I have to admit, I’ve kind of been wanting to try American Truck Simulator for a while. It’s the kind of game that you only buy when you want a new game, and there’s absolutely nothing else available that you’ve been wanting to play. That situation never actually happens, so I’d happily consigned myself to the fact that I was never going to try it. Then came the Humble Bundle package for October, and amongst the offerings was American Truck Simulator, the Americaniest and truckiest of all the simulators.
So what are you imagining? A truck simulator game. Do you just drive different trucks? Pretty much, yes. That’s the game. Drive your truck from one place to another, but there’s a little bit more to it than that. Not much. Just a little bit. You know the old joke about trying to play GTA without breaking any laws? That’s what this game is.
I’m a little over eleven hours into the game and I’m still in the early stages. My goal is to save enough money to buy my own truck, and eventually, my own trucking company. You make money by taking random truck driving jobs. As far as I can tell, I’m nowhere near close to owning my own truck.
I feel the need to make something clear right away. This isn’t a bad game. It’s not without its problems, which I will get to, but essentially, there’s nothing majorly wrong. The real question is, how much do you like trucks? If you really like trucks, and have been wanting a game that simulates driving trucks across America, then this is the game for you! As far as American truck simulators go, I can safely say that this is the best one I’ve ever played. If you’re after something slightly different, you might try Euro Truck Simulator, which was released by the same company at the same time as American Truck Simulator. I’ll leave it to you to figure out what the differences are between the two versions.
I’ll get the bad elements out of the way. The controls are difficult to say the least. I didn’t know this, but it turns out, there are approximately 47,000 buttons on the dashboard of your average truck. My joypad has eight buttons, two thumbsticks, and a D-pad. To make matters worse, the game doesn’t seem to recognise all the buttons on my joypad, and the ones it does see, it treats like keys on the keyboard. So my right shoulder button is actually the letter C. If I assign a command to that button, I can’t also assign a command to the C key on my keyboard. Even if the game did recognise all the buttons on the joypad, there’s no way there would ever be enough to accommodate all the possible controls. Use of the keyboard is unavoidable, and a pain in the backside. I’ve never quite figured out how to comfortably use a controller that requires both hands, and a keyboard. I’m fine with a mouse and keyboard, even a joystick that’s stuck to my desk. But a joypad and keyboard? That’s just a big bag of uncomfortable.
The game is missing a soundtrack. One thing we’ve learned about car radios in games is that they provide an opportunity to do something fun. The developers of American Truck Simulator, chose to do nothing. If you really want to listen to something as you drive along the highway, you can add some of your own music files to one of the game folders, or you can listen to an internet radio station. I’m not going to pick on the game for not going full GTA with its radio stations, it’s just that at least some default background music would have been nice.
Now, on with the good. The game looks great and runs well. The sound effects are excellent, and I especially love sitting in the quiet of the truck cabin.
While I’ve come close to comparing this game to GTA, make no mistake, there’s actual driving skill involved with this. You do not just get in a truck and drive away. You need to figure out how you’re going to get around that tight corner without tipping the load you’re carrying. Even delivering your cargo is a challenge. In that particular case, you’re given the choice of automatically dropping off your load, which earns you no XP, doing an easy parking maneuver, which gets you some XP, or doing a complicated reverse park, which earns a nice big chunk of XP. I haven’t managed to do one of the reverse parks yet. It’s damn hard.
All of this is before we get on to the actual not breaking any laws part. You’ll get speeding fines, red light fines, you’ll hit the occasional pedestrian. I haven’t killed anyone yet, and I’m not sure that it’s something you can actually do. But there’s no doubt I’ve caused a few incidents that would have been on the news in real life. This is why simulators are a good thing.
So far, all of my drives have been eventful. There have been some very exciting experiences, such as missing my turning, sitting in traffic, and smashing into the central reservation while speeding causing hundreds of thousands of dollars of damage and injuring many. I’ve been to San Francisco, L.A., Reno, and Las Vegas, Of those place that I’ve really visited, I could actually recognise landmarks and road layouts.
There is one last question I haven’t addressed, and no, it doesn’t all happen in real time. A four hour drive in the game doesn’t take four hours to complete. It only just occurred to me while writing this, that there might be a setting for that. I haven’t checked, because I don’t want to spend four hours driving between a drawing of San Francisco, and a drawing of Los Angeles.
So like I said at the beginning of the video, if you’re after a game that simulates driving a truck in America, you can’t go far wrong with this one. It works, it looks nice, it has trucks. I trust that it’s an accurate experience of the trucks it includes, I only know them as Red Truck, and White Truck. Think of this game as a train set, in digital form, with trucks. If you can see the appeal of a train set, you’ll be able to see the appeal of American Truck Simulator.