American Truck Simulator is a fun arcade game, but it’s no simulator, and can be quite annoying

Photo: Bradley Wint/Try Modern

I can’t remember my incentive for buying Euro Truck Simulator 2, but I ended up loving it even though it was a somewhat basic game. Going through the various updates, the SCS team added tons of new features and fixes to improve the game.

With a huge modding community as well, I invested hundreds of hours without even realizing it and spending hundreds of thousands on my Peterbilt 389.

Last year, the SCS team announced an American spinoff called American Truck Simulator which was supposed to use the same framework, starting in California with eventual plans to cover all states in the U.S.

Fast forward to today, I’ve spent $20 for the game and invested over 50 hours of gameplay, and while I am generally satisfied with the platform so far (given that more of my focus is on using mods and expecting more scenery in the future), I must say that there are a few blaring issues which are making this game a total nightmare to some extent. Mind you, this is in no way a full review, but rather just a piece to highlight some of the outstanding issues still present a few months after its release.

Really bad AI traffic

Trying to get into the flow of traffic? Unless you force your way into the actual lane, no one is going to stop for you. The indicator seems to work when merging onto the freeway, but good luck at other types of intersections.

Then there is that issue where you can be stuck at a filter traffic light for as many as 5-8 rotations as the AI only allows one vehicle at a time, because the 2nd and 3rd vehicles are obviously not bright enough to determine whether it’s safe to follow along with the first vehicle.

What about accidents? Let’s say you’re cruising down the freeway at 50mph and accidentally clip a nearby vehicle, instead of your truck pushing them forward or to the side, their vehicle comes to an abrupt halt as if they’ve slammed into an invisible wall. I’ve incurred at much as 60% worth of damage because of these sudden stops and collisions. Rather than the cars being thrown along into another lane like real world physics would have them do, they just stop right then and there, which sometimes makes me feel like throwing my keyboard out the window…and seeing them drive off like all is well. “Well f*** you too, car!”

Another annoying AI “feature” happens when vehicles randomly decelerate for literally no obvious reason, which means you also have slam the brakes or pull into another lane to avoid a collision. It’s all well and good if they slow down about 5-10mph, but random drops as much as 20mph in a very short space can be quite a task when dealing with an especially heavy load. This and extreme deceleration near reduced speed zones are somethings the team should really look at. The last time I checked, I didn’t floor the brake just to reduce my speed in a slower zone. Must be the new “brake check” feature they’ve implemented.

I’d definitely agree with Squirrel to say that car insurance would be a cool addition as AI can end up costing you quite a bit if you’re not super careful.

Boring trailers

Maybe it’s just me but I feel like ETS2 had way more fun trailers to work with. I actually hoped that ATS would have introduced oversized and wide load trailers to make it a bit more interesting given that American laws are way less restrictive with freight sizes, but we’re still stuck with the run of the mill reefers, cisterns and equipment-loaded flatbeds. Those are all alright, but the mod community once again shines in this area with many heavy loads with additions such as electric generators, large tubes, airplane engines, and the famous baobab tree (even though the cars driving under it can be awkward at time).

The scenery can get boring pretty quickly

I guess if you’re a real life trucker, seeing new sights may not always be part of the job as you might be required to work similar or the same routes all the time, but this is a video game at the end of the day. With only 50+ hours, I’ve explored about 80% of the map without much effort (i.e. not changing my routes) and some of the scenes are already becoming quite monotonous. The most exciting parts of the game now are the trailer pickups and drop-offs.

Maybe I’m just really excited to try out Arizona once it goes live.

Missing tid bits

There are a few minor additions which I felt should have been added to the game such as the occasional puffs of smoke, or even the option to roll coal with more classic models.

What about tire lock up and skid marks? I know companies like Volvo have developed incredible braking systems that reduce tire skid, but with the variety of in game truck brands, it would be nice to see a little more realism when the brakes are slammed to the floor (rather than a steady and grippy deceleration).

This would be especially interesting when it rains as a little bit of water on the road tends to change the entire driving ballgame.

I’d hate to think it’s alright to bend corners at 70mph in pouring rain without some kind of fear of jack-knifing. Ya, ya, ya, we’re supposed to drive at the speed limit but it’s still something that can be added.

Wrap up

I felt like making a fuss about engine sounds and the realism of some aspects of the trucks exterior might have been too harsh as the game is only $20, but I wish they would have spent more time on more important issues rather than introducing spiked wheel lug nuts and rim color customizations. Those could wait.

Anyway, I’m in for it for the ummm…long haul, so maybe, just maybe, they may finally work on some of these outstanding issues.

With all that being said, it’s a great game and I have already encouraged a number of my friends to buy it as well.

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