Big Mutha Truckers has players driving an 18-wheeler across various cities on their way to amassing a fortune hauling cargo. Rival truckers desperately want a piece of the action, of course, and players will also have to contend with corrupt law enforcement, biker gangs, and even disgruntled family members while earning a decent living. Big Mutha Truckers is developed by Eutechnyx, whose previous experience in the racing genre comes from designing such titles as 007 Racing, F1 World Grand Prix, and Test Drive Le Mans.
With a title like Big Mutha Truckers, you might expect Empire Interactive and Eutechnyx's new console port to be little more than a value-priced action-driving game where weight-challenged rednecks navigate 18-wheel semis around the countryside. While all of this certainly applies, there's actually more -- and less -- to Big Mutha Truckers than its hokey title and flashy box artwork would suggest.
The gameplay depth is the first thing that hits you. Big Mutha Truckers might be an unapologetic console port, but the game boasts a surprisingly lengthy and involved campaign mode with enough gas in its tank to keep most players occupied for weeks. After launching the game and selecting your onscreen persona from one of four available characters -- a trailer trash sexpot, a thick-as-a-plank hillbilly, a 300-pound slob named Earl, and a smooth-talking African-American lady's man -- you must then choose between the linear challenge mode or the open-ended "Trial by Trucking" mode.
The former is a 23-mission unlock-as-you-go series of driving challenges that might involve smashing your way through a set number of destructible scenery items within a certain timeframe or delivering a fragile organ replacement to a nearby hospital in one piece. Many of these challenges are quite entertaining, but each of them can also be uncovered as an Easter egg-style assignment in Big Mutha Truckers's extensive Trial by Trucking campaign.
It's here that the real meat and potatoes of the game can be found. In Trial by Trucking, you must compete against your three step-siblings for cash and vehicle upgrades in a 60-day race to determine who will inherit Ma Jackson's haulage business upon her retirement (one game-day generally takes from fifteen minutes to thirty to complete). You accomplish this by buying a load of goods in one town on the cheap, and then delivering it to another location in Hick State County for a handy profit. Along the way, you will encounter fellow truckers who will want to race you (an option that can be declined), gain extra cash by destroying vehicles en route, and sidestep the unwelcome attention of the game's ubiquitous lawmen and easily riled biker gangs.
If you dawdle too much, you'll find yourself falling behind your sibling rivals in the race to secure the largest cash stockpile, while excessive rough driving can cost you expensive vehicle repairs and lost time through police and biker evasions. In each of the five towns that you visit you will also need to interact with assorted (and suitably colorful) bartenders, loan sharks, mechanics, and store owners to help you with your freight and vehicle transactions, pick up tips on what goods are needed where, and even scoop the odd "challenge" assignment. When you combine this hodgepodge of gaming elements with the campaign's sheer longevity, Big Mutha Truckers has the legs to rival premium-priced games like GTA and Driver for overall gameplay depth.
For all of its meat, however, Big Mutha Truckers is still essentially a commerce-based driving game that involves the buying and selling of goods for a profit. No matter how much you dress it up with offbeat redneck characters, role-playing snippets, racing detours, and hidden challenges, this lather-rinse-repeat cycle can turn stale after only a few hours of play. The vehicle dynamics are competent (more so with an analog controller than with the keyboard), and the trucks are a challenge to drive, but the racing stages and highway smash-'em-ups become remarkably predictable affairs after a few dozen attempts. Once the big money starts rolling in from profitable commodity transfers, many players will likely bypass these diversions as being too penny ante and inconsequential.
The game's D3D-fueled graphics are also quite serviceable, but rate well down on the "wow-meter" when compared to A-list titles. Framerates are generally quite smooth, but some occasional stutters and slowdowns will impact the onscreen driving action when things get busy. The audio, which exhibits an over reliance on five tunable radio stations and lengthy scraps of repetitive dialog between each of the characters, is similarly underwhelming. The discourse can be amusing at times -- especially a talk-radio program where a redneck host waxes on about "women-folk" issues -- but the absence of any audible engine or vehicle sounds (including crashes) during Big Mutha Truckers's multiple driving and racing sequences is a curious oversight.
The regrettable absence of any multiplayer options and the game's mouseless, cutscene-heavy interface are additional reminders of Big Mutha Truckers's console roots. One especially galling feature, however, is that the five to ten-second cutscene transitions -- where your selected character moves from one dialog screen to the next -- cannot be interrupted or bypassed in any way, no matter how forcefully you bash the enter key.
Through all of its console-related birth defects, Big Mutha Truckers still manages to deliver decent value for the money as long as repetitive gameplay mechanics, an AWOL multiplayer component, and the occasional graphic or audio hiccup don't end up forcing you to the side of the road.
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