Euro Truck Simulator 2 Review

Euro Truck Simulator 2 (ETS2) is exactly what it sounds like. It’s a simulator that tasks the player with hauling cargo around western Europe via tractor trailer.

Story/Presentation

Basically, it’s a longhaul trucking sim set in Europe. It is not a high octaine racing experience. There are no “tractor pull” events, drag races, or races of any kind. That may sound boring to you, but if you like driving games you may be in for a surprise. Let’s take a closer look.

Gameplay

The core goal of the game is pretty basic: Build a trucking empire from nothing. You’ll start out as a contract driver, taking a variety of jobs from different employers, and using their trucks (you don’t own one yet) to deliver their goods to their customers. Once you’re able to afford a truck, things start to take off.

After you purchase a truck, you’ll unlock the ability to free roam. Drive wherever you want, whenever you want. You don’t have to take a load if you don’t want to. Just take your cab and go exploring. Now that free roam has been “unlocked”, you’ll get several new options on the business side of things such as purchasing new garages, upgrading your existing garage, and hiring new drivers to work for your business. This is all reasonably painless and easy to manage thanks to the solid menu interface. It’s nothing fancy, but it’s easy enough to use and gets the job done.

Now that you’re on the road, able to roam at will, things are basically set. From here on out it’s pretty much the same thing over and over again. You pick up loads, you haul them to the designated location, you drop them off, you get paid, rinse and repeat. As you haul loads you’ll gain experience. Once you level up, you’ll get to choose new upgrades or perks such as eco-driving (getting more out of your fuel), increasing the distance you can haul (gives more options for jobs), hazmat (hazardous materials) certified and more.

You’ll also be able to upgrade your trucks. As you gain new levels you unlock more customization options. You get body modifications, paint, tires, side mirrors, lights, horns, and a host of other things to play with. Customization is more than just visual though, you can purchase a more powerful engine and better transmission as well.

Because ETS2 is a sim, driving includes all the usual activities. Turn signals, hazard lights, and head lights should be used appropriately; speed limits should be obeyed (there’s a fine for speeding); and you’ll have to wait your turn at traffic lights, yield signs, and railroad crossings. Also of note, trucks can and do take damage, and must be kept in fair condition to operate properly. Sadly there is no damage modeling to go along with it. You’ll also need to manage your fuel consumption and tiredness level. Your driver can only be awake for 12 in-game hours. There are fuel stations and stop offs littered around to refuel and rest up.

In addition to following all of the normal road procedures you’ll also have to contend with rain from time to time. It doesn’t really seem to do much other than add atmosphere though. I haven’t noticed the trucks being any more difficult to handle during a rainstorm. You typically just have to turn on your wipers and headlights, and accept that your long range visibility will be impaired. Short range visibility is unaffected.

In the end, the primary goal of the game is simply to have fun. ETS2 is not a game you play to win, it’s a game you play to enjoy, and frankly there doesn’t need to be any more. It’s a game about driving trucks as realistically as possible. So the fact that driving trucks is all there is to do doesn’t really bother me. You’ll either enjoy it or you won’t.

Game World

In the intro I stated that you may like ETS2 if you like driving games. While the gameplay itself doesn’t sound all that stimulating, I stand by my statement, and here’s why. The game world of ETS2 is one of the most pleasant gaming environments that I’ve visited, especially as a driver. As you haul your cargo from point A to point B, you’ll cut through towns, meander through idyllic countrysides, and cross over streams and rivers. The game’s large map covers all of Great Britain, and covers a large portion of western Europe from northeastern France over to the Czech Republic and western Poland. It’s not a “1 to 1” real world representation by any means, but it’s still one of the bigger maps I’ve explored.

A big reason why this works is because the driving mechanics are terrific. SCS Software have done a fantastic job crafting an authentic driving experience. Trucks feel appropriately heavy, and have believably realistic acceleration/deceleration times. Turning is solid and can be challenging on occasion, especially on narrow streets or tight corners. It’s simply a wonderful experience overall.

The only real problem with the game world is actually a rather glaring one. While there are dozens of cities, each city is the size of a small town. Even large cities like London, Paris, Prague, and Berlin are extremely small. This hurts the immersion (one of the key elements in a sim game), and is somewhat sad to see.

Controls

As with many sims, the controls for ETS2 can be somewhat complicated. While no where near as complex as flight sim controls, there are enough to present minor issues for those using a wheel or controller. First, while the game does support keyboard and mouse controls, I wouldn’t recommend it. As with many racing/driving games, ETS2 was clearly designed with something more subtle in mind. A steering wheel would probably be preferable, but a gamepad or joystick should work well enough. Even once you plug in your preferred controller, you’ll likely want to look over the control interface as the defaults (at least for the gamepad) are difficult to use and don’t make much sense.

The controls can work really well, it just takes a little extra work to set them up properly. In addition, there will almost certainly be more useful commands than you can map to your gamepad. This means you’ll either have to go without, or keep a keyboard handy for any extra commands you want to access.

Graphics and Sound

The graphics and sound package in ETS2 is a mixed bag. In the graphics department, the trucks, trailers, and roads look fantastic. However, the AI cars on the road see a noticeable drop in quality. It’s not bad, but it’s definitely a noticeable drop. The wonderful, rolling countryside could also use a major boost graphically. The cities look pretty good, and fields are not bad, but the forests could use some work.

As for the sound, again the trucks are fantastic. Everything sounds excellent. As for the soundtrack, well, there isn’t one exactly. What you get instead is actually a neat idea. First, you can import your own music (uncommon but hardly unheard of), second the game actually provides you with a number of European internet radio stations to tap into. This is a great addition if you’re looking for authenticity and immersion. There’s nothing quite like driving from Calais to Lyon while listening to French radio. If you’re not up for that you can always insert your own favorite internet radio station.

Problems

As much as I like the game, it’s certainly not perfect. There are some rather noticeable issues in certain areas.

To start with there’s the issue with the cities mentioned above. They’re just too small. The map isn’t a 1 to 1 representation of Europe, so I don’t expect the entire city of London to be available, but something more than a half dozen city blocks would be nice.

Next, there’s a rather frustrating issue with the AI. Normally, the AI cars are quite smart. They stop when they need to, they obey the traffic laws, etc. However, if an AI car gets into an accident, they will turn on their hazard lights and sit there for a long time. Typically this means you have to find a way around them, which isn’t always so easy when you’re hauling 25 tons of glass.

Another issue is that some AI cars are exceedingly kind and will unfailingly skip large gaps in traffic to wait for the next car to get there. This can lead to long backups and traffic jams. Again, you’re only recourse here is to either wait a very long time (usually), or to find a “creative” way around the situation. These are both rather frustrating circumstances that often end up damaging your cab and can cost you quite a bit of cash in fines for causing accidents (depending on how “creative” you get).

Verdict:

Despite the issues with the AI, and the size of the cities, ETS2 can still be a tremendous game. Driving is realistic and a wonderfully calming experience. It’s neither the fastest paced nor the prettiest game around, but if you enjoy driving games, you’ll definitely want to look this one up. If you’re curious, you can always try the free demo available through SCS’s website or Steam.

Pros:

– Great driving experience
– Pleasent world to drive in
– Smart AI drivers (usually)
– Huge map

Cons:

– Tiny cities
– AI has some behavioral issues
– No multiplayer

Euro Truck SImulator 2 is a fantastic simulation game, and a great option for people who enjoy virtual driving.  It provides a great driving experience and a wonderfully atmospheric world to drive in.  It’s such a well executed game that the small cities and AI issues do little to detract from the overall experience.

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