SCS Software has been developing simulation games since 2001, but the studio wasn’t as widely recognized until their Euro Truck Simulator debut in 2008. The small Czech team quickly became a cult icon among PC gamers, and their truck simulator franchise has since been hailed as the holy grail of the genre. It’s hard to explain what makes the series so unique because there’s nothing quite like it. While some fans adore the stupendous amount of customization options and the ability to operate your own freelance trucking business, others are simply mesmerized by the hypnotic gameplay. Driving for 5-10 hours across states while transporting massive cargo and listening to streaming radio stations may not sound like a recipe for success, but SCS Software has managed to transform the mundane into something truly special and unusual.
In 2012, Euro Truck Simulator 2 rose to critical acclaim across various media outlets, so it was only a matter of time before we saw another sequel. And here we are, nearly three years later, and Truck Simulator still manages to deliver the same serene gameplay experience while introducing more polished visuals and new environments. American Truck Simulator is the pinnacle of SCS Software’s simulation line-up, and unquestionably one of the most addictive sims on the PC platform.
"American Truck Simulator looks fantastic, and not just for a twenty dollar game made by a small team...it looks impressive even when stacked against high budget titles made by multi-studio teams."
Euro Truck Simulator 2 fans are going to feel right at home with American Truck Simulator. Structurally, the game has remained identical. You’re still tasked with building your business from scratch and working your way up to larger, more expensive shipments. Even the menu and UI is indistinguishable from its predecessor. In most other cases, this would be considered a major criticism. Not here. All the truck simulator games feel like they are part of one big universe, and the same goes for American Truck Simulator. It’s an extension of the dev’s previous work, and even though the individual titles aren’t directly tied together, you still get the impression that the different entries are all part of one massive ecosystem.
New to American Truck Simulator are the states of California, Nevada and an upcoming free expansion that includes Arizona. There are even rumors that New Mexico, Texas, Oregon or Washington might be added in the near future. These are massive states with gorgeous countrysides and endlessly long highways. There’s definitely a different vibe between the European and American settings, which is due to both the different highway layouts as well as the revamped graphics.
"I’ve never driven a Mack truck in my life, but the gameplay does a wonderful job of capturing the weight and size of these monstrous vehicles."
American Truck Simulator looks fantastic, and not just for a twenty dollar game made by a small team...it looks impressive even when stacked against high budget titles made by multi-studio teams. California is presented with excellent authenticity and meticulous detail. The lighting, textures, vehicle models and even the tiny pedestrians have all received a massive visual overhaul.
Even though you’re only restricted to highways and major roads, the devs have done a great job of creating the illusion of scale. The game is absolutely massive, with some runs taking upward of five hours going one way. Despite its size, the scenery looks distinct from city to city, and I had a hard time pointing out any reused assets in the environments. American Truck Simulator is unquestionably SCS Software’s most polished title, and I’m curious what these guys could pull off if they worked on a much larger project with a meatier budget.
For those unfamiliar with the series, American Truck Simulator is a semi-realistic representation of what it’s like to run your own freelance trucking business. You begin with no money in your pockets and no vehicles. At first, you take on quick jobs by using your client's’ trucks and delivering their goods to designated locations. Jobs pay anywhere from $800 up to $3800 early on, so if you want to buy your first truck (which is at least $140K), you have to either run many quick jobs without incurring any expenses or get a bank loan to speed up the process. If you do get a loan, you have to repay the money within a certain amount of days, but since driving your own truck opens up more opportunities for higher-paying jobs, you should have no problem cutting even quickly. Once your business begins to grow, you can upgrade your garage, which allows you to hire other drivers who can take on more jobs and eventually add another truck to your collection.
Driving isn’t as simple as holding down the accelerator and cruising down the highway. You have to abide by traffic laws or else you’re heavily penalized should you go over the speed limit or bump other cars. I’ve never driven a Mack truck in my life, but the gameplay does a wonderful job of capturing the weight and size of these monstrous vehicles. Driving the trucks, as simple as it may sound, is exciting because no other game offers the same kind of experience.
"American Truck Simulator is an absolute must for fans of the series, and it's the perfect starting point for anyone curious about SCS Software’s cult phenomenon."
Then there’s the parking. The parking is the most complex element of any Truck Simulator entry. Mastering the parking takes patience and skill. Having a gargantuan trailer attached to your truck while navigating a narrow construction site may be one of the most challenging scenarios you’ll ever face in a driving game. Landing that first parking is incredibly satisfactory, but if you’re just frustrated by the whole concept, you can easily skip the last step once you arrive at the landing dock.
Overall, American Truck Simulator is a more polished version of its Euro Truck predecessor. It’s essentially the same game in a different setting and with better visuals. But, for a meager twenty bucks, that’s not much of a criticism. It still carries the same charm and magnetic gameplay that fans have come to expect from SCS Software, but everything just feels more refined and fleshed out. American Truck Simulator is an absolute must for fans of the series, and it's the perfect starting point for anyone curious about SCS Software’s cult phenomenon.
Review by: Tin Salamunic | Reviewed on: PC