American Truck Simulator Review

February 17, 2016

I bought Euro Truck Simulator 2 almost as a joke. How hilarious would a game about truck driving, of all things, be? This is the true future of video games here. 360 noscope deliveries right on your PC! It was on sale for a couple of dollars and I had time to spare.

A hundred and seventy hours later, and it’s fair to say that, either the joke never got old, or it turns out the game was far more than the hilarious joke the internet made it out to be. The reality is that ETS2 is an engrossing driving experience completely unlike any other. Instead of trying to hoon around race tracks at improbable speeds, you have to keep within speed limits. Instead of aiming for the best line around corners, you have to make sure you don’t stray from your lane.

It is, in a lot of ways, the journey that makes the game. The long hauls across the motorways and autobahns of Europe. The surprisingly solid driving model helps, too: the trucks feel like the huge lumbering vehicles they are, and they require a dramatically different approach than you might expect.


So, the announcement of American Truck Simulator was met, not with a knowing smirk or a snide remark, but with genuine anticipation. I can legitimately say I was looking forward to it. Taking those solid driving physics and putting them on the vast interstate highway system of the United States? Sign me up, please.

The simple formula that makes ETS2 work so well has barely been changed here. The engine is mostly the same, which means that it looks pretty good for its time, but don’t expect any DirectX11 magic (the engine tops out at DX9). It also has some odd performance quirks, and a lot of shimmering effects in the distance (which can be mitigated by tweaking the game’s supersampling options). Overall though, it looks good enough.

Most importantly, the solid driving mechanics from ETS2 have been successfully translated to the USA. The larger trucks feel bigger and heavier, and they’re certainly trickier to manouver, requiring a little more care and awareness of both the longer front (There are no cab-over trucks in ATS) and the generally longer trailers.


Sadly, only two trucks models are available in-game right now, from Peterbilt and Kenworth. SCS has said they’re hoping to license more, but the lack of variety is glaring at this point. It’s also odd because they were quite happy to use stand-ins for well known brands in ETS2, such as Majestic for Mercedes-Benz, but that isn’t the case here. Hopefully more truck manufacturers get on board with the game, or SCS will become less concerned about using stand-ins.

The lack of trucks is just one of ATS’s two big limitations right now. The other is the actual map. At the time of release, only two US states— California and Nevada— are available. A third state, Arizona, is being added to the game as free DLC soon, and it’s likely that large portions of the rest of the USA will be paid DLC later on. While the game is certainly focusing on some of the larger US states, it still doesn’t take too long right now to see everything in the game, and routes soon become pretty familiar.

Of course, there’s also the modding community. ETS2 already has a huge and creative community that have added vast amounts of content to that game, and I doubt it will take long before the same happens in ATS. ProMods massively expands ETS2, adding several new countries and improving map coverage in existing ones, and I would imagine that someone is already planning a similar mod for ATS.


On the other hand, the map that does exist is so much more detailed than the one in ETS2. Large cities like San Francisco, Los Angeles and San Diego are represented in a lot more detail, rather than the “industrial estate on the outskirts” feel of a lot of cities (including large ones like London, Paris and Berlin) in ETS2. This massively helps improve the realism of the game, and especially makes it feel a lot more alive. There’s also a lot more driving through towns and other settlements. On top of all that, the scenery is a lot more varied and appropriate to each region, and there’s no more endless sunflower fields of England, for example.

The game’s business management aspect hasn’t changed at all from ETS2, and it’s still all about taking early jobs in other people’s trucks to build up the cash to buy your own truck and get your own garages and drivers working under you. ATS is just as laid-back about your progress as ETS2, so there’s no pressure to advance yourself and build your business unless you really want to. This is actually kind of unique in video games, and makes the game much more relaxing and enjoyable.

If you bought ETS2 as a bit of a lark, like I did, and were thoroughly sucked in by it, as I was, then you should absolutely get American Truck Simulator. Keep in mind that you’re not so much buying a game at this point as you are investing in a platform. The content included is decent, but there isn’t quite enough of it. That will absolutely change, of course, and this is the kind of game that will keep you coming back for years. I know I’ll be spending a lot more time in ATS, and maybe one day it’ll be possible to link the two games up to do mega-hauls from Moscow to San Fransisco.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, all this furniture isn’t going to deliver itself.


Full-on hardcore truck driving action, now in the USA!
Detailed cities and towns make the world feel more alive than before


Relatively tiny map compared to ETS2
Only two trucks to choose from at launch

Overall Score: