Amer­i­can Truck Sim­u­la­tor

EDGE - - PLAY - De­vel­oper/pub­lisher SCS Soft­ware For­mat PC Re­lease Out now

De­vel­oped by Czech stu­dio SCS Soft­ware, the Truck Sim­u­la­tor se­ries has been a quiet suc­cess on PC. The pre­vi­ous in­stal­ment, Euro Truck Sim­u­la­tor 2, stood out among a sea of niche, low-qual­ity sims by be­ing sur­pris­ingly pol­ished and well-de­signed, with pro­duc­tion val­ues be­yond those of most of its peers.

It is, sim­ply, a game in which you drive trucks. You’re given cargo – which ranges from toys to volatile chem­i­cals – and have to de­liver it un­dam­aged and on time. On the way you must obey the rules of the road, sub­mit to the oc­ca­sional weigh sta­tion check (a new fea­ture in this game), and man­age your tired­ness and fuel. But de­spite the seem­ingly mun­dane sub­ject mat­ter, Amer­i­can Truck Sim­u­la­tor is strangely en­gag­ing. Driv­ing along, watch­ing the scenery roll by and lis­ten­ing to mu­sic on the in-game ra­dio is a pleas­antly re­lax­ing, largely un­de­mand­ing ex­pe­ri­ence. The driv­ing model is sat­is­fy­ingly nu­anced, tak­ing into ac­count the rise and fall of the road and the weight of the load you’re drag­ging be­hind you. The rou­tine of switch­ing gears, in­di­cat­ing, check­ing your mir­rors, and squeez­ing your enor­mous ve­hi­cle through traf­fic and nar­row streets re­quires con­cen­tra­tion. But then you hit the open free­way and can en­joy a leisurely cruise.

Han­dling re­quires pre­ci­sion de­spite your leaden speed. One mis­judged cor­ner can mean a write-off, and even chang­ing lanes is quite the task, though mer­ci­fully other road-users pay heed to your turn­ing sig­nals

At launch, only two states are avail­able: Cal­i­for­nia and Ne­vada. But if Euro Truck Sim­u­la­tor 2 is any­thing to go by, the map will greatly ex­pand over time. Part of the ap­peal of the Truck Sim­u­la­tor games is that they’re con­tin­u­ally evolv­ing, through both free up­dates and paid DLC. So it’s best to think of ATS not as a full re­lease, but the first step on a long jour­ney.

It’s a vast space, though. Driv­ing across both states, vis­it­ing ev­ery city, will take hours. It’s not a game for the time-starved: an av­er­age job can last be­tween 30 and 60 min­utes. And as you earn XP from com­plet­ing them, you can upgrade your li­cence to take on even longer hauls, turn­ing the game into a real test of en­durance. On th­ese long jour­neys, rest­ing and re­fu­elling be­come care­ful tac­ti­cal choices.

Be­cause of its west-coast set­ting, much of the scenery is desert-like, and in places a lit­tle dull. Blame re­al­ity for that – SCS has cap­tured the look and feel of both states ef­fec­tively. Amer­i­can Truck Sim­u­la­tor isn’t much of a leap from its pre­de­ces­sor, and any­one who played ETS2 may find its struc­ture and in­ter­face a lit­tle too fa­mil­iar. But the solid foun­da­tions upon which it has been built mean it’s still fun­da­men­tally a cu­ri­ously lov­able game – one of long, lonely roads, of painstak­ing park­ing ma­noeu­vres, and slap­stick write-offs when sim­ple turns are mis­judged. There’s noth­ing else quite like SCS’s brand of cargo-haul­ing ac­tion.

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