Big Mutha Truckers 2: Truck Me Harder
Do we keep on trucking, or tell it to truck off?
Big Mutha Truckers 2: Truck Me Harder. Take a good look at that title, and ponder it for a while. Breathe in its intentionally unsubtle word play (which you'll undoubtedly see replicated in this review, natch). Absorb its facetious humour in the subtitle. Then wonder just how well the racing-cum-trade original did to actually warrant a follow-up (just over 10,000 in the UK, nigh on a million in the States, fact fiends...). Yes, the first game was mildly diverting fun, but sadly not worth anything more than the six out of ten rating we blessed on it with at the time. Then again, it wasn't really for us, was it?
However, clearly both Empire and developer Eutechnyx saw the money and potential to keep on Truckin', because here we are, staring at the sequel like a doe-eyed deer in headlights, waiting to be hit by a jack-knifing disaster of a game. Thankfully, things aren’t that bad. Okay, Big Mutha Truckers 2 was unlikely to be a smooth ride, but it isn't festering road-kill either.
We all know about the Jacksons
Like the first game, BMT2 follows the exploits of one Ma Jackson - a woman of dubious morals, hormones and arguably, gender - and her four children who own trading company Big Mutha Truckers Haulage Inc. Unfortunately for the Hick State County family, poor ol' Ma is done for tax evasion, and ends up doing time in the big house. This leaves the trailer trash brood with no option but to try and get her off the hook; but not by doing it the old fashioned honest way - like driving a big rig into the prison wall and springing her - but rather wheelin', dealin' and tradin' enough goods around the Deep South to raise enough cash and hire family lawyer cousin Jacob. Oh, and also use some of that money to bribe the six chosen jurors of the imminent trial. Who said the legal system doesn’t work?
So that leaves you to step into the Dixie-fried shoes of the Ma offspring on the job, choosing one from the likes of Bobbie-Sue, Rawkus, Cletus or Earl (yep, they look pretty much exactly how you'd imagine). Once you've done that it's time to jump in their beloved 18-Wheeler and start travelling between a batch of towns, purchasing legal and not so legal cargo, selling it in areas where demand is high and making enough of a profit to buy lady justice a nice pair of fake eyes.
However, it wouldn’t be much of a game if it were that simple. Not only are there side jobs such as escorting passengers to highlighted locations, but en route are a number of hazards to keep your chosen hick on their inbred (webbed) toes. The 'po-leece' will take any sign of law breaking as an excuse to impound your goods, while biker gangs will try and steal your hard earned supplies. As do the, erm, aliens. Yeah, UFOs also want a piece of your action, often trying to beam up the contents of your truck. Where's Tom Cruise when you need him?
If it all sounds a bit silly, well, yeah, it is. Even a cursory glance at the title reveals parody splattered all over its lumberjack-shirt sleeves, and isn’t afraid to take the low road too. The characters range from tattooed biker chicks called "Slits", to buck-toothed dungaree wearing varmints who are a carnal hit with barnyard animals. All in all, what you'd expect when looking to ahem extract the urine from the easy target that is the Deep South. Which is where the problems start, sadly. For a game that relies so heavily on humour, it's decidedly hit or miss.
While the voice acting is generally good, the jokes tend to swerve a little too much towards the obvious, forced and long winded, especially in the numerous cut scenes that bookend each trading stop. These little breaks aren’t so much narrative gap fillers as they are an attempt to inject a dose of colour comedy to proceedings, and as such they're mostly skipable. Thiis just as well, as they tend to get old very quickly, not helped by the repetition of certain phrases and jokes barely a few hours into the game.
The Grand Theft Auto style talk-radio stations fall foul of this issue too, lacking the sparkle of intelligent wit that made Rockstar's audio satire so essential. More often than not, we found the competent sound effects a better aural accompaniment than the radio, simply as a way of preserving our delicate sanity.
A bit of a truck up
Unfortunately, the scattershot nature of the humour is thematic of the game itself. Everything starts off quite fun and suitably high octane, with the original version of Free's classic rock anthem 'All Right Now' blaring from the speakers and setting the tone. From there on, the prospect of a game that mixes the trading fun of classic sci-fi title Elite, with the on-road destruction of GTA seems the perfect marriage. It worked for the first game well enough. And for the initial few hours here, it manages to be fairly engaging, despite the occasional humour misfires. Riding from town to town, trading goods, ramming 'the fuzz' into side roads and generally being a menace is great fun. A number of on-the-fly bonuses also keeps things interesting, where you get extra cash for breaking speed limits, picking up hobos, making deliveries in fast times, smashing stuff up, stealing other vehicle's cargo and other wonderfully deviant activities.
But soon, like the stereotype-laden jokes, it all starts to get quite laboured and tedious. Trading is quite simplistic and the game map isn’t that big, so soon you're visiting the same townsfolk who say the same unfunny stuff over and over. Much is made of the various shortcuts and side routes you can take on each mission, but it's difficult to get the time to explore them given the large amount of your bonus money comes from making treks under a certain time. And one wrong turn or a single crash often means your bonus is trucked long before you reach your destination. At that point, the only sound you'll hear over the game's radio is your teeth grinding together in uncensored rage.
It wouldn’t be so bad if controlling your rig wasn’t such a trial during the more tense moments (mutha truckin bikers and aliens, grrr). Managing the inertia of your large cargo doesn’t take too much time to get used to, but when every second counts it becomes a tad unwieldy in places, especially when trying to gain a timed parking bonus or take a sudden detour. Realism obviously isn’t a factor here, and so much of the frustration could have been avoided with a little more control consideration.
Mutha of god
If you've already took a sneaky glimpse at the score (shame on you), chances are you're thinking that how can a generally negative review get a mildly better than average mark. Fair enough, we've dug up a wedge of the game's bad points but there are enough redeeming features that just about keep BMT2 on the right side of middling. There is a genuinely attractive sense of fun about it and there's at least a valiant attempt at variation via the slightly different attributes of the four characters and the various checkpoint race bonus missions that you can play separately once they're unlocked. This is on top of the ability to upgrade your rig with better kit and also to allow for different or pricier cargo to be transported.
By far the most diverting addition is the chance to play in a casino, where several sub-games like poker and snap (don’t laugh) are there to let you bet and win cash. It's enough to provide some entertainment away from the eventual tedium that trading settles into. BMT2 doesn’t look too bad either, providing a convincing set of visuals and a decent array of mostly destructible environments. The camera doesn’t provide any problems (should you stay in its default setting) and it runs at a fair lick. There are moments where the game drops its frame rate quicker than Bobbie Sue probably drops her pants, but it's nothing strictly punishable for.
So where does all this leave ol' Ma Jackson and her Big Mutha Truckin' posse? Well, somewhere in the middle of the road, neither being atrociously bad nor especially good. At its budget price of £19.99, it has the advantage of being worth a blast if you liked the original game or fancy some fleeting fun at a relatively low cost; hence the 6 score instead of a 5. Just be warned though, unlike Ma Jackson's… ample… frame, there's not enough meat on these bones to make it more than a short lived curiosity. Much like the unsubtleties of its title, Big Mutha Truckers 2 shows far too much too soon, and prematurely shoots its load before reaching the much pursued destination of Real Satisfaction. Sigh. A truckin' shame? Truck yeah.