American Truck Simulator
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.