by Matt Porter
reviewed on PC
Get your motor runnin’
I don’t want to be a truck driver. It seems terribly stressful, sticking to strict deadlines and being away from home a lot, not to mention having to operate a highly dangerous piece of machinery. However, I’ve been in love with the Truck Simulator games for many years. In SCS Software’s latest installment, we’re headed for the United States of America. This is where the real truckers live, the kind you see on TV, gruff, hairy, ridiculous accents, and married to the open road. I don’t want to be a truck driver, but I do want to play more American Truck Simulator.
The first, and most important thing to note is its similarity to its predecessors, however. As a matter of coincidence, I actually got way back into Euro Truck Simulator 2 recently, and doing so probably hampered my enjoyment of the new one slightly. If I had come in fresh, with my memory a little fuzzy, I think I would’ve liked American Truck Simulator even more than I already do.
Head out on the highway
Another thing to mention is that it’s actually more like “California and Nevada Simulator” at the moment, as these are the only states you’ll be visiting for now. The main menu tells me Arizona is coming for free soon, and more will become available over time, but it’s a shame that there’s so little to start with. After just a few hours of play, the stat tracker told me I’d already discovered a third of the roads that are currently available. The landscape on offer from these two states is also lacking somewhat, particularly compared to the rolling fields and dense forests on offer in Euro Truck Simulator. However, America is a wonderfully diverse country so I’m confident that some more variety will appear as the game expands.
That’s not to say it is boring as it is. The endless roads stretching through deserts with no other light or human life for miles around, that’s all part of the feel of an American road trip. Then you have the landmarks of those great western US cities, and there is a distinct feel to each one you visit. Las Vegas is all hustle and bustle, and here you’ll see limos and other nicer cars filling the streets while you tick off all of the famous places as you drive past. Out in the desert towns it’ll be way quieter, and you’re more likely to see campervans than expensive sedans.
Of course, American Truck Simulator will be intensely boring for some people, and I won’t be able to convince them otherwise. At the end of the day, you are simply driving a truck from place to place. You never leave your vehicle, and you never directly interact with anyone the silent character models standing around on the streets sometimes. Yet for me, and many others like me, this act of simply driving a truck never gets old. It truly feels like you’re operating a huge vehicle, and particularly when you save up enough cash to buy your own rig rather than using other companies’ property, it truly feels like it’s your own thing.
Pimp your truck
You earn experience for each job you complete, and as you level up you can put points into new skills. You might want to specialise in speedy deliveries, or long distance, or maybe you want to be the trucker who can transport hazardous materials. You’ll also unlock new upgrades for your truck, ranging from simple paint jobs right up to engine and chassis upgrades, and everything in between. The more you pour into your truck, the more you treat it like a precious object. Even scraping the cab against a wall at three miles per hour can leave a sense of disgust in your mouth.
When you’re using your own truck, you also have to keep an eye on fuel, because you’ll have to physically pull into a gas station and pay for it yourself. The most intense moment I’ve had in the game so far is at 3am on a tiny single lane road winding through the Nevada desert. The fuel gauge was getting lower, and lower, and when it turned red I started to panic. On my GPS, I could see a fuel station coming up but the gauge ticked over to empty just as it popped into view. The engine cut out and I started coasting. Somehow, mercifully, I managed to roll the truck into the station, guzzle up some fuel, and continue my journey. It may not sound that dramatic, but in the context of this being your livelihood, with bank loans to repay, there’s nothing scarier than being stuck out in the middle of nowhere when you’ve got goods to transport and deadlines to meet.
Keep on truckin’
SCS Software nailed the simulation aspect of trucking years ago, and still today just driving around feels great. The amount of control you have over the machine is impressive too. I don’t think you ever actually need to indicate, but I made sure to map the indicators to my controller so I could use it as often as possible. Speeding is most certainly an offense though, and you’ll be fined if a police car catches you in the act, and the same will happen if you’re caught being too tired at the wheel. American Truck Simulator is also partly a business simulator: once you get really deep into the game you’ll be purchasing more trucks and hiring more drivers. Eventually, you will expand your small business into a veritable trucking empire.
Playing American Truck Simulator is really like taking on an extra job, although it never feels that way. The progress you make is slow, but that makes it all the more rewarding when you save up enough money for those nice new tyres you wanted. It might be worth waiting for some more areas to be added, but if you’ve ever dreamt of a great American road trip, American Truck Simulator is just about as good as it gets without doing the real thing.
Excellent vehicle simulation, huge array of customisation options, the beginnings of a great American road trip
Very similar to previous iterations in the series