American Truck Simulator Review – Is It Worth Buying? ($20)

American Truck Simulator [official site] is a game all about following road rules, attempting – and failing – to park cargo without crashing and most of all, listening to country music. Is it worth buying?

I bought Euro Truck Simulator 2 in one of those 50% off sales because a friend told me I should buy it. It sat there in my library, untouched, for about a year, until I decided to see what all the fuss was about. ‘Surely driving petrol from Zurich to Glasgow isn’t that exciting,’ I thought, but boy (or girl), was I wrong! I’ve never had so much fun driving around in a virtual world, listening to old folk music in my life! Get rid of Grid, Forza and Dirt, ETS2 is it! The best of the best!

A couple of weeks later I saw American Truck Simulator. This is not to say that I had never seen it before, because I had. It was floating around Steam’s ‘new releases’ section about a year ago, but I didn’t pay attention to it back then. Now I understood why people loved these simulators so much, so I decided to see whether American Truck Simulator compared. They’re both made by the same people, of course, so I had high hopes that ATS would be just as good as ETS2. I’m not at all disappointed.

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Hauling freight.

I’m going to be very forthright and say that American Truck Simulator is the Tyrion Lannister of the truck simulator family, in that it’s definitely smaller, but just as, if not more charming. The game is a 1:20 scale of America and currently with three states — California, Nevada and Arizona (although New Mexico is to be added soon and more to come in the form of free/paid DLC). While the game falls short with only three states after over a year on the Steam Store, those states are fantastic, and I’m sure you would agree with me in saying that I would rather have three great states than ten bad ones.

The cities in the game are similar to the cities in real life, but with the map being 1:20 it’s twenty times smaller and only so much can be put into them with that scale. The major landmarks are represented quite well, but we need bigger cities!

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Traffic lights; a trucker’s worst nightmare.

Similar to ETS2, upon starting the game, you’ll be put straight into a job. Once you have completed that job in the limited time you have before you are deemed late, you’ll be able to accept some other ones from the ‘Quick Job’ list and gain some more money and experience. After a while of playing and accumulating experience, you will get emailed by the bank telling you that you are finally able to take out loans that you can use to buy trucks. If you decide to get a loan and buy a truck, you’ll be permitted to access the ‘Freight Market’ section of the job list, which contains trips that will give you a lot more money than the quick jobs which you don’t need a truck for. As usual with most real loans and in ETS2, you are required to pay them back in instalments with interest determined by how much you borrowed, or in a lump sum if you have the money.

In almost every truck simulator game out there, following the road rules is a key element and that doesn’t stop in ATS. Every now and then you’ll need to enter a weigh station to get your truck weighed, you must keep on or below the speed limit, stop at red lights, indicate before turning (although I sometimes don’t indicate and don’t get caught), don’t crash into people, etc. or you’ll risk getting fined. You’ll also have to bear in mind that the trucks can take damage and you’ll have to pay thousands of dollars on repairs if you do crash — it is also a similar case with cargo, where your money in return for delivering it will be considerably less.

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I’m absolutely loving this seaside scenery!

One thing I loved about ETS2 was that there were so many trucks to choose from, so you could pick your favourite brand and be on your way. Unfortunately, there are only two truck companies in American Truck Simulator, Peterbilt and Kenworth, but the variety of trucks with different styles and specifications somewhat make up for that. It would be significantly better if we were given a larger choice of brands to choose from, but when you’re driving around, there isn’t really much difference as long as you have a decent rig.

The number of truck customisation options is incredible, which can be either purely aesthetic, like lights, paint jobs and cabin accessories, or functional, such as engines, chassis, suspension, etc. It’s nice having the ability to change up my rig, creating my own style, and ATS is doing terrific with that so far.

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Pimpin’ my ride.

There are plenty of trailers that you can cart around, including lengths of vents, giant gas tanks, fertiliser, crackers, etc. which can be up to 53 ft. long. This makes parking different ranks of difficult each time. Use those mirrors!

Obviously, in a truck sim, the trucks need to feel realistic. I’ve never driven a real big truck before, but American Truck Simulator feels as I would expect real lorries to drive. If you’re not happy with the way they drive, there are a few mods in the Steam Workshop that slightly alter it to make it feel ‘more realistic’. We’ll come back to that in a minute, but first:

There are pedestrians! Every now and then, especially in urban areas, you will most likely come across people as interesting as the fellas in the image below, having a right ol’ chat. I’ve also seen people dancing to jukeboxes and working near cargo drop-off areas, fiddling around with stuff.

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Don’t mind me, I’m just eavesdropping.

What is possibly the best part of ATS is the fact that it supports the Steam Workshop. Many games don’t have it, but the ones that do allow you to modify your game and share those modifications have an advantage. I have installed a visual mod (though these screenshots are all without the mod), a sounds pack and a physics mod that makes my trucks tip a little bit easier for the extra challenge.

One mod (or rather, standalone program), Truckers MP, allows you to play with hundreds of other people online. I’ve spent hours playing Euro Truck Simulator 2 with this mod, hauling loads from Dover to Paris with some friends — great fun! Now that it has been brought to America, I’ll spend even more hours carrying cargo from Los Angeles to Las Vegas with company as opposed to all alone, as usual.

I play with a steering wheel and pedals for maximum realism and playability and it works perfectly. There are many options to alter the controls and steering and pedal values, so I highly doubt there would be a problem that a little setting-tinkering wouldn’t resolve. I’ve also heard that the game works with Oculus Rift devices, though I don’t have one so I can’t guarantee anything.

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Trucking in the rain.

For a low price of $20, American Truck Simulator is definitely worth your time if you’re into simulation games. There’s no better way to spend your money than on driving big rigs around the deserts and towns of a small America.

👍 American Truck Simulator IS worth the US$20 it is available for.