I’m driving down a long, remote desert road in the dead of night. There’s no other traffic and I can’t see anything except the glow of my headlights and the cracked, dusty asphalt ahead. I’m hypnotised by the road, which seems to go on forever. My attention drifts. ‘In the Air Tonight’ by Phil Collins plays on the classic rock radio station I’m tuned to. Then, suddenly, something appears directly in front of me. A shape on the road.I panic, my heart racing. In a long instant I think: is it a car? An animal? I slam on the brakes and skid to a lurching halt. Then I see it. A tumbleweed rolling lazily across the road in front of me, lit up by the glow of my lights. I laugh at myself and continue towards Los Angeles. I’ve got 30 tons of fertiliser to deliver, and time’s running out.This is what passes for an anecdote in American Truck Simulator, a game so slow and uneventful that the sudden appearance of tumbleweed is genuinely thrilling. These little moments—military jets streaking across the sky, strange sculptures by the side of the road, trains rumbling past—feel almost like rewards. A brief glimmer of excitement in a long drive across vast swathes of largely empty nothingness.Like its predecessor, Euro Truck Simulator, it’s a game that is mysteriously compelling despite its mundane subject matter. It’s a fundamentally good game, with weighty, nuanced handling, a deep simulation, and higher production values than most sims. This results in something both very playable and oddly hypnotic. Driving from place to place, obeying the traffic laws, watching the scenery roll by, listening to the radio… it’s incredibly relaxing.
Living on the south coast of England, Euro Truck Simulator has given me countless hours of cathartic enjoyment over the years. Switch on the radio, jump into a truck and barrel down the M5 in the wind and rain. It’s familiar weather, familiar roads, familiar sounds, a palate cleanser when you just want somewhere comforting to call home.Considering my only experience of American roads is L.A. during the Electronic Entertainment Expo, American Truck Simulator‘s opening vistas seemed very reminiscent of the sun-bleached highways running between the San Fernando Valley and LAX. American Truck Simulator is, for all intents and purposes, Euro Truck Simulator 2… but with straighter stretches of highway.At launch, American Truck Simulator only has two models of truck available for players; the Kentworth T 680 and Peterbilt 579. While this lack of variety is likely to be a shock to current Euro Truck Simulator players, there’s going to be more than enough for the average newcomer to sink their teeth into. The game also only has California and Nevada available to start with (Arizona and other areas are set to arrive in the coming months as free downloadable content). While you’re not going to be doing a coast-to-coast drive any time soon, there’s already an acceptable amount of content to explore. Driving from Sacramento to Oakland and back is going to take some time, show you a variety of scenery and provide a host of unique driving challenges.Where Euro Truck Simulator employed European-style static speed cameras, which allowed players to become familiar with the routes and simply ignore speed limits when out of the cameras’ range,American Truck Simulator instead utilizes roaming patrols of police cars that can pop up at any time. You have to remain aware of your speed, the vehicles around you, and areas where police might park to watch out for speeders.It removes some of the satisfaction of learning where you can cut corners on a route, but it does add an element of unpredictability, .The AI also seems to be more alert and aware. Drivers stop earlier at lights to allow you room to make turns, other road users will pay attention to your indicators and provide openings to change lanes and you’re far less likely to have an idiotic driver pull out in front of you mid-maneuver. While these issues still exist to some degree, as unpredictable blockers to progression they are far less common.Anyone who played Euro Truck Simulator 2 may find the game a little too familiar in places. The interface and structure are pretty much identical, and it feels like they’ve picked up the old game and dropped it into the new location. Even different colours or visual flourishes on the interface would have been welcome, just to remind you that it is indeed a new work.As a result, if you were already burned out on ETS, the new setting might not be enough to reignite your passion. It’s a very similar experience overall. The trucks—of which there are only two available at launch—don’t really feel that different to their European counterparts. It’s more like an iteration than a fully-blown sequel.But if SCS are as tireless and passionate with ongoing updates as they are with Euro Truck Simulator 2, ATS will only get better as it grows. America is a vast, varied country with a lot of different scenery, and more states to drive through will make for more interesting journeys. For now, this is a polished, strangely enjoyable simulator that you can easily lose hours to. But if you want to travel further afield, you might want to wait until there are more places to go to.