Developer: SCS Software
Publisher: Excalibur Publishing
Rating: 3 (PEGI) / NR (ESRB)
I can’t drive. Even in games my driving is of varying degrees of efficiency, from downright abysmal to reasonably competent. My latest attempt at driving is Euro Truck Simulator 2 – and putting me behind the wheel of some of the most unwieldy steel beasts on the road can only go one way. Let me tell you how it went and what I think.
Bad. That’s how it’s going. I actually managed to overturn a truck within 30 minutes while transporting milk south down the M1 to London. It should have been easy. I turned a little too hard to swap lanes, overcompensated in turning back and blam, over I went. My employer was nice though, didn’t charge me for the rather substantial repair bill and still paid me what was agreed upon for the delivery when I finally reached London.
This isn’t something to complain about. I assume that a truck is rather prone to the vengeful hand of lady physics and for what it is worth, these trucks handle exactly how I imagined a truck would handle. Admittedly, the closest I have come to a truck is driving past one so my opinion isn’t worth much.
As the title will suggest – Europe, or at least a large portion of it, is your playground. Reaching from Paris in the west to Poznan in the east and Milan in the south to Kiel in the north, also including a large portion of Great Britain. This expansive land is joined by a number of the major roads crisscrossing the continent, connecting over sixty major cities together. Of course distance and time is compressed, saving you the bother of having to make a eight-hour real time trip. This serves to leave you with a realistic simulator in action, but not forcing you to spend the best portion of a day making a cross-continental delivery.
The compression however does do some damage to the realism. When visiting the cities you aren’t met with the bustling urban sprawl encountered that would be expected here on the mortal plane. What is found is a few roads linked together with a few points of interest located within, such as truck dealerships, recruitment agencies and companies that will offer you more jobs. To make up for the lack of explorable city a backdrop of the relevant cityscape is visible with the unique buildings and landmarks associated with the place which does give the impression that you are on the outskirts of the respective city, which is where I assume most haulage companies would be based.
The weather system is outstanding. Featuring a good day-night cycle as well as the weather it is easy to find yourself driving through a sunny France, just passing Metz to then run into a rainy patch heading to Reims. Aside from looking brilliant, it also sounds excellent and evokes real memories of driving through the rain (provided you have actually done so). The only flaw to be found with the weather is that it only drifts between sunny and rainy. There’s no snow to be found anywhere. I don’t actually remember if I saw any on the top of the alps when driving through Switzerland.
Another slight issue is the general scenery. Everything seems to be taken from a textbook approach. England has farms, The Netherlands has Wind Turbines and Poppies, France has Toll Booths. The finer details such as the hedges in Britain being missing are noticeable if you pay attention or if you know exactly what should be where but if you just let yourself drift away the scenery is very nice to look at and doesn’t ever seem to repeat itself. Combining this with the outstanding sound quality leaves for an unbelievably good relaxation tool if, like me, the sound of rain relaxes you.
Exploration of this land is also rewarding in a number of ways. From the core aspect of simply driving around and seeing new areas and locations, watching the golden path on the world map expand as it shows you where you’ve been. This allows you to see representations of landmarks that have been put in the correct geographical locations as well, such as the Humber Bridge in England, the Afsluitdijk in The Netherlands or the road tunnels beneath the Swiss Alps, to name just a few. At the same time your exploration will unlock cities which allows you to unlock more truck dealerships and recruitment agencies, as well as the ability to buy garages in other major cities and also more job options for yourself and your future employers.
After doing a number of small jobs, or taking on a loan from the bank, buying your own truck is possible which opens up the exploration and unlocks freight jobs, instead of simple transport jobs, which pay better. As well as buying a truck, you are able to upgrade the garage you began with. This brings up the other major part of the game, management simulation.
When a garage is upgraded, access to space for other trucks and drivers is unlocked. You hire a driver, buy him or her a truck to use and then they will find jobs by themselves out of the ones available. They seem to go for jobs within a reasonable range, sometimes missing the job through arriving too late but the downside is that is the only way to have them do a job. The management is strict, not allowing you to pick jobs for your employers though this is a smart move, keeping you in the drivers seat and out of the office.
Behind the drivers seat is inevitably where the magic happens. From the strong physics engine forcing you to think about how you’re going to have to take the next turn and if you’re braking early enough to having to pay attention to the cargo you’re hauling. A heavy cargo is more sluggish and you will have to brake earlier accordingly where a light cargo is more uncontrollable, requiring a finer touch in driving.
The simulation extends to putting you in control of all the finer details to turn signalling, which does work as I’ve had drivers coming the other way give me space to turn, as well as managing your lights, horn and windscreen wipers. Aside from drivers giving way at times the AI does seem to be downright stupid at times. A few times I have noticed head-on collisions from a car trying to overtake on a single-lane road and not making it in time which does make for a funny scene, but does slightly break immersion.
Euro Truck Simulator finds itself in a great position. This is a simulator that doesn’t sacrifice gameplay for realism, nor realism for gameplay. Driving mechanics that are realistic, and control offered as full or as little as you would like and a simple, but well made, business management system. With excellent visuals and a well detailed world this is one well worth enjoying and easy to sit down and relax with.