I find that going into anything with really low expectations is always a rewarding experience. See, everyone ? friends, critics, coworkers ? all told me that Constantine sucked. The reviews said the movie was more wooden acting from our boy Keanu, the plot was as thin as the cotton you find in the top of an Aspirin bottle, and the whole thing barely floated on the strengths of the heavy-CG visual effects. So, I was delighted when I found it was a good action romp with some tasty one-liners and some really neat battle scenes. Hell, I even liked the music.
So when I threw Eutechnyx?s Big Mother Truckers 2 into my Xbox drive tray, I went in looking for ? well, not much. To be honest, I figured my eyes would bleed, my hands would go numb, and I thought I?d maybe play it for an hour, in and out like a Chernobyl firefighter before any permanent lasting harm could be done to me. Imagine my surprise when I found the game was actually kind of fun. I got into the spirit of it ? threw on a cowboy hat and practiced a few ?yee-haws? while I figured out the control scheme and got that big rig rollin?.
Big Mother Truckers 2 (I?ll call it BMT2 after this to save wear and tear on my keyboard) is a kind of a hybrid game. At the heart of it all, it?s an Outrun-style driving game in which you blast your rig up the highway as fast as you can against the clock, running a load from one city to the next while causing vehicular mayhem and destruction along the way. All of the cities you drive to are contained on one map and are actually fairly close together (a single run is never much longer than, say, two mintutes) and after a while you?ll know the entire area quite intimately, looking for shortcuts and ways to shave a few seconds off of your run time. Like Outrun, you?ll go through a complete variety of climates and settings within seconds ? from southwestern desert to snow-capped pines to downtown urban within a few curves of the road. To spice up the driving, oddball challenges are thrown your way along the road ? shaking off hijacking bikers from your trailer, dodging UFO?s, and other arcade-style elements that press your suspension of disbelief pretty hard. It?s easy to swallow, though, because the game is ridiculously silly from the first load screen.
The plot has you playing one of four siblings trying to hustle up enough cash from loadrunning to free ?Ma? from prison, a foul little woman who looks like Jabba the Hutt in hair curlers. The object is that you raise cash running from city to city, and aside from spending money purchasing product to haul (hopefully turning a profit), you have to bribe several jury members into turning a ?not guilty? verdict on behalf of your old ma. To be honest, few will stick through to the end and see the result of this, as the game is more suited to short bursts of episodic play ? the drives are so short and the terrain so repetitive that only those of Herculean patience (or the incredibly bored) will actually see the story mode through to the bitter end. The game is a blast in the short-term, though, as slamming an eighteen wheeler through traffic, structures, and anything else in your path is an absolute gas.
The driving mechanics are fairly simple and straightforward ? no Forza Motorsport, this. One analog trigger is your gas, the other is a brake/reverse, which you?ll need to get handy with when trying to wrestle a rig around a tight corner or backing up to get into a loading dock. The left analog stick is your steering, and the right can be used to swing your entire trailer to the left or right ? this is important to get a handle on as you?ll need to swing the load to powerslide your rig around curves when running full-throttle. Not to mention that you need to swing your trailer to smash other vehicles out of the way ? repeated impacts on your cab will damage your truck, slowing you down. There is an adjustable camera view, although you really need to play with the default view to see threats approaching from behind. Although it?s nearly impossible to play well from, it?s still fun to use the first-person inside-the-cab view ? the clutter and crap on your dashboard slides all over as you rocket around corners, and looking down on the cars you?re about to drive over feels very empowering. The vehicular physics are very arcadelike and forgiving, and there are a few destructible elements on the road you can smash, although it would have been nice to drive your rig through roadside stands, small buildings and houses, and the like just to up the mayhem factor.
Where the game fails is that it seems to flounder a bit looking for its target audience. The in-game dialogue ? with some pretty decent voiceacting ? is absolutely laced with redneck puns and humor, some of it a bit racy from time to time, which is where the ESRB Mature rating comes from. Knowing the game doesn?t take itself seriously at all, it?s funny, in a Chevy Chase or Adam Sandler kind of way. Barring this, it could have been an excellent game for the younger crowd. The gameplay is too simple to hold the attention of a more seasoned gamer for very long, even including the overarching game model in which you buy and sell product loads, business-tycoon style, and look for jurors to bribe and other personalities in the various cities you visit.
At a $20 price point, there really isn?t anything to complain about ? the game will give you a good weekend?s worth of play and a few giggles along the way for your buck. The soundtrack is good ? licensed rock tracks from the seventies, and a talk-radio station that is fairly funny (although they should have borrowed the writers from Grand Theft Auto?s Rockstar North). The whole package is fairly slick ? good graphics but not great, good sound and music but nothing to run out and buy a soundtrack disc for, decent gameplay but not genre-defining. It?s the kind of driving game you?d find yourself pumping quarters into in a bar, and the only downside is that the kind of gamer that would get the most bang out of this title can?t get into bars ? or around that Mature ESRB rating, either. So for the rest of you, throw on C.W.McCall?s ?Convoy? in the stereo, crack open a cold one, throw on your cowboy hat, practice your rebel yell, and get those big wheels rollin?.