Wot I Think: American Truck Simulator

We were somewhere north of Barstow on the edge of the desert – no, really, we actually were, I was so pleased – when awareness began to take hold. I rent squalid office space with two people from different companies, and they were baffled when the dull rock soundtrack of American Truck Simulator [official site]’s title screen began leaking from my speakers. Of all the games in the world, why would I choose to play this? Worst case scenario: every stereotype about PC gaming confirmed. Best case scenario: I was playing this profoundly boring driving simulator ironically. Mad Skill, No Plow, 360 Crop Rotation and all that.

By the end of the day, after hours of watching me drive through California’s forests and Nevada’s deserts, the three of us had grown appreciably closer. As night fell on San Francisco, we swapped rueful tales of love, sex and booze from our youth. As day broke over Reno, we sang in broken harmony to Gimme Shelter. As I rolled carefully into a depot in pitch-black Oakland after a long, long night’s drive, someone volunteered “shall I get some beers in?” We sat back in our seats and sighed contentedly. Our American road trip.

Speaking purely practically, there is little to differentiate American Truck Simulator from its much-loved predecessor, Euro Truck Simulator 2. Speaking purely emotively, there is all the difference in the world. For better or worse, America – and particularly the sweeping flatness of California and Nevada, the only states included here so far – is the iconic road trip setting.

Mainland Europe might have more variety, more unpredictable roads, more green, but it doesn’t have that motorised legacy laid down by Kerouac and Thompson, Easy Rider and Thelma & Louise, Drive and Duel. Europe might have more life, it might have more history, but it just doesn’t have the same pop-cultural meaning.

The long drive across America is a dream of freedom. On the road again, dum de-dum dum. Euro Truck Simulator 2, as much as I love it, often feels like a commute, a battle with lanes and roundabouts, whereas ATS feels like escape. The same pleasure in the inherently mundane, but writ larger, as though it means something, because of all those filmic roadside touchstones.

This is true not just of the touristic sights, but the everyday ones too: the donut stands and diners, the gas stations and the Walmarts. Americana both romantic and oppressive. All part of the great journey. Perhaps American Journey Simulator would have been the better title. Though perhaps that wouldn’t sufficiently encompass delivering a trailer full of toys to an industrial estate or spending ten minutes waiting at a junction because no bugger wants to end up stuck behind a truck carrying two dozen steel pipes. Born to be wiiiiiiiiiiiiiiild, born to be terrified by reverse-parking manoeuvres.

It has an unfair advantage, one the developers did not really have to create themselves, and that is music. A carefully curated selection of genuine, real-time internet radio stations is included (you even get to hear real-world news on the hour, and they will switch to another station on the same frequency when you move out of what would the real-world FM range), and these provide an idealised soundtrack.

American Truck Simulator’s success is so much to do with music: a singular evocation and celebration of life on the road. Again, it’s the heritage of the movies: every song seems as though it was specifically written to soundtrack a trip across the desert or through the forest.

I love to sing while I drive; my partner hates it when I sing while I drive. So I don’t. But I can and do here. I bought a USB wheel specifically for ATS, and as I sang I drummed my fingers on it, lost in contentment. The hideously (and inaccurately) titled Flower Power FM is my jam, a steady stream of 50s, 60s, 70s and sometimes 80s nostalgia that I would never otherwise consciously play but know all the words to from long years of exposure.

Rod Stewart’s turgid Sailing makes passing over the Golden Gate bridge an event, a gateway to bliss. Harper Valley PTA, Jeannie C. Riley’s joyfully silly stand against the man, gives me my Thelma and Louise moment as I escape Primm. Roy Orbison is everything Roy Orbison has ever meant to anyone and everyone. Every song tells my story.

Early in the day, one of those aforementioned co-workers scoffed in disbelief at my claim that none of this was a deliberate soundtrack. “They must have chosen these. They must.” Then the broadcast cut to news that someone had contracted Zika from shagging. Real radio, real world. A world this game helps me flee from.

***

“Simulator” is a troublesome word to have in your game’s name. On the one hand, it speaks of authenticity made precise to the point of impenetrability, or tedium. On the other, it speaks of silliness, of applying exaggerated physics effects or cartoon bufoonery to an ostensibly real-world setting. It’s a word that makes causal onlookers believe that I could only be playing American Truck Simulator ironically, or because I’m being forced to for work.

There can be silliness in American Truck Simulator if you want: blocking four lanes of traffic with a trailer full of hazardous materials, performing a 48-point turn in a burger stand parking lot, reversing all the way to Fresno, racking up fines by speeding, shooting red lights, not turning your headlights on after dark, detaching your trailer at 80 miles per hour, re-enacting Duel from the antagonist’s point of view.

It’s not the way the game’s made to be played, but it’s not not the way it’s meant to be played either. This is, after all, a simulation of driving a big truck. There are a great many very stupid and very dangerous things one can do while driving a big truck. This game simulates those as effectively as it does the sensible and careful things – only without the bloodshed and death. It’s not GTA, which is perhaps why playing it recklessly can be far more hilarious than Rockstar’s sanctioned rampages.

American Truck Simulator is also a simulation of business, albeit played out at fast forward. Performing odd-jobs in other people’s trucks slowly puts money into your account, which you can eventually spend on an underpowered truck of your own. A step down in terms of performance, but a truck of your own. It’s a powerful moment, to tweak its paint and add a mirror or two, then blow your life’s savings on taking it home.

Eventually, you can expand into a fleet, even an empire. This is a roleplaying game too, although either sadly or sensibly devoid of any conversation. The only human faces in the game act out looped maintenance animations, never reacting to your disasters and triumphs. ATS only really simulates landscape, not population – but perhaps that’s necessary in order to ensure the focus is always the road.

The road is, admittedly, not quite as long or with as many winding turns as one might hope from a game whose title suggests the whole of America is included. It’s not just that it only has two states for now (Arizona is due, for free, soon, but the others will likely be paid DLC), but also that its compressed geography sees an in-game hour pass in around five minutes. The same routes quickly reoccur, buildings start to repeat, freeway junctions blur into one another.

I think this, too, is appropriate to the experience ATS seeks to convey – long-distance haulage jobs – but I entirely sympathise with players who feel there is not yet enough here. Arizona may well make all the difference, the paid DLC may well be reasonable, and it may ultimately be fair to consider this an episodic sandbox, but we simply can’t say, one way or another, for some time to come.

Though I recognise that it is somewhat limited, I am not at all unhappy with what is here: it’s the moment-to-moment experience, not the breadth of map, which absorbs me. At first I was disappointed by the somewhat aged graphics, but soon enough the size of the skies, the moodiness of the lights, the absurd signage of the restaurants, the bins and the telegraph wires and the streetlights and the stretched shine of a car approaching in my wing mirror washed all that away. I look forward to what mods can do, but for now it has so much fidelity even if it’s some distance from the bleeding edge. The lights, particularly, are movie lights.

It is a fairly deep vehicle simulation on a technical level if you want it to be, though certainly not the deepest. The focus is on the driving model, the small complexities of gear shifts, reversing and indication, all the moving parts that make such an improbable bulk travel without disaster, and that driving feels wonderful. Heavy yet reactive. Lumbering but deadly. Slow but twitchy. The click of the indicator, the solemnity of the dashboard.

There are dozens of options and controls I shall never, ever touch, because ATS is beautifully scalable too. I am happy to dial it back to the essentials of driving rather than the specific complexities of articulated lorries, but even then the mass and bulk absolutely convinces, as do the minutiae.

To turn left onto a busy road is a gentle art. To turn the wipers on when it rains feels valedictory. To spot the onset of dusk and switch the headlights on is an important ritual – not just one that saves you a fine or an accident, but one which transforms the journey from wide-open day-lit freedom into that sense of homecoming that narrow-beam light along a pitch-black road somehow evokes.

American Truck Simulator is a simulation of driving a truck across America, and while it can claim many successes in terms of mechanical authenticity, its most effective simulation is state of mind. That zen-like focus and calm of driving, when every other worry evaporates from your mind. Only the road. Only the music. The music and the road as one.

I’ve been having a hard time lately; I’ll spare you the details other than to say that I felt significantly better for every moment that I spent in American Truck Simulator’s America. That’s my highest recommendation.

It’s not a joke. It’s not ironic. Don’t fear ‘simulator.’ It’s the America you want.

American Truck Simulator is out now.

From this site

87 Comments

  1. ikehaiku says:

    “its much-loved predecessor, Euro Truck Simulator.”

    Two. Eurotruck Simulator 2.
    Just in the of-chance that a grand newcomer would buy ETS on Steam when meaning to buy ETS2 ;-)

    • Unsheep says:

      As well as the other six trucking games SCS has made, ’18 Wheels of Steel Extreme Trucker 2′ is probably my favourite so far.

  2. Rhodokasaurus says:

    I can’t say this article made clear why this was/is currently #1 on the Steam charts. It’s not cause of the music- that’s not apparent from the store page. It’s not the zen feeling of driving down a road for 15 minutes with nothing to do. Even Spintires’ popularity makes a little sense. Anyone got some insight? Who is buying this and why?

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      Grizzly says:

      It’s a roadtrip and management game rolled up into one.

    • Dasch says:

      I buy all these simulator games for escapism, to break the bonds of my less than desirable reality, they take my mind of everything as you slip in to the zone and everything else evaporates around you. That’s just one aspect, another is micro-management of the company and the feeling of accomplishment as you grow from a scrub working in another company’s trucks to an entrepreneur business owner with a fleet of trucks and personnel working for you making more and more bank every passing day, expanding your empire, jus’ like that feeling in monopoly when you go from nothing, passing go a few dozen times, then eventually owning houses, then hotels, then raking in the cash as others utilise your properties… In fact, it’s a lot like monopoly, there’s fines you’ll incur if you break the rules or happen to make a mistake of landing on chance etc etc… It’s not a game you’ll be playing every moment of the day for the week or months you buy it, it’s a long term investment game that you’ll come back to time and time again, like ETS2, I played for over 150 hours over the 4 years it was out, I have a powerhouse of company on that and I love to keep expanding in to each country and buying more and more garages and trucks for the staff I take on. It really is a game for soul, nothing fast paced or action packed, it just mellows you out and lets you drift away from reality…

    • TheAngriestHobo says:

      I bought as soon as I heard that it came out early.

      It’s different things to different people, which is a big reason for its popularity. If you’re a gearhead who gets a semi from RpMs and horsepower, then you get a virtual playground filled with highly authentic real-life powerhouses. If you’re looking for a tourism simulator, then it’s a pretty damned good one – not perfect, but true enough to life to be well worth exploring. Hell, it’s even a decent tool for teaching your kid to drive.

      But for me, it’s all about zoning out. I don’t really play ATS/ETS2 as a game, I play it as a mildly interactive experience to chill out and reflect to. The illusion of driving is so complete that highway hypnosis sets in pretty quickly, and the complete lack of tangible consequences to your actions just reinforces that sense of relaxation.

    • Chaoslord AJ says:

      Me and I do play usually RPGs and related action games. Like the other reviewers I can’t explain it either. It’s the good mixture between the zen of driving, building an empire, exploring and strategic planning. Also nice details like internet radio, World of Trucks integration, camera tool.
      It’s the condensing of real labour and long hours of actual road into a shorter fun experience.
      It’s the act of constant concentration on the road which according to researchers releases dopamine like in meditation. Well in reality it would only cause road rage anyway.

    • Rhodokasaurus says:

      Good insight from everybody above, thanks for the reply!

    • melnificent says:

      It’s a driving sim with no real goals, a gentle business management sub game and a great music streaming system. It’s nice to play something that has no real point just because it’s nice to unwind instead of shooty-Mcblam 7:The deadening or UltralitegameF2P:Wallet Gouger.

      Also it’s £14.99 because there’s only 2 trucks and 2 states (with a third coming soon for free). So it’s a relatively cheap chill out game.

    • Blackcompany says:

      I wish I could explain why. I scoffed at the idea myself. Then, I tried the ETS2 demo from Steam one day.

      Life = changed. Or my mind, anyway.

      Went out and bought a G27 “racing” wheel so I could use it to drive big trucks well under the speed limit while listening to music or CB chatter from the mods I found or just…listening to the wind and the purr of the motor and watching the world pass by.

      Its a virtual road trip, in a neat sort of vehicle. I find it extremely relaxing to simply…drive.

    • Unsheep says:

      What makes ETS2 and ATS popular in my opinion is how they combine many things: the portrayed sense of realism, business-empire building, strategic choices, open-world sandbox gaming, some RPG elements, the immersion of day-night transitions and weather effects, the low-sim driving physics, the sense of travel and sightseeing, a strong and dedicated modding community, and the puzzle that is parking your truck.

      I’d argue that the popularity of Spintires lies in the puzzle-like element of navigating the map and getting your task done, its a physical puzzle in many ways. As with ETS2 its also the combination of many things; open sandbox gameplay, strategic choices, challenging physics to deal with, and so on.

      Open sandbox games will always be quite popular, and if you make them look visually appealing and add plenty of different gameplay elements, its not that surprising they become popular.

      The fact that some youtubers started covering simulation games in a serious manner has made it more socially acceptable play these games or try them out.

    • ritsl says:

      http://www.eurotrucksimulator2.com has the demo for the previous game. Give that a whirl then reread this article. Then you will understand.

  3. JuergenDurden says:

    you know rps, we might not always see eye to eye on things, we might even have quite opposing viewpoints on a number of issues, but absolutely stellar writing like this piece right here is what makes me come back to you every single day and also elevates you so far above the din of the usual game journo suspects. thank you.

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      caff says:

      Yeah I agree with this. What a nice piece, it’s clear it struck a good chord and now I feel better about picking it up at some point. I went in hard on ETS2 over xmas so I need a break from trucking for a bit :)

  4. quietone says:

    A great article, and it conveys much of what I felt while playing ETS2.
    However, on a more mundane level, here’s my little WIT on ATS so far:
    1) Just like ETS2, but optimized. It works a lot better than ETS2 on my laptop at least even on ultra.
    2) I agree with Alec about the scenery, both great but too few places to go so it gets repetitive soon. Will get better with future DLCs.
    3) Some places, mostly loading zones and weight stations are too small and it is easy to get stuck. And once you are stuck chances are that you will not get unstuck easily. Had to call emergencies 3 times so far, compared to zero in ETS2.
    Still love it :)

    • Grovester says:

      Re: Point 3 – totally agree. I’ve driven all the way around the US (took four months) and I can safely say that parking lots are far, far larger than this game shows. Unless you’re in New York, Boston or one of the other older cities on the east coast, you never lack for space. Highway on/off ramps are far too short as well.

      I wish they had updated the screens with a more American theme too. Still feels a bit too much like ETS2, fab though that game is.

      And I don’t mean to sound negative – this is a great game too, though I’ve only played for a couple of hours.

  5. DTK79 says:

    I expected ATS to turn out to be pretty good, but I didn’t really expect a review of it to be touching. That was lovely, Alec.

    Playing this with a couple of mates and a beer sounds pretty much perfect to me, right now.

  6. Darth Gangrel says:

    Wow, there have been several “RPS Recommended” stickers/banners/whatchacallit these last few days. Each game is from a different reviewer, so I’m not accusing RPS of adulation inflation, just felt the urge to point out this wave of awesomeness.

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      caff says:

      I think it’s going to be a strong wave of games this year – the line up has always implied a heavy, constant wallet beating. Luckily this title is relatively cheap really.

    • Henke says:

      Speaking of which, is “RPS Game of the Month” not a thing this year?

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        Harlander says:

        Maybe they felt the Game of the Month concept was too divisive after how it turned out at the end of last year…

  7. Morgan Joylighter says:

    Ironically, however, when you’re from America already the polarity is reversed. Euro seemed enchanting and this seems like a really boring slog. Why would I want to simulate being the annoying trucks that clog up traffic and make driving more dangerous for passenger cars? Why would I want to simulate following traffic rules along roads that are only interesting if there’s a vacation spot on the end of them?

    • badmothergamer says:

      My thoughts exactly. I enjoyed ETS2 because I’ve never been to Europe and everything was new (especially making the left lane switch after crossing the channel).

      However, I lived in SoCal the past decade. I’ve been stuck in LA traffic enough times to loathe the mere mention of the I-5. My worst road trip ever was leaving Vegas on a Sunday around noon and not getting to San Diego until after 8pm thanks to traffic. Picture Thompson and Dr. Gonzo screaming through the desert in their convertible, then imagine the exact opposite.

      I’m glad this is going over well with the Europeans and hope it sells like crazy. I’ve simulated enough of this game in real life that you couldn’t pay me $20 in gas to play this. It does make me want to fire up ETS2 again though. I hear Luxembourg is lovely this time of year. :)

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        teije says:

        As a Canadian who’s spent a fair amount of time in both California and Europe they both sound very nice.

        Feel lucky that I live in such a sleepy part of the country that driving really is a relaxing thing of country roads and big skies. Especially those quiet dark roads at night. Although the longer I live out here the more I detest driving in cities…

      • RabbitIslandHermit says:

        The I-5, like all I’s, is awful. Anyone know if this has 101 on it? Would be pretty fun to drive a big rig along the curvy coastal bits, realism be damned.

        • Person of Interest says:

          You’re thinking of Highway 1, friend, not 101.

          Yes, it could be fun, although I’m worried that the lo-fi landmarks in the Truck Simulator games might ruin any semblance of coastal charm.

          How about it, Alec: did you find any nice stretches of coastline to rumble past? And most importantly: can you turn right on red??

          • RabbitIslandHermit says:

            You’re right, it’s all PCH to me.

          • RabbitIslandHermit says:

            Although I guess 101 might technically not be part of the PCH? Meh, it’s on the Pacific coast down in North San Diego County, close enough for me.

      • Cederic says:

        Nightmare? 8 hours to do a five hour drive? Crikey.

        Try Birmingham to Oxford (80 miles) in 14 hours.
        Try Nottingham to Slough (2 hour drive) in 11 hours.
        Shit, try going up the M6 on a Friday afternoon. You can’t. It’ll be Friday evening before you get to where you’re going, pretty much irrespective of where you start or end.

        • badmothergamer says:

          Perhaps I should’ve added further details. I was accompanied by a young English couple and the wife refused to listen to anything other than dance music. Stand still traffic, a bad hangover, and desert heat I can handle. But putting the Black Eyed Peas on repeat was a bit too much I’m afraid. :)

          • Kitsunin says:

            Uuugh, unless you’re actually dancing, SCREW dance music. It’s irritating enough when you’re at a party or something and trying to talk to people over the crap (and you’ve lost your voice), I can’t even imagine being stuck in a car with it.

        • Grovester says:

          14 hour? You were lucky. When I were a lad, it took 14 days to get from Birmingham to Oxford, and then you’d have to eat the horses to survive.

    • Chaoslord AJ says:

      As an european having his engine-limited 190 km/h blocked by evil trucks every week while working I still enjoy ETS2. I even hate them less now like oh I’m down to 80 now, look it’s that Iveco.

    • Rindan says:

      I’m an American, but I work with a huge number of non-Americans. I am always a little bit mortified at what the non-Americans often revere from the American experience. It is almost categorically the absolute worst parts of America that make me want to run screaming from this palace. Pop music, shitty action movies, our awful franchises, and the soul destroying strip-mall filled suburban wastelands are all things I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy.

      The idea of driving from LA to Fresno is just… awful. The only way they could possibly top that would be to have the expansion focus on Ohio and the other fly-over states. If driving through the perfectly flat, perfectly straight corn fields of those places doesn’t cause you to saw madly at your own wrists in an attempt to escape, nothing will.

      Enjoy it if it gets you off, but realize that it is like watching a foreigner worshiping chav culture.

      • Geebs says:

        I always suspected that the great American road trip was a vastly self-aggrandising description of the process of catching lice.

        Every time I’ve visited the USA (which always winds up being to San Diego, so I may be biased by my dislike of the place) I’ve ended up being struck by the combination of rather boring roads and really terrible drives-like-a-boat cars. I guess what I’m saying is, I think Europe has better motoring.

        • RabbitIslandHermit says:

          Driving in San Diego is a thoroughly miserable experience. The US has great roads, they just tend to not be near civilization.

        • RabbitIslandHermit says:

          Which is why, I should add, a proper American road trip avoids the interstates (which are indeed extremely boring) as much as possible.

      • Thankmar says:

        You have to count in the pop-cultural myth of these things, as mentioned in the article. In my mind,and I think many non-American minds, too, these sights and landscapes are loaded with meaning. I have seen them in countless sitcoms, soap-operas, movies and whatnot, always close enough to my own culture, since its “western” culture, but a certain strangeness to it, since American everyday culture differs from European in some terms. In Germany for instance, you don’t have very long stretches of straight roads through neverchanging landscapes on which you cruise along at 80mph. Unfortunately you cannot let your mind wander, since you drive through comparatively curvy, hilly Autobahns at 100mph, dodging endless streams of trucks on your right while looking out in the rearview mirror for twits racing you with 130mph. It always feels cramped, so the American road trip with this lonely feeling of you, the road, the fields and the sky never happens, making it a (pop)mythical thing.

        Even the more mundane stretches of industrial or commercial areas or suburbs are in most cases meaningful, because they have this distinct American feeling to it, which as a German you only know from movies. So if you actually there, literally everything is some kind of popcultural reference point, be it diner, bodyshop, fast food restaurant or even just the wooden apartment houses with their big lawns and garages, lined up one after another in a suburb.

      • ritsl says:

        Used to live in northern CA and will pick this up if only for the ability to virtually drive through a reasonable representation of the landscape. If they added Ohio and the flyover states that would suit me just fine; there is beauty there as well.

        The next areas that they are focusing on are Oregon/Washington and New Mexico/Texas so you don’t have to worry for a while. Plus they still haven’t finished with ETS2.

      • Blackcompany says:

        I love long drives in “flyover” states. Mountains, hills, cornfields. Foggy autumn evenings and brilliant, bright winter days. Just the road, some music. That’s a bit of Heaven, right there.

    • Usherkamp says:

      I live in Southern California, and I can see the fun in the setting. Or at least I almost can, if there was a little more to do in these games, like if in different towns you could get out and go to eat or see a movie or establish some kind of life in these different places you visit.

      I think what everyone would love is if they did a punk band simulator like this. Like you could get your band, outfit them with gear, and take the van on the road, and do the whole driving sim. Even make it where you have to book a tour up and down the coast in different venues. Work out payment terms, promote, stuff like that.

      • Grovester says:

        Haha, call it “Get In The Van”, get a Kickstart up and I’ll fund it!

      • Vurogj says:

        So an expanded Shady O’Grady’s Rising Star then, which as I recall has you driving your vehicle around towns to music shops, venues and the like, but opts for quick travel between towns. Interesting idea, I’d be in.

      • funderbolt says:

        I’ve played through that simulator, several times, on the same roads, even. Going back for more in November. It should include a “rounding up errant, drunken bandmates” mini-game as well as “the smell of a van full of dudes after two weeks of nothing but burritos and coffee” simulation technology.

  8. sicanshu says:

    Obligatory “bat country!” reference.

  9. Captain Deadlock says:

    Is it anything like Elite: Dangerous though

    • Rhodokasaurus says:

      Actually now that you mention it, Elite strikes me as a perfect Space Truck Simulator, which would explain why I find it so dull.

    • melnificent says:

      Nope, you can play ATS offline.

    • Minglefingler says:

      Nah, it’s not instanced and you don’t lose reputation when you don’t play.

      • Minglefingler says:

        Ah, that comment came across as a bit more sarky than I intended. I do have issues with Elite although I recognise that it does a lot of stuff very well.
        I was on the fence about buying American Truck Simulator at release, this article changed my easily persuaded mind.

        • badmothergamer says:

          I actually got back into ED recently and do nothing but space trucking. The reason I prefer it to ETS2 is I don’t have to pay nearly as much attention. I can throw a stream on my extra monitor and queue up some shows on Netflix and still enjoy ED. If I try that in ETS2 I’m crashing before leaving the lot.

          Also, I own a flight stick but not a steering wheel. ETS2 works with m/kb, but much like ED, I imagine a proper setup would lead to a far more enjoyable experience.

          • bamjo says:

            I love space games, and have been reading up on Elite: Dangerous since they added planets. But I always read the abbreviation ED as erectile dysfunction (my wife is a urologist), which makes posts like this unintentionally hilarious.

            Sorry, I’m not picking on you.. its just my immature sense of humor at work.

          • Minglefingler says:

            Having a wheel changes the entire feel of the game for me, bizarrely a lot more than moving from controller to hotas did in ED. I find that I have to pay a lot more attention in ETS 2 and ATS when I’m using a wheel, the xbox 360 controller allows me to switch off when I’m playing although this does lead to a few crashes when I realise too late that I need to turn and try to brute force it.

  10. Jokerme says:

    Why should I buy the same game with a little different scenery, exactly? ETS2 has everything ATS has, because they are literally same except for a few environmental set pieces. I’m saying a few more, because most of the stuff in maps are direct copies from ETS2.

    I’m not against the way they did ATS, I’m okay with expending upon a great game, but they added so little, I can’t help but think what were they actually doing all this time. This game has so ridiculously low amount of new content it hurts. It’s only a base for countless amounts of paid DLC. I wouldn’t even pay 5$ for this game. It has the Sims fever.

    Inb4 10$ window tint DLC.

    • ratangpp says:

      India has far too many real trucks. If you’ve ever driven down the road in any city or any highway, your only concern will be how to stay safe from trucks.

      Part of me would love to get this game into the real world and ruin all of the trucks in India.

      Imphal to Guwahati

  11. fish99 says:

    Little bit underwhelmed with the game so far, because it’s just so very familiar (to someone who has put 60+ hrs into ETS2), and so limited in terms of area and trucks. It manages to feel smaller than ETS2 at launch. Maybe I should shelve it until there’s a few DLCs out.

    • Chaoslord AJ says:

      There’s always X-Com 2 tomorrow.

    • Unsheep says:

      Maybe I’m just imagining things, but I do think the actual maps in ATS are bigger than the initial impressions gave me. I definitely feel there’s more open space in these maps compared to ETS2.

      However its never a bad idea to wait until there’s more trucks and maps. I waited with ETS2 until the Eastern Expansion pack came out and got a better deal for the whole package as a result.

  12. Grimmtooth says:

    What this reminds me of more than anything is the old Amiga game, “Ports of Call”. Except in PoC, you didn’t start out renting somebody else’s ship. You started out with a limited amount of funds and a selection of some really nasty scows to assay into a grand fortune.

    Watch out for storms.

  13. racccoon says:

    Looks like they picked up the detail in the all aspects of the game, about time & nicely done.

  14. Fiatil says:

    I just want to say thank you for this review, because it made me feel cooler to be an American than I have in a long time.

    I don’t even necessarily disagree with the poster above who said a lot of the things described are some of the worst parts about the country. It’s a bittersweet feeling, but it’s apart of my culture. It’s neat to have it described as eloquently as you did.

  15. RaunakS says:

    I am not certain why, but reading this piece puts me in the mind for Stephen King. Something like Desperation or Needful Things. Anyway, this was a really wonderful write-up, thank you for that.

    Also, now I’m wondering, how well would a truck (or lorry) sim set here in India work? They’d have to put a lot more pedestrians and vehicles. This would be offset by having one-lane roads everywhere and not having to implement any traffic rules whatsoever. But the lorries themselves will have to be a heckuva lot more colourful and have perfect grammatically quotes on the back (‘Take posin but do not believe on girls’): link to holidify.com

    • Executor32 says:

      SCS Software, the creators of this and ETS, actually already kind of made one, 18 Wheels of Steel: Extreme Trucker 2. I say ‘kind of’ because it was Bangladesh and not India, but from what I’ve seen, the trucks and crazy driving look much the same. But yeah, in addition to maps based on rural Bangladesh and Montana, it also included the three maps from the first game, based on the Yungas Road in Bolivia, the Tuktoyaktuk Winter Road in Canada, and the Australian Outback. None of these are anywhere near the size of the more open worlds of their later games, but the driving was certainly a lot more varied. Definitely worth a look, though it’s not as polished as ATS or either ETS game.

      • RaunakS says:

        Oooh, thank you very much for that info! I’m definitely going to look into Wheels of Steel. I’m in Calcutta so Bangladeshi roads aren’t going to be that different for me anyway!

  16. Eddy9000 says:

    Just had to say that the review is one of the best I’ve ever read. Games like this aren’t my thing but it really got across why they might be for other people.

  17. Blastaz says:

    The first paragraph is beautiful. Bravo.

  18. brucethemoose says:

    Does this remind anyone of Test Drive Unlimited?

    Zipping across a surprisingly accurate version of Oahu in supercars sounds more fun than driving around bits of California in a 18-wheeler… But that’s probably the unpopular opinion.

    Also, having driven there, starting from the west is hard as far as DLC goes. They’re stuck with relatively bland states/roads until you hit the Rockies, which has the most beautiful roads in the country IMHO.

    • Avus says:

      I think Ubisoft’s The Crew feel more like Test drive unlimited than ATS.

    • Premium User Badge

      Harlander says:

      It’s a different kind of vibe, isn’t it? I’d be more wired up by TDU’s speed as opposed to the chilled-out ambience of the Truck Simulators.

      (Of course, what I actually felt in TDU was frustration trying to get through time trials and stuff. Bah!)

    • zman888 says:

      As far as roads go, the coastline has some nice roads, and Continental divide does have cool roads, but I’ve grown to like the roads in my current state of South Dakota, as well as some of the central part of my homestate Nebraska. Haven’t been much down south except for Texas, but it has it’s neat areas down there as well. So I think they’ll have plenty of nice driving as they work their way East.

  19. celticdr says:

    Now I have to figure out a steering wheel solution for my foldable plastic table – has anyone worked out how to fix it so the wheel doesn’t rock back and forth?

  20. Avus says:

    I will buy this game when the developer has the multiplayer mod ready. (link to wotr-mp.com)

  21. UncleLou says:

    It’s not really my kind of game, but what a fantastic article.

    I think I’ll watch Paris, Texas tonight to satisfy a little bit of that Americana desire Alex evoked. :)

  22. stoner says:

    Fun fact: many of the faces you see in the face selection screen are real people, such as the developers and beta testers. We beta testers were asked to provide photos during the early ATS development.

  23. zman888 says:

    I’m a bit of a gearhead, I love large, powerful machines, I like driving, and I like gaming. So it’s the perfect combo. Spent hours playing 18 Wheels of Steel American Long Haul, and this is the sequel I’ve been waiting for all these years. Finally got a wheel, and it makes a world of difference.

  24. Premium User Badge

    heretic says:

    RPS is on fire recently, this is one of my favourite articles and I’m not that interested in the actual game, just enjoyed reading the words!

    Hope you feel better soon Alec :)

  25. roothorick says:

    > For better or worse, America – and particularly the sweeping flatness of California and Nevada, the only states included here so far – is the iconic road trip setting.

    I humbly disagree. The rolling hills of Wisconsin obscuring the road ahead, the lush forests giving way to wheat and corn fields only to sweep back in with enthusiasm, the occasional deer sighting, coming across a barn with a buffalo or cow pasture with a momentary hint of manure, slowing down to idly roll by the humble downtown shops of an idyllic small town… THAT, to me, is the iconic road trip setting.

    Of course, I grew up here, so maybe I’m a little biased :P

    Honestly, I think what makes the US such a famous road trip location is the extreme variety within the nation. We have a little bit of everything, and most of our tourist traps are focused on natural wonders like The Grand Canyon and Yellowstone. Seeing SCS focus on such a small slice of this cornucopia came with a tinge of disappointment.

  26. roothorick says:

    > The hideously (and inaccurately) titled Flower Power FM is my jam, a steady stream of 50s, 60s, 70s and sometimes 80s nostalgia

    Actually, that’s a very accurate name, directly referencing the cultural upheaval of the 1960s and 70s, whose most recognizable legacy is the music of the time. Sounds like their focus has been well diluted since, but there’s definitely a historical precedent for that title.

  27. P.Funk says:

    I disagree on the quality of the driving physics. I’ve always felt that these vehicles make for hollow avatars, none ever really feeling different from another, no model or brand having any particular quality beyond the proprietary interiors and sounds.

    Compared to OMSI the trucks never take me there. That’s why my escapism in the ETS vein is always had in Berlin driving a bus.

  28. zero signal says:

    This is a wonderfully written article. Playing any of these truck sims for more than twenty minutes makes me feel like I’m wasting my life – I could be off the computer doing (something quite similar to) this, but for real! – but Meer does an excellent, almost poetic job of showing you why you should be ignoring me and playing these excellent games instead.

  29. Chek says:

    SCS have played me like the truck sim fool that I am. Having weened myself from ETS2 for a few months now I had somehow resisted the urge of the American version.
    Oh look there’s a demo that won’t hurt.
    Before I knew it the weekend had gone, the readies had vanished from my bank account and I was cruising around in a pimped out W900.

    WTF just happened !!