American Truck Simulator didn’t feel like home, and that’s exactly what I was hoping for.
Living on the south coast of England, Euro Truck Simulator has given me countless hours of cathartic enjoyment over the years. Switch on the radio, jump into a truck and barrel down the M5 in the wind and rain. It’s familiar weather, familiar roads, familiar sounds, a palate cleanser when you just want somewhere comforting to call home.
Considering my only experience of American roads is L.A. during the Electronic Entertainment Expo, American Truck Simulator‘s opening vistas seemed very reminiscent of the sun-bleached highways running between the San Fernando Valley and LAX. American Truck Simulator is, for all intents and purposes, Euro Truck Simulator 2… but with straighter stretches of highway.
“I learned that California’s sprawling, multi-lane highways mean very little, because as soon as you try and take an exit for an area like Central L.A. you might as well walk your cargo to its destination”
In 2012’s Euro Truck Simulator 2, players took on work as a truck driver. Initially taking contract jobs from other companies, you can save up for your own trucks, eventually your own staff, and basically, just drive trucks from A to B. The next step? Upgrade your trucks, take on bigger jobs with more high-risk cargo, form a business of your own and help it to thrive.
American Truck Simulator operates in very much the same vein as ETS, but they’ve swapped out drizzly motorways and small winding towns for huge American highways and cities you can drive through in an almost entirely straight line.
You’ll need to keep an eye on damage to your truck, how awake your driver is, how much fuel you have and if any cargo has been destroyed, all while trying to avoid fines that could end up making a job cost you rather than earning you money.
In terms of control schemes, American Truck Simulator has several available options. From controlling the camera with the mouse and the truck with your keyboard, to using a full driving wheel setup, various customizable layouts are on offer to pick from.
While a full driving wheel is obviously ideal, mouse and keyboard control works well enough to not hinder gameplay. Steam Controller support was surprisingly solid, employing a combination of sticks, buttons and gyro motion to control the game. American Truck Simulator does a great job with its menu system of highlighting the pros and cons of each control scheme, where they lie between simplicity and degree of control, which should make picking out a control scheme a far less daunting task for new players.
For those looking for the full experience of a driving wheel and a virtual reality headset, be aware that VR support for looking around is not available in the game at launch. While the developer promises VR support as an optional beta branch in the same way it was offered in Euro Truck Simulator 2, there’s no word how far after launch that support will come.
At launch, American Truck Simulator only has two models of truck available for players; the Kentworth T 680 and Peterbilt 579. While this lack of variety is likely to be a shock to current Euro Truck Simulator players, there’s going to be more than enough for the average newcomer to sink their teeth into. The game also only has California and Nevada available to start with (Arizona and other areas are set to arrive in the coming months as free downloadable content). While you’re not going to be doing a coast-to-coast drive any time soon, there’s already an acceptable amount of content to explore. Driving from Sacramento to Oakland and back is going to take some time, show you a variety of scenery and provide a host of unique driving challenges.
Where Euro Truck Simulator employed European-style static speed cameras, which allowed players to become familiar with the routes and simply ignore speed limits when out of the cameras’ range, American Truck Simulator instead utilizes roaming patrols of police cars that can pop up at any time. You have to remain aware of your speed, the vehicles around you, and areas where police might park to watch out for speeders.It removes some of the satisfaction of learning where you can cut corners on a route, but it does add an element of unpredictability, .
The AI also seems to be more alert and aware. Drivers stop earlier at lights to allow you room to make turns, other road users will pay attention to your indicators and provide openings to change lanes and you’re far less likely to have an idiotic driver pull out in front of you mid-maneuver. While these issues still exist to some degree, as unpredictable blockers to progression they are far less common.
As someone who spends most of their life talking to Americans online, but very rarely has a reference point for the tone or feel of any given state, American Truck Simulator allowed me to sit back for a few days and start to soak in the sights, sounds, and unique identities of California and Nevada. I learned Northern Nevada has these beautiful shades of deep red and orange in its sunsets that made me feel like everything, for just a minute, might be okay.
I learned that California’s sprawling, multi-lane highways mean very little, because as soon as you try and take an exit for an area like Central L.A. you might as well walk your cargo to its destination.
I fell asleep in my work chair one night, listening to an episode of Welcome to Nightvale because I had stayed up too late, and the five minutes spent waiting on weather conditions to improve ended up as a 20-minute long chair nap and a late delivery.
I lost almost 20 hours in a single weekend driving around a place that wasn’t home, until eventually it started to feel a little more familiar. That sense of relaxation and growing familiarity is exactly what makes American Truck Simulator so strong.