Euro Truck Simulator 2 (Windows) Review
Posted by Marc Morrison on 03.11.2013
411maniaís Marc Morrison explores the long roads and builds a trucking empire in this new simulator game. Find out if the game jackknifes itself or not inside.
Title: Euro Truck Simulator 2
Publisher: SCS Software
Developer: SCS Software
Rated: E for Everyone.
Available for PC
Euro Truck Simulator 2 has had some appreciable buzz about it since its release a month and a half ago. Iíll be honest; I took this game for about 80% curiosity and 20% as a mild goof. Itís not to say that simulators canít be good but there have been an increasing number of them coming from Eastern Europe (this one hails from the Czech Republic). Surprisingly, this game is very solid. It does have a few flaws but by and large works well. The more shocking thing is that I actually found myself enjoying the game, the more time I spent with it. The game gets inside your head somewhat and youíll slowly become addicted to it.
By the title, Euro Truck Simulator 2 is the sequel to the earlier Euro Truck Simulator game, kind of obvious. ETS2 has you trying to understand all facets of the trucker life style, from the basics of driving the truck, to learning to park it, to following road laws and getting the cargo delivered on time. This is about the basic surface level of the game, actually. Iíd wager about 75% of the game is just this mode, give or take. Thankfully, the driving model works, and is fun, or else the game would fail.
So, driving a truck is obviously different then driving most other forms of transportation. The sheer weight of the truck, coupled with the high amount of gears (in a manual transmission), the wide turning radius, and the trailer itself all make for a harrowing experience at the start. On my first job, I took an off ramp at too high a speed, tried to make a turn and flipped over my truck and cargo. Thankfully, the game has a handy towing service you can call that will get you back on the road at the nearest town.
Obeying traffic laws is a big part of actually driving the truck. Youíll have to obey the speed limit, drive on the correct side of the road (so yes, driving on the opposite side in the UK), stop at red lights, not getting into crashes and what not. This makes driving an involved process, since youíll always have to be aware of what is going on. You canít just coast through the freeways and city not paying attention. Each infraction will cost you money, and possibly damage your truck if you accidently crash into something. One thing I wish the game did was give you better directions on the speed limit of the roads in the game. Youíll occasionally see signs posted but they are infrequent in spots but itís not enough. There might be an option in the HUD to tell you the speed limit of a given street more directly, but I havenít found it. Aside from this one niggle the actual street/highway driving of the game is a fun and rewarding experience. Itís actually a sort of Zen feeling as you rack up the miles and such. You just kind of let your mind go blank and enjoy the scenery but being careful enough to keep the truck safe, as well as other drivers.
As you drive, youíll run into a few gameplay systems to break up the pace. The big two are that your truck uses fuel and your trucker gets tired the more he/she goes on. Both are fairly self-explanatory, in a sense. The more you drive, the lower your fuel goes down. If it goes down too much youíll run out of gas and need to be towed to the nearest station. Also as you drive for long periods of time, your tiredness meter will increase. Youíll get audio clues (a yawning sound) the more the meter increases. Eventually, youíll get into a danger zone and start blacking out for short periods of time and start being charged for staying up. Generally, itís easy to manage both of these systems. Along the roads youíll frequently see gas stations and parking spots for you to recharge yourself and your truck. Both events take time, although sleeping takes several more hours then filling up your gas tank. However, sometimes youíll need to chance it in order to make a tight deadline, so itís a little of a risk vs. reward system.
Damage is included in the game but the implementation is a bit awkward. The biggest strike against it is that there isnít any physical damage modeling on the truck/body itself. This kind of takes a lot of the potential fun away as you play the game. Itís always interesting to see how far you can push these games outside of their expected behavior, and in this one, you canít do much. The damage system is all internal and under the hood, literally. I wrecked a truck to100% damage and the only thing that happened was my engine kept having a malfunction and dying on me. It took me about 2 minutes of coaxing the engine to do any forward movement and I limped it back to the service station for repairs. Itís not a bad system by any means, I just wish it was more flexible and able to show damage more clearly than what it does.
The last big job when youíre driving the truck is actually parking the truck. Once you get to your destination you have the option of either dropping the cargo off close to the building or else trying to park the trailer in a specific spot for more experience. Parking the truck is an extremely arduous process with a ton of correcting on the spot and slow reversing. Donít be surprised if it takes you 5 minutes, or more, in order to actually park the trailer. The experience boost is helpful though and after a few times at it, youíll eventually get the hang of backing up slowly and trying to maneuver the trailer around an enclosed parking lot.
Earlier I said that driving your truck was about 75% of the game itself. The other 25% involves actually building a business and making a trucking company profitable. At the start of the game, you donít even have a truck of your own, and youíre essentially a gofer for various other trucking companies to do small jobs. Eventually the bank will let you take out a loan for a truck of your own which lets you do two things: 1. Free-roam around the world, and 2. Take slightly higher paying jobs delivering cargo for others. Iíll start with the second choice, first. Basically, you are given a job to deliver cargo from one town to another. The difference between this job and a quick job (the normal ones) is that you have to physically drive to the starting location, pick up the trailer and then drive it to its destination. With the quick job youíre just instantly transported to the start to do the job, and then transported back to your garage when itís over. This can greatly add to your traveling time, but the pay might be worth it, especially since it ties into the free-roam aspects.
The free-roam system is exactly what it says. Whenever youíre not on a specific job, you are free to roam around the environment as you please. This lets you fill in the overall map exploration percentage (giving you some exp. as you do so) but also lets you find new garageís, truck dealers, repair centers, and recruitment centers all across Europe. The more places you find, the more overall options you have for expansion.
The two big things when it comes to running your business is hiring staff and leveling up your own driver. You can hire staff at the recruitment centers you find, or just from the in-game map. Different drivers will have different ratings and skills, with the more experienced drivers demanding a higher salary, but being worth it. Once you hire a driver, youíll also need to buy them a rig for them to drive, which you can do from the various truck dealerships you find. As your employees do their own jobs, they will level up independently from you, and become better drivers. As you complete jobs yourself, your own driver levels up unlocking upgrades from stores and skill points. Your driver has a tech tree of various abilities to unlock ranging from; long-distance driving, Ecodriving, Fragile Cargo, or ADR (Hazardous Goods). As you gain more ranks in these fields, youíll get more money for doing runs, be able to transport dangerous cargo, or be able to drive your truck for longer periods. It gives you a nice feeling seeing your driver level up and become better.
Visually, the game is hit or miss in spots. It doesnít push your system hard at all, but itís not really meant to. The trucks themselves are nicely detailed as is the general environment around you. There is some good shadow work as well, particularly when youíre on a road that has wind turbines overhead. The rain effect is quite nice to look at, the way it streaks on the windshield and blots on the window are great. While the towns arenít photo realistic in the slightest way, they do get the general point across. The relative downside to having such a huge world to explore is that the actual polygon count of other traffic seems extremely low. If you crash into another card, the other car only has about 4 frames of animation to extricate itself from the crash. Also, as said above, the lack of damage modeling is kind of a bummer. There also seems to be a little blurriness to some of the game, it doesnít happen all the time, but it can be noticeable if you look for it.
Sound is saved in this game by the in-game radio. The sounds of the truck are exactly what you expect. The radio is the key to really enjoying the game. When you select it, youíre given a list of real European internet radio stations to choose from. These stations range from techno, to house, to trance, to pop, to electronica, to dubstep, to rave and more. Youíd think Iím kidding, but Iím really not, electronic music is huge in Europe, way more so than America. It helps give the game an authentic feeling that you really are traveling around in Europe.
I should give out two small warnings when playing this game. The first is that a controller is probably recommended, if not required. Actually the ideal scenario would be for you to have a full racing wheel/pedals/gearshift/TrackIR setup so you can really immerse yourself in the driving experience. Iím not that crazy, so I used a 360 Gamepad which worked fairly well. You could try and play with a keyboard, but youíre missing the analog feel, so it might feel awkward. The second, more serious warning is about the Internet Radio itself. I would recommend that you pick a low bitrate station at the onset of the game. If that works fine, then you can try to go to a better quality stream and see if that works. The first two times tried the radio I selected a 192K stream which kept cutting out constantly. I then tried a 128K stream as I was driving which crashed the game entirely. So be sure to test this out a little before you go deep into the road.
-Great truck driving feel
-Leveling up and putting stats in your driver is fun
-European techno radio station
-Really good looking rain effects
-No visual damage modeling
-Internet radio crashed the game
-Some low graphical fidelity surrounding the game
On the face of it, Euro Truck Simulator 2 is a bit goofy to most Americans. Donít let it fool you though; it is a deep, fun and immensely relaxing game to spend hours of your time in. While the experience of driving a truck isnít 100% of where Iíd want it to be, it is damn close of just being an enjoyable experience. The empire building, the employee management and the leveling up mechanic of your own driver all extend the gameís replay value and gives you goals to work for. Itís one of the best simulation games Iíve ever played.
The various trucks look good in the game and the weather looks realistic. Other cars are low quality, but the sheer size of the environment makes up for it.
Surprisingly deep and rewarding when you complete a job. The driving is mellow and relaxing but you always need to be on your guard for things around you.
The gameís sound effects are what you would expect. The audio is up to you, either from your own library or from internet radio stations. The stations are a great idea.
The beginning few hours are slow, but once you get your trucking empire going, this game can keep you entertained for hours at a time.
I honestly had a blast while playing this game. You can just zone out, watch the miles go on by and listen to a bunch of crazy European music youíve never heard of, as your truck travels down the road.