Reviewed: September 9, 2005
Released: August 23, 2005
If somebody asked me what one of my guiltiest pleasures was when it comes to video games one possible answer might be Big Mutha Truckers, the 2003 redneck trucker game that proved to be one of the more addictive racing games of that summer.
Even more astounding was the apparent advertising budget for this $20 bargain title, with a near-endless stream of witty television spots airing nightly on several of my favorite cable channels. Apparently, I am not alone in sharing the joy of driving a big rig and with gas prices at more than $3 a gallon this is about the only driving I can afford these days.
The original game obviously sold well enough to warrant a sequel, so after two years we now have Big Mutha Truckers 2: Truck Me Harder. Interestingly enough, the “Truck Me Harder” subtitle has been dropped from the US version, at least as far as packaging, but once you get to the title screen the clever play on words graces the bottom of the screen complete with a yellow starburst saying “Press Start”. The fact that this starburst covers the “Tr” will obviously cause kids to snicker and paranoid soccer moms scrambling for the speed dial of their conservative senator.
Big Mutha Truckers 2 has taken lowbrow humor to a new level, improving upon the redneck flavor of the original to the point where the game has earned a Mature rating, technically putting it out of reach of the audience who would appreciate it the most.
In reality, there is nothing here all that bad. It’s pretty much the same style as the Outlaw Golf, Volleyball, and Tennis games. It’s “naughty” but not “dirty”. There is plenty of implied cursing and vulgar language, mainly from “mom”, but all of the explicatives are drowned out in CB static. Similarly, all of the foul language on the shock talk-radio is bleeped out by the virtual FCC.
There’s some revealing attire, a thong bikini worn by one bartender and a “nature girl” who is wearing nothing but “her natural musk”. All of the “naughty bits” are strategically covered by long hair and the countertop no matter how much you try to pivot the view. And there is no deny the radiant sensuality of Bobbie-Sue Jackson as she poses for the camera at each truck stop.
But once you peel away all that redneck flavor what remains is the same surprisingly good driving game and economic sim that we enjoyed in the original along with some new and interesting surprises.
First off, the story is a bit more fleshed out; well not really, but at least this sequel has a story. The original game was simply a two-month race to earn the most money and win the family business. In Truck Me Harder momma has been thrown in jail on a variety of charges ranging from tax evasion to 7,973 unpaid parking tickets. And I don’t even want to know about the 232 counts of lewd conduct.
It’s up to you to locate various jury members scattered about the county and “encourage” them to vote in momma’s favor when the case goes to trial. Bribes range from 100K to more than a million dollars so you will need to make some serious cash fast.
The premise is as simple and straightforward as the gameplay - travel from city to city buying cargo at the best prices then deliver that cargo to the city where you can make the most profit. It’s Freelancer with naked girl mud flaps and a Southern accent.
The core of Big Mutha Truckers 2 is the Trial By Trucking mode where you try to earn as much money as necessary to bribe enough jurors to help momma beat the rap. Hick State County has grown since our last visit with new and very interesting locations and not just cities. We now have diners, an abandoned gold mine, and a military base not to mention a few other surprises I won't spoil for you.
Apparently THQ is on a real “alien kick” this year. After their mega-hit, Destroy All Humans those pesky grays are back to terrorize truckers and hijack their cargo with transporter beams, or at least try to. Aliens even play a part in one of the numerous and humorous mini-games.
The first thing to do is choose your trucker. Since there is absolutely no difference in the trucks or their drivers this is purely a matter of personal preference – which character and truck do you enjoy looking at and whose voice can you stand to listen to for the next 20-30 hours.
Each character has their own charms and unique personality, but I was inexplicably drawn to Bobbie-Sue. Her naivety combined with her Ellie May Clampet dialogue and her ample physical features are powerful recruiting tools. And if you enjoy the game enough to play it all the way through once you’ll probably play it again and see what the other characters are all about.
After your briefing from Momma you’ll head out in your truck to start making money and finding those jury members. I’ve never driven a truck larger than one of those Ryder box-trucks used for moving and even that freaked me out. Slipping behind the wheel of a big rig in BMT2 is a challenging experience, and while it probably is no way representative of actual truck driving, I’m guessing the difficulty and handling issues are a fair facsimile.
There have been some significant changes to the controls, apparently to make the game easier. The triggers are still used for gas and brake, but that is about the only thing to stay the same. You no longer have to shift gears. The Y button changes the radio station (more on that in a moment) and the right stick allows you to swing the trailer, most useful in crash combos, taking out bikers and cops, or just avoiding alien hijackers.
And now, rather than being able to look out either mirror, you simply have a reverse view with the black button while the white button cycles the various camera angles from far chase (trailer view) to inside the cab complete with swinging CB radio and fuzzy dice. This view is great and really immersive, but you’ll probably settle for the chase cam as it offers a better view of the road ahead and any bikers that might be climbing around on your trailer or UFO’s flying overhead.
Physics are arcade in nature and your truck will skim along guardrails, jackknife around turns and slam into cars, signs, and fences. Gameplay favors fun over realism and you will soon learn to master the fishtail maneuver to knock those bikers off your trailer or catch crazy air as you bounce off snowy rocks during an avalanche.
As previously mentioned, your primary goal is to make money and this is done in two ways, hauling cargo for profit and taking part in the assorted odd job. Odd jobs crop up at random times in random cities and can be launched by talking with the bartender in that town.
You might get to smash into vans distributing porn or collect stranded kegs along the highway. You might get to act as a chauffer or even a tour guide, and the government may even call upon you to rescue stranded aliens. Regardless of the task, these missions play out as checkpoint races against a very strict clock, but the cash rewards can be rather large.
Hauling cargo for profit takes a bit of math skills and planning but there are several in-game tools in place to help you out. Basically, the way it works is that you pick from a large list of cargo that can be solid, liquid, refrigerated or illegal. Obviously illegal cargo nets you the largest rewards but if you get busted hauling contraband it will get confiscated and you can lose big. I highly recommend a smugglers compartment if you plan on doing this a lot.
Otherwise, you goal is to buy cheap then find the city that pays the most for what you have. Icons will tell you the Deal of the Day, Bargains, or Rip-offs, and you can bring up a handy bar graph that shows the value of said cargo in each city. Usually your trailer can hold more than one item so you want to match up cargo by city and profit for a full load.
As the game progresses and you earn more money you will want to upgrade your rig with a better engine, brakes, front bumper, and possible a larger trailer. You can also switch out your trailer to a refrigerated or tanker model depending on the cargo you want to haul.
Then it’s off to the GPS map where you pick your destination and the GPS will plot a route. Mind you, this doesn’t include hidden roads and secret shortcuts, so you will want to keep your eyes open for any alternate time-saving routes along the way.
Before you take off you get to gamble a bit on your upcoming performance. There are three Bonus rewards, each requiring shorter driving times but each multiplying the reward by up to 3x. If you can drive fast and find the shortcuts you can often earn more in bonus cash than cargo profit, plus you can earn additional bonus cash by crashing, taking out cops, and avoiding UFO’s.
At each city you can visit the store and bar. These are the facades of the menu system that allows you to upgrade your truck, swap out trailers and buy and sell cargo. In another attempt to make the game easier, you no longer have to repair or refuel your rig. While this certainly makes the game more fun, it takes a bit of the sim-like edge off of it.
The bar is where you find jurors and chat up the bartender for backstory (although I didn't need to learn about momma, the whore house and the fire pole) and side jobs. You can go to the casino and engage in a variety of classic and original card games, each specific to a certain city. But with low wagering and 3:1 odds, don’t plan on winning the game simply by playing cards.
One of my major complaints of the first game was the limited size of the county and too few cities. Truck Me Harder ups the ante with nearly twice the destinations including several smaller stops along the way, many of which are unlocked as you progress further into the story. There is even a ferryboat that you have to manually move across the lake by rapidly tapping the A/B buttons.
The Mission Mode is back but it is still just a set of mini-games, many of which are actually incorporated into the Trial By Trucking. They’re not that long, complicated, or really that much fun outside of the main game so chances are most of you will skip this section of the game unless you just want the practice.
Big Mutha Truckers looks absolutely amazing on the Xbox, both technically and artistically. It all starts with some fantastic character designs then carries over into some of the most conceptually original cities and destinations in cross-county driving.
The cities are all unique, each with their own style whether it be a colorfully lit Vegas knockoff, the snowy mountain resort of Clearview or the coastal town of Salt Sea City. The various bars and stores in each city all maintain the theme and atmosphere of the city you are in.
The characters that staff these locations are just as original as the sets themselves, all with exaggerated, yet stereotypical features that fit the redneck theme perfectly. The MIB agent who staffs the Area 51-themed store at Bumpkiss was priceless, and don’t even get me started on the shop at Skeeters with a unique blackboard message each time you visit and a nervous shoplifter in the background.
The stretches of road between these cities are gorgeous and feature plenty of changing terrain, buildings, billboards, tunnels, mountains, and there is plenty of traffic to avoid or smash into as well as numerous obstacles to avoid. The scenery is so beautiful you will have just as much fun watching somebody else play as driving yourself.
The framerate is silky smooth and you can actually get motion sick if you play from the bouncy cab view. The menus, interface, and icon imagery used for the cargo is intuitive making this game fun to play, even when you aren’t behind the wheel. Cutscenes and dialogue can get repetitious so the designers have allowed you to skip these with a tap of the B button.
One of the best features of the last Big Mutha Truckers was the radio stations and hilarious content. You still have multiple radio stations you can choose from ranging from country, rock, talk radio, and other assorted styles. The talk radio station offers the most humorous experience with some of the most creative phone conversations and DJ's you’re likely to hear unless you live in Alabama.
There is also a lot more radio content in the sequel. As of this review I have logged nearly 20 hours of trucking and haven’t heard any repeats in the radio broadcasts, but a big factor is that the radio PAUSES the program while you are not in the truck then resumes where it left off when you start driving again. This is a fantastic idea and not just because I wanted to hear how the “moose-punching” story ended.
Character voices are excellent if not overly stereotypical. As previously mentioned, Bobbie Sue is the quintessential Ellie May Clampet, both sexy and naïve, or perhaps it’s all an act like Jessica Simpson. The brothers range from a toothless hick of epic proportions to a smooth talking ladies man. The voice of Momma is perfectly cast with that raspy 10-pack-a-day grate that sounds like she is ready to hock a loogie the size of a small pet.
The supporting cast is wildly varied with a ditzy bikini-clad bartender in one town and a flaming gay bartender in another. There is a seedy drug lord on a yacht and a naked naturalist in a mountain lodge and a would-be rapper in the ghost town. Don't make him "bust a cap in yo ass". Locating and experiencing all of these eclectic characters will likely become your primary motivation for finishing this game.
The rest of the sound effects are topnotch including the rumbling diesel engines, crunching of fenders, whir of a UFO, cars exploding, fences and billboards smashing, and all of the ambient city noises you’d expect to hear in each location. To cap off this stunning sound experience is a Dolby Digital surround mix to put you right into the game. My sub-woofer gets a workout everytime there is an avalanche.
A typical cargo transport takes 45-90 seconds with another 2-3 minutes spent in each city to sell and buy. It takes about two minutes to go from one corner of the map to the other, so even the story mode is basically a long series of mini-games. Even so, there is a lot of gameplay here with a significant curve in your ability to earn money.
Your first juror only wants 100K to help your mom, but all too soon you will need 700K, 800K, or even a million or more to sway the verdict in your favor. At first it will take you several hauls to make even a portion of that kind of dough, but later on when you start hauling the better cargo and smuggling illegal goods you can get 100K per load.
Even after 20 hours I’m still only on my fifth jury member, but you have to keep in mind you need to hold back some cash for upgrades and cargo. The game will tempt you to pay off jurors as soon as you get enough cash, not considering your operating expenses. You always want to keep at least a 50K nest egg.
I’m estimating a good 30hrs for a complete trip through BMT2 with one character, and you can multiply that by up to four if you plan on playing as the other siblings. Sure, you will probably tire of the repetitive gameplay after a single campaign yet there is a visceral thrill about driving huge trucks at reckless speeds, weaving through traffic, avoiding cops and crushing bikers. And with the relatively short mission lengths, it becomes increasingly hard to not say, “just one more load and I’ll go to bed.”
Big Mutha Truckers 2 is only selling for $20, which begs the question, “How can they afford to advertise this game so much?” Unfortunately the $20 sticker also makes consumers (and even cynical game reviewers) a bit more skeptical. While the last BMT was better suited as a rental, there is enough new content and improved gameplay to make the sequel an easy recommendation, even at $30. You can use the extra $10 to buy some beer (or moonshine).
Big Mutha Truckers 2: Truck Me Harder is a fun little racing game that manages to incorporate some interesting economic elements to get you thinking and plenty of original characters and lowbrow humor to keep you laughing. Buying low, selling high, upgrading your rig, and saving momma is what it’s all about and the thrill of racing trucks just can’t be beat.
If you enjoyed the recent Dukes of Hazzard movie or just hang out on TNT waiting for the reruns you might be a redneck, but if you are playing Big Mutha Truckers 2 while you’re waiting at least you’re a redneck with good taste in games. So cancel that date with your sister and terrorize the highways of Hick State County this weekend instead.
Ya’ll come back now…ya hear…