Night Drive: Euro Truck Simulator 2

By Adam Smith on March 13th, 2013 at 1:00 pm.

Manchester to Sheffield, Sheffield to Swansea, Swansea to Stuttgart. I’ve been haunting the highways and low roads of Europe as I aim to build a freight empire the likes of which the world has never seen before. My convoys will convey powdered milk from Berlin to Paris, and machine parts from Edinburgh to Frankfurt. Or, failing that, I’ll just fill my playlist with electronic ambience and watch the world roll past the window. This is Euro Truck Simulator 2.

How many times have you fallen in love while stuck in a traffic jam? Ricardo Donoso’s Progress Chance was stutter-glitching out of the speakers and out of the windows like a futurist-retro cloud, and a fellow trucker was at the head of the column of cars that fumed ahead of me. Driving at night fuses my mind to the road and the brake lights up ahead. There is no scenery anymore and every minor adjustment of the wheel is an attempt to conform to the dictates of the vehicle immediately ahead. Destination is reduced to the space between myself and the rear bumper a few feet away.

When I was eighteen, I was driving home from Huddersfield at about four o’clock in the morning. I’d had no reason to go to Huddersfield but I’d felt the need to drive, either away from something or toward something else, I wasn’t sure which, and I hadn’t aimed for the West Riding, I’d just pointed my beat-up car in a direction I didn’t know and left the roads in charge of the rest.

Roads direct people as surely as the moon directs the tides. They funnel and shape our journeys, guiding and exerting a magnetic pull, bringing us to waypoints and byways that we can convince ourselves we have chosen, but which have been laid out before us by the junctions we’ve already passed. Euro Truck Smiulator 2 understands this. In its shrink-wrapped world – where a city is contained within a couple of landmarks, four blocks of houses and numerous freight depots – the roads are not choices, they are arteries, pulsing, hardening and occasionally clogged with clots.

I was trapped in one of those clots when I fell in love. A flick of the mouse turns the driver’s head, allowing him to lean out of the window and peer back down the length of his vehicle, or across at the dashboard which may or may not accurately recreate an actual truck’s dashboard. I don’t know because I’ve never been in an actual truck. I was stuck in traffic in the wee small hours of the morning, on a country road somewhere in the south of England. I’d been alone for most of the night; something must have happened to bring all of these people together. An accident perhaps, or they could be the last straggling remnants of a festival or concert. The game doesn’t provide the fact but it does provide a hundred contexts for the willing imagination.

Bored, I turned off my headlights. The darkness is shocking. There is no road anymore, no trees or drystone walls, nothing but a pool of oil peppered with lights. I could be at the bottom of the blue, or deep in space, trapped between stars. Birmingham is my Sol and Southampton is Tau Centauri. I flicked the lights back on, fearing a fine, and grumbled forward an inch or two. A plan had formed in my mind.

That impromptu late night trip to Huddersfield had meaning, even if it didn’t have purpose. The car was the quietest space I knew, even while my crappy mixtapes spooled into it, and I remember being surprised by how few companions I had on the motorway. The occasional car, yes, but why weren’t more people driving just because they could? We were outnumbered by lorries, lumbering great creatures that were plying a trade. They belonged and they acted as anchors in the night, chunkily solid and, due to their uniform motion and my own, as good as static.

I drove close to one lorry for a while. It had drifted across into the far right lane where heavy goods vehicles usually fear to tread. Every time I tried to overtake, it seemed to speed up and so I decided to hang back, expecting it to shift back into the slow lane at any moment. When it did make its move, the motion seemed accidental, its bulk straddling two lanes for too long, obliterating the cat’s eyes from view. The lorry lurched and the red glow of its brake lights intensified. I leaned on my own brakes, gently, and came within a few feet of a sixty mile per hour collision.

At the next service station, I pulled into the carpark and started breathing again. There had been no drama and no noise, but I was convinced the driver of that lorry had nodded off for a second or two. The anchor had shifted and the roads were suddenly a little less stable. They still are.

In my own truck, I’ve only ever collided with barriers and walls while trying to park up at the end of a job. I scratch the paint, at worst, but I’m an incredibly careful driver. I rest when I am tired and I don’t take risks, no matter how much an unexpected set of roadworks may have delayed me. My one concession to danger doesn’t threaten anybody else and I can’t explain why I do it; sometimes, at night, when I’m alone on the road, I turn off my lights and take my hands off the wheel as I coast down a motorway. I look to the side, see the illuminated window of a farmhouse in the distance or a towering block with an urban glow, and that’s where I am.

When I turn the lights back on, I’m on track, steady and true, and the road hasn’t changed, but I’m in love again, with the endless possibilities of the spaces between places and the roadside variations on a theme. The United Kingdom I drive through in this game doesn’t much resemble the one I know from my real life travels but recognising the signs and the general location of places is enough to make me feel comfortable. ‘Comfortable’ is a good word to use when talking about Euro Trucking. I mentioned being bored earlier as well and that fits too. It’s paradoxically thrilling to play a game that doesn’t constantly wave explosions and adventures in my face, allowing the quiet to infiltrate and to be punctured and punctuated instead.

I’m infatuated with this game. It’s a twilight experience, something to tide me toward sleep after a day of looking at the internet, a simulated escape into another kind of work and another way of living. I haven’t formed a company with its own employees and I have no idea how deep that side of the game is. I don’t even pick the best jobs available because I’ve imposed my own limits, always taking cargo from the last city I visited so that my journeys across the continent happen in a strange sort of realtime without the un-truckerly magic of transportation.

The roads I drive are haunted by memories, some created within the game some without it. The compact nature of the world and my own peculiar way of playing means that I often cross the same stretch of motorway twice in an evening. As the sun sinks, I scan the fields for a small church that I remember seeing the day before or a highrise that formed a beacon in the night. I turn up the music and turn off the lights.

Euro Truck Simulator 2 is available now.

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59 Comments »

  1. McDan says:

    That was beautiful. Almost, but still won’t, almost tempting me to maybe play a little of one of the games. Beauty in word form, excellent stuff.

    • Oozo says:

      I agree, wholeheartedly.

      And, dare I ask: Adam, would it be out of question to share your playlist with the world? Via something like Grooveshark, or — since nobody else seems to use Grooveeshark-playlists — Spotify? Ricardo Donoso sounds like the perfect soundtrack to the half-conscious state you can drive yourself into while on the road, and I’d love to hear more from where that is coming from…

      • UpsilonCrux says:

        +1 for this. Hadn’t heard of Ricardo Donoso either, lovely stuff. Thanks RPS

      • Windward says:

        Try a service called 8Tracks (www.8tracks.com), it allows you to upload your own music and isn’t at all obnoxious about letting others listen. It’s the best mixtape solution, I think.

        I totally +3 the mixtape idea, by the way!

      • Snargelfargen says:

        Great article indeed.

        I’ve always enjoyed listening to Over The Edge on late night drives: http://www.negativland.com/ote/
        Sort of a gonzo found sound …thing. Gets pretty spooky on lonely country roads.

        I even used to close my eyes, too but only when biking.

    • Joshua_Anderson says:

      my neighbor’s half-sister makes $60/hour on the laptop. She has been fired for 9 months but last month her paycheck was $12286 just working on the laptop for a few hours. Go to this web site and read more… http://zapit.nu/312

  2. lightfoot256 says:

    Looks amazing; How detailed are the maps? Surely they didn’t map out the entirety of the UK just for this game? Is the map data coming from somewhere else?

    I might have to buy this game just to have a wander around the country…

    • finbikkifin says:

      They’re not accurate. They’re seriously scaled-down, as are the cities, but they try to capture the feel of areas and include some landmarks IIRC.

      I spend most of my ETS2 time in Europe, only a couple of hours in the UK so far.

    • rustybroomhandle says:

      It’s a somewhat shrunken version of the map. I think this video explains it fairly well http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JFz7xhHxbek

    • TechnicalBen says:

      No, it’s condensed to about a quarter or a third the real world size.

      I think a trip to Germany would take about 3-4 hours in game.

      • nakke says:

        No, more like a twentieth of real world size. Third to quarter would mean a trip from Paris to Berlin, for example, would take something like 3-4 hours of real-life time. But it takes much under an hour.

    • Chizu says:

      Its more like an approximation.
      http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-edqKsaVH5Qo/T5P5tOnDn2I/AAAAAAAAAss/IYU6zR6oISs/s1600/map_revealed_02.jpg
      Cities are tiny, as the games more focused on the journey between destinations than the actual destinations themselves, and its very much just a generalization of the main roads.
      They’re also scaled down, as a journey that would take many hours will take more like half an hour of actual game time.
      Its alot better than ET1, as that only had like, 3 cities in the UK and like, 5 roads :v

      Still, its an incredibly enjoyable experience, and I hope they continue to expand the series. (they recently registered a USA and “world” title)

    • mrmalodor says:

      The maps aren’t detailed at all. Don’t buy this game if you want to see real-world locations. It’s just basically a hand made fictional map with real world city names and roughly proportional distances. They didn’t use real map data.

  3. AbyssUK says:

    Mr Smith, I believe you are just a cats whisker away from going full postal. I suggest the other members of the hive mind have you sectioned immediately.

  4. Addict7 says:

    The only remaining question is: can you watch TV or play guitar while driving?

  5. Skabooga says:

    This article is perhaps the most fantastic thing ever written about a transportation simulator.

  6. rustybroomhandle says:

    Linux version due shortly. The developers seem like nice people also.

  7. Meat Circus says:

    “Can games be Stobart?”

    ONE MILLION PUN CREDITS TO ADAM.

    He can never be beaten.

    • Anamon says:

      Man, I had to think about that so hard until I finally got it. It’s terribly embarrassing, laughing out loud three minutes after you heard the joke.

  8. Inigo says:

    GET OUT OF MY HEAD KAVINSKY

  9. Chris Evans says:

    Great tale and just a perfect example of what makes Euro Truck Sim 2 such a great title, absolutely love it myself.

    • Zeewolf says:

      Yeah, I agree. I have tried to put my thoughts on this game into words many times, but the next time I feel the need to defend it online I’ll just link to this article. Very well written, it captures the magic of ETS2, which in turn captures the magic of … well, driving.

  10. Drake Sigar says:

    Good game, great support too. Minimal DRM, you can plug in a steering wheel, set up radio streaming as easy as pie, or play your own songs. It’s all very pretty and relaxing, while building a trucking empire is a slow process with a few statistical RPG elements.

    I haven’t played a proper simulation game in something like twelve years, which is strange because I usually try to sample a bit of everything.

    • Anamon says:

      After playing the demo for half an hour, finding out how bearable the DRM is was the only other reason I needed to immediately order the game. Plays out of the box, no online activation needed, just like in the good old days. And the CD key can be used to add the game to your Steam account, even though I don’t think it’s mentioned or advertised anywhere, so you get the best of both worlds instead of, as is more common, the worst.

      Feels much better to support developers who seem to value me as a customer, and offer me something in return for my money, instead of those who just want to screw you over and over again. Well done SCS Software, Paradox Interactive, CD Projekt, and a few others in the business—all the others can get bent.

  11. Cooper says:

    I got Train Simulator because, well, it seemed an interesting during a Steam sale.

    I fell in love with it in much the same way.

    I don’t like so much the tasks that focus on shunting wagons about, messing with switches and expansive reail depots.

    My favourite thing to do are the long distance passenger journies. Especially the stretch of the East Coast that I regularly travel on when going back home to London. In these scenarios the ‘game’ becomes nothing more than gently moving the throttle stick up an down. Knowing when to slow down to keep within speed limits is about knowing the track. Imperceptible movements on the throttle resulting in dozens of mph lost in the few miles before a reduced speed limit. I pride myself on smooth stops at stations. Stops that, due to the speed of this line, require braking to start miles beforehand.

    In one scenario you are tasked with ‘demonstrating’ the speed of the new high-speed rail service on the East Coast. Your task is to pull off and then do nothing else but keep the train at top speed until the final station. Forget Super Hexagon, this is my zone.

    • Anamon says:

      I feel very much the same way about it, but the DLC offerings for the Train Simulator are just ridiculous. The game comes with a lot of content already, which is good, but they’re just flooding Steam with add-on trains and routes, not rarely asking twice or three times the price of the full game for a single one of them. Just for kicks, I once brought up the list of available DLC and chose to “add all to shopping cart”. The order would have been about €3,000. That’s a joke.

  12. Axess Denyd says:

    But what if you could talk to the cargo?

    And among all the change gear change gear change gear, do they model killing prostitutes?

  13. Surlywombat says:

    Any game which features Grimsby is a winner in my book.

  14. trjp says:

    I tried the demo for this and it was initially a lot of fun – worked out all the controls, the driving felt reasonable without being faffy – it felt about right.

    Then, as I was driving on the motorway upto Hull (as you do) – inside lane, nothing challenging going on, my truck decided to veer wildly out of control and ended-up sideways across all 3 carriageways.

    OK – I thought, I’d had the worlds silliest blowout perhaps – but then it just got sillier. I was ‘stuck’ inside the corridor which was the motorway and all the cars on the motorway continued to smash into my truck as if it wasn’t there – that’s quit the game time then?

    At this point I remembered I was playing one of those physics aberrations that is the “Dull Stuff Simulator” so uninstalled it.

    There IS a genre of ‘performance repetitive tasks and get points for soing it perfectly” games, probably invented by the quirkily brilliant Tokyo Bus Driver, but if it’s going to explode wildly at random, I’ll give it a miss…

    • Drake Sigar says:

      I had that first problem you mentioned once. I was hauling oversized cargo at the time, and my tires weren’t in the best shape too, so I got them repaired and stopped doing oversized cargo runs. Whether the truck’s sudden lack of control was due to one or both I’m not sure, but I haven’t had a problem since. Oversized cargo isn’t worth the hassle anyway, it makes some corners virtually impossible.

      • trjp says:

        Problem is I’ve no idea why happened or why – the game lacks any feedback for that, that I could fathom in the demo anyway

        I guess it’s all part of the general shonkiness – which given it’s premium price is a definate ‘no thanks’.

        Polish of a $8 indie game in a $40 game!?

        • Anamon says:

          Where I’m from $40 is pretty much a budget title. It’s an Indie game, but I bought the game because I thought it was incredibly cheap for what it was.

          The physics breakdowns must be really rare occurences. I’ve clocked some 40+ hours and have yet to experience a WTF-physics moment. Freak bugs can happen anywhere. It’s unfortunate that this happened to you during a demo version trial, but this is just as likely to happen with a multi-million dollar budget AAA title.

          If you want to see real wonky physics, try to find one of the simulators distributed by Astragon. Funny tidbit: Astragon is a subsidiary of Rondomedia, who distribute ETS2 in much of Europe. It seems that they want to protect their main brand. The better games get the Rondomedia label, the cheaper and/or crappy ones get the Astragon one.

  15. tanith says:

    I do not really like driving. I have a driver’s license but I barely use it and instead rely much more on public transportation. Driving is not really something that I enjoy.
    When I played King of the Road driving on a wet road while the rain hits your windshield and your whipers try to keep up with it was a magical experience though. And while I will still avoid it in real life doing that in video games will also have its place in my heart.

    That article really echoed some of my own feelings and I hope that I can try Euro Truck Simulator 2 some day, when I can spare the money, after enjoying King of the Road, 18 Wheels of Steel, Rigs of Rods and Rig n Roll. Until then I will carefully eye the first one of its series, which is on a discount until Friday and wonder how comparable it was to the experience I had with the ETS2 demo.

    • phuzz says:

      Really? I love driving. In fact, since I got a new job that allows me to walk to work, rather than driving 20 miles I really miss it*, and relish every bit of time I get behind the wheel.
      It’s slightly like gaming, in that it’s something I’m relatively skilled at, and the enjoyment comes from the application of that skill to varying conditions.
      (it’s unlike most games in that there’s relatively little challenge most of the time).

      *(I don’t miss spending thousands on petrol every year mind)

      • tanith says:

        I don’t really like driving because it is too stressful to the point where I start sweating if I drove for a longer amount of time. I just cannot relax because I am under pressure the whole time, I am constantly thinking about how I have to pay attention to everything and how I am at the mercy of the other drivers.

        When I play videogames that does not really happen because I always know it’s not real and if something happens I can reload a savegame (well, most of the time), though crashing into something is actually part of the game, just like dying in a roguelike.

        • TWChristine says:

          Personally I enjoy driving, but my wife is in the same boat as you, Tanith.. She’s come really far in the past few months since getting her license…and then we got hit by a deer last week. And about two days after that she had a really close call with two more. The worst part about driving is, like you said, worrying about what the other people are going to do, and I think that’s why I prefer night driving when it’s just me talking to myself (and then there’s deer..)

        • trjp says:

          If you find driving stressful, you’re doing it wrong – driving may be “not for you” but it could just be that your approach to it is wrong.

          Your job, as a driver, is to get your vehicle to your destination showing due deference to people who have right-of-way and at a pace which doesn’t hold anyone up (speed does NOT kill)

          You job, as a driver, is not to get bent-out-of-shape about all the other drivers who can just get on with what they’re doing without your concern…

          People who drive too slowly or worry too much about everyone else make bad drivers, stressed drivers – they should not, frankly, be driving at all.

          The key to driving well is being comfortable and relaxed about what you’re doing, it’s NOT hard but it does require a degree of concentration and practice.

          You will have accidents – hitting animals is just something which happens (I once had to ‘snap’ a pigeon which was jammed in the valance of my car and I’ve dug-out the remains of several other animals over the years) – you’ll kick yourself sometimes but it’s just how things work.

          BAD accidents – the ones which kill and main – are astonishingly rare. In 25 years of driving I’ve never been in one or even close to one.

          • Consumatopia says:

            The key to doing right must be to maintian cognitive dissonance about how terrible it is that a momentary mistake by your or someone else–the kind of momentary mistakes we all make everyday but usually with minimal consequence–can kill people. Really, human beings aren’t the sort of creature that should be driving, but we all do because it’s necessary for society to function, at least in developed yet sparse countries like mine. It’s not fair to point at someone and say they “shouldn’t be driving”, because, hey, nobody should.

  16. Bhazor says:

    Hmmm, messy break up?

    Reminds me we really need a good “break up playlist” of games.

  17. CelticPixel says:

    It’s a great ‘go to’ game to unwind with, or play while doing other things like listening to the radio, or chatting with your mates on Skype or whatever. I guess it’s technically a simulation game, but I’d put it more in the ambiance/exploration category, alongside games like Proteus. Reminds me of summers with my dad driving across Europe in his Scania 143 : )

  18. DrScuttles says:

    Euro Truck Simulator 2 may have the required qualities to be a pleasantly chilled and relaxing experience to most, but my initial response was one of near complete terror. I can’t drive. One day I’ll learn, but (snow aside) this city has a decent public transport infrastructure. Playing Daytona and Sega Rally between rounds of Quasar is about as close as I’ve been to controlling any vehicle with a steering wheel at speed; though I once crushed a pallet in a forklift. That was fun.
    So not being used to this whole bag of tricks involving gears, traffic lights, indicators, windscreen wipers, sticking to a lane, speed limits and other motorists, my first go on Euro Truck Simulator 2 was the most terrifying game I’ve played for a long time.

    • malkav11 says:

      This was my experience as well. I assume for most people simulating driving, even a big rig, is pretty much just a relaxing everyday experience with none of the learning curve of a flight sim or even rail sim…but I’ve never driven or taken driving lessons, and while I have a loose grasp of how it works in America, Europe has a lot of differences.

      I still can’t park the damn thing.

  19. TukkerIntensity says:

    I love this game. I downloaded the demo almost jokingly to see what it was like and to justify my G27 which hasn’t got much love in quite some time. Then I fell in love with it – I just love driving around, seeing the country side, cursing at people who don’t know how to merge. It’s a beautiful mostly relaxing game and it has the whole “build your own fleet / garage / rpgish” thing going on as well. Fantastic game.

  20. Chris Evans says:

    While I often get positive comments about this game on The Reticule, I have to say I am quite pleased to see a largely positive bit of feedback on a site like RPS. It really is quite a magical game and some of the roads in Eastern Europe are really quite lovely to drive along. Driving in Britain is ok, but the real fun lies on the continent.

    It’s good news then that SCS are working on some Eastern European DLC :D

    • TWChristine says:

      I agree! When I saw the post about this game I was thinking “Well here we go..they’re tackling this game, and it’ll be filled with the farm simulator jokes by everyone..” And while I agree that some sims are just kind of..odd..choices for sims, I also understand how this can be considered one as well. But I also feel this game is really well done. I tried the demo of the Scania driver game, and then after that the first Euro Truck sim and was really hoping they’d do an updated version with the Scania engine, and tada! It’s really a fun little time waster. I just throw a movie or some such on the second monitor and drive away for several hours! The only downside I’ve encountered are those tiiiiiiiiiny on/off ramps in France!

  21. edwardoka says:

    I first became aware of this game via Nerdcubed’s mega-lets-play where he drove across Europe in a single sitting. It does look awesome, but the price is a bit steep for something so… esoteric? :D

    I notice, however, that SCS just released ETS1 onto Steam for much, much fewer cashpences.
    Has anyone played both? Are the two comparable, quality-wise?

    • TWChristine says:

      I would say so. The only real differences (it’s been a little while since I played ETS1) I can say is, obviously the graphics in this one are waaaaay better. This one also allows you to have an upgradeable garage (base) where you can hire other drivers to work for you. It’s a neat little addition, but it simply amounts to choosing a picture from the recruiting agency, assigning them to a truck, and then paying for them for doing their thing. So then as far as the rest of the game goes..it’s really the same thing, just looking nicer.

      You can download them both for a trial period, so give them a shot and see! :)

  22. bar10dr says:

    I’ve never been into driving sims but I got this game about a month ago on a recommendation and it sucked me in, its actually a lot of fun.

  23. Bassem says:

    I haven’t purchased the game, but I downloaded the demo and I play it every once in a while, for the same reason I play the FUEL demo every once in a while – aimless driving, exploring.

    The demo for Euro Truck Sim 2 isn’t on Steam, but you can download it via the game’s website.

  24. brulleks says:

    Started playing the demo last night on the basis of this article, and am thoroughly enjoying it. Anyone know what full-game content is locked out though? It isn’t mentioned in detail on the site.

    And Bassem – beg to differ, the demo IS on Steam. Maybe it’s region locked or something? I can certainly d/l it here in England.

  25. Chubzdoomer says:

    This game is EXCELLENT! I’m happy that it’s getting quite a bit of coverage on big PC gaming sites. It even won PC Gamer’s “Sim of the Year” award and currently sits on Metacritic with about an 80% average.

    I wrote what I consider to be a fairly entertaining, lengthy review of the game here if you’d like to check it out and learn even more about it:
    http://chubzdoomer.hubpages.com/hub/Euro-Truck-Simulator-2-Review

  26. akshatshibu says:

    sir will i take rest when i am on a job on ET2?

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