Excite Truck Preview (Wii)

Rarely, in recent memory, has a console launched without at least one arcade style racing game; Ridge Racer continues to be a launch title of choice for Sony's platforms, as has Project Gotham Racing for Microsoft's. Nintendo, however, had eschewed such common logic until the surprise announcement of Excite Truck for Wii. In hindsight, it ought not have been such a surprise since the Wii Remote, with its tilt sensors, should be ideally suited to the racing genre; allowing developers to create a realistic style of control without the need for expensive steering wheels.

Fans of the Excitebike series, the inspiration for Excite Truck, will be pleased to hear that these games share more than just the name. Excite Truck has a similar emphasis on making massive jumps and performing perfect landings, whilst adding a sense of speed that'll please any arcade racing fan. Indeed, it borrows a fair amount of ideas from other arcade racers such as Burnout, Outrun and Project Gotham by adding a further level of achievement above and beyond simply winning the race. All actions, such as the size of jumps, the quality of landings, crashes, drifting and knocking opponents off the track are rewarded with stars which contribute to an overall grade awarded at the end of each race. Noticeably, the game is also very forgiving allowing the player to obtain boosts after crashing by repeatedly tapping the 2-button.

As has been the case with many early Wii titles, Excite Truck's controls are simplicity personified. You hold the remote horizontally, with your left thumb resting on the small D-pad and your right thumb over the 1 and 2 buttons. To steer, you simply tilt the remote left or right and you can tilt it forward or back to control how your truck lands. The 1 and 2 buttons deal with braking and acceleration whilst boosting is controlled by pressing any direction on the D-pad. It may not sound that exciting when written down, but the controls are ideally suited to the Excite Truck style of gameplay. Tilting the remote to steer does take a little getting used to but it quickly becomes second nature, and tilting forward and back to adjust how your truck lands feels perfectly natural.

Where Excite Truck truly stands out, however, is in track design and the use of deforming terrain to alter the characteristics of the track. In each track there are number of power-ups, signified by an exclamation mark, which when activated cause the track ahead to change shape; creating massive ramps and ravines that can be used to boost off of to bypass large areas of track and reach short-cuts. Although the number of tracks have yet to be finalised, what Nintendo have shown so far suggests they'll be plenty of variety and imagination to be found in them.

If Excite Truck disappoints in one area, it's in the visual department. One doesn't need to prattle on about the power of Wii, but Excite Truck is noticeably less impressive than even other Wii titles such as Zelda and Red Steel. The reason for this is fairly obvious since the level of speed displayed in Excite Truck is very impressive. One can only assume the developers have sacrificed visuals for smoother framerates, and in this they have succeeded.

The slightly disappointing visuals aside there's plenty of interesting features and gameplay to be found in Excite Truck. The combination of intense speed and massive jumps should prove a fun one, and the Wii's tilt sensing remote is perfectly suited to controlling landings and drifting around corners. Overall, there is every reason to believe that Excite Truck could pleasantly surprise many come the launch of Wii.

by Andy