Euro Truck Simulator 2 • PC • Available now
“Ahhhhh! I’m on the wrong side of the road! Go left, go left! Argh! The back’s sliding now! Oh I’m on my side. These peas will never get to Stuttgart now…” – Ask my wife and she will regale you of tales just like this where I have narrated my trucking adventures that have ended in disaster. So why do I keep coming back to Euro Truck Simulator 2, glutton for punishment? Well, as many establishments have said before, this is actually a very well thought out and polished simulator with actual game elements attached and by jove is it addictive.
Unlike a lot of simulators where different vehicles and different routes are there waiting for you from the get-go, in ETS2, you have to earn them. You start off in one of the many famous trucking cities across Europe but with a pittance in your pocket and not a single 18-wheeler to call your own. You have to earn your wage by taking quick jobs from cities you’ve visited in-game across Europe in order to get your holy grail, your very own truck. Once you have that, you can free roam and find truck dealerships, new cities and recruitment agencies – the latter comes into its own when you have established your own company and are able to hire employees to do deliveries for you in order to become Europe’s largest truck magnate. The game even has a leveling and skill point system to help you earn more money, or allow you to haul your load further across the continent without getting tired. There are definitely a lot more RPG and management-sim game elements than you may assume from the name.
Of course, though, this is a simulator game and as such it needs to feel like you’re delivering tractors, fuel tanks and millions upon millions of peas and I’m happy to say it does a good job. There are a few issues: the game doesn’t really do a lot with the cities you visit – don’t expect to see many landmarks or indeed buildings for that matter. Also, the AI of the cars around you isn’t up to scratch – if anything unexpected gets in the path of a car, it will stop, and will likely never move again, even if the obstruction is cleared. Similarly, I have encountered long queues going onto an empty motorway from a slip road for no reason whatsoever.
But these are minor niggles and are uncommon enough that they don’t spoil the immersion. Obviously the routes aren’t 300 miles of road and don’t really take you four and a half hours to or so to complete and are interesting and of just the right length to make you feel like you’ve put in a good day’s trucking. The variety of the map is commendable and some of the scenery has, on occasion, seen me endanger my cargo and change the view so I could enjoy passing by a viaduct at sunset just a little bit more. The weather transition while maybe not be as flawless as say F1 2012 or Gran Turismo 5, but it is well done enough that you will see black clouds approaching and you’ll know to prepare for a deluge. And then there is perhaps one of my favourite features, the radio. You can pick from hundreds of online streams of European radio stations to play while you’re trucking – anything from Eastern European country to Dutch rock with a little bit of Europop thrown in there as well. You can even add other online radio streams, though the process is a little difficult. Still, there’s nothing quite like pretend driving through a German forest with Veronica Rock NL playing you The Who followed by unknown dutch band #63 playing their latest hit.
And do you know what. All of this is fun. Fun in a way you really wouldn’t expect. Simulator games do get a bad reputation – the market has been swamped with some plainly ridiculous titles that cheapen the term ‘simulator’, while others want you to spend upwards of a £1000 for new routes and vehicles, things that modding communities used to be able to make for free. ETS2 and to a lesser extent Farming Simulator 2013 have both given the albeit specialist genre a boost as they attempt to be actual games as well as simulation sandboxes and I’m pleased to say that Euro Truck Simulator 2 accomplishes this with aplomb. It’s not just a very good simulator, it’s a very good game full-stop.
And a huge, huge time-sink. Time to save those peas…