks themselves look fairly decent as well, and while the game can't match the absolute realism of some other titles, its still a solid performer from an aesthetic standpoint. A hard-rock soundtrack compliments the action nicely, though it does tend to get distracting at points, though not enough to ruin the experience. Overall, ExciteTruck is a superb launch title that showcases the Wii in fine form. The controls seem a little bit iffy at first, but once you get used to them, the game becomes intuitive and fun. Action-packed racing with multiple power-ups, morphing courses and open paths keeps things addictive and challenging, while not making things overly complex. There aren't as many extra modes as in other racing games, but the instant play action makes the replay value high. This is a must-own title, since its emphasis on fun and entertainment makes ExciteTruck one of the most enjoyable, accessible Wii launch titles.

- Michael Palisano

Grade: B

> Related Reviews

Ridge Racer 7 (Playstation 3)
Ridge Racer 6 (Xbox 360)
Ridge Racer (PSP)

< Back to Main Page