February 2, 2016 1:10 PM | John Bridgman
Euro Truck Simulator 2 by SCS Software was a surprise hit that drew a lot of attention, and begat multiple expansions and content packs. Despite having a very innocuous concept, the presentation and mechanics of the simulation added up to a game that was both fun to play and entertaining to watch. American Truck Simulator is the next in the series of freight hauling games by the same company, and it does a lot of things right as a follow up to the previous title.
Mechanically the game is essentially the same, as it seems to run on nearly the same engine as before. This is probably a wise decision, since the simulation ran quite well already, and didn't need that much refinement. It does mean that it looks visually quite similar, which isn't a deal breaker, but it does make it look a little dated. It does however change a few minor things - it adds in multiple options for cargo delivery upon arrival depending on your driving skills and desire to precisely maneouvre your truck. Subtle changes, but they do allow you to have more decisions in how you want to play the game.
Being able to decide how you want to play the game was one of the brightest spots of Euro Truck Simulator 2, and this game also delivers that. Several different control modes and transmission types are at your disposal, to make sure the game is as easy or challenging as you want to play, without forcing you to do things you really don't want to. Driving a freight truck is complicated, but you can still get a fun experience of doing so even without worrying about shifting gears.
The available area to drive in is, sadly, a bit on the small side, with California and Nevada being the available states currently. These two are surprisingly diverse in their environments, but people who enjoyed having western Europe as their area of operation may find the lack of selection disappointing. There is definitely some contrast between the individual cities even within the states, with the winding roads of San Francisco feeling completely different to the comparatively massive expanse that is Los Angeles, and that helps alleviate this somewhat. Still, it feels a little lacking, especially coming from the previous game and its expansions.
What doesn't feel lacking is the feel of riding the open road, taking in the scenery while keeping your eyes peeled for traffic, trying to stretch your drive out just enough to deliver your cargo in time to get paid. Taking risks with your fuel or fatigue can lead to big payoffs or costly disaster occurring. In addition to that, the ability to set your own music up to play on the radio, or have live streaming radio playing in your truck cab has been retained. The game really takes hold on your when the right song comes on and you find yourself just driving on, singing along without really thinking too much.
American Truck Simulator is a good follow up to Euro Truck Simulator 2. It has the same feel and variety of ways to experience it as its predecessor, whether you want to run narrow delivery windows to make big money, or a game to play to kill time while listening to the radio or a podcast. It could definitely use some expansion in terms of geography as well as truck selection - currently there are only two thanks to licensing issues - but these hopefully will be resolved in time. If you're a fan of the previous game, or if you want a fun game that doesn't ask too much of you other than to enjoy yourself, this is definitely worth your consideration.