When Americans dream they dream big. What could be better than the freedom of driving down highway number 19 in an 18 wheeler? Pulling your air-horn every time you see a fellow trucker and chatting to all manner of folks that are hitchhiking. What a life, full of excitement and adventure. Fortunately for those not able to do it for real, Kyodai and Soedesco have teamed up to make Truck Driver: The American Dream a reality.
Truck Driver: The American Dream – or the Gamer’s Nightmare?
Truck Driver: The American Dream threw me in at the deep end. I was instantly driving in the worst storm ever with thunder and lightning all around. Explosions in close proximity were very distracting. Fortunately in all this, I was given the basic controls so that I didn’t veer straight off the road. As with all driving games that use a controller (as I sadly do not possess a wheel yet) steering is a little tricky. After bouncing off both sides of the road in equal measure I kind of had the hang of it, though if truth be told, I was never truly there. Lights on, windscreen wipers on, horn blaring, and pedal to the metal, I finally arrived at my destination and headed for safety. I had survived the ordeal.
Or did I?
This is where Truck Driver: The American Dream starts for real. I was playing Nathan, the son of the trucker I was in the opening scene. Nathan is a bit of a loser so I quit my job and jumped straight into the role. Nathan has had a few jobs, but he’s just wasted his time and opportunities until now. Here’s where I take over and turn his life around. I was teamed up with Clint to learn the ropes and earn some money. I had to remember to fill up with fuel, take regular breaks, and fix any damage that may (will) occur. Most importantly I learnt how to hitch and unhitch a trailer, a vital skill.
Whilst whiling away the many hours, Clint told me stories about my dad and what a legend he was. He had big boots and I was determined to fill them. I would do my best to succeed at every task thrown my way. How wrong I was! For a trucker, downhill is a great way to go, with less fuel consumption and getting a bit of speed up as well. For a game, downhill is not a great direction (unless it’s a skiing game).
Truck Driver: The American Dream has a limited collection of good points. The more jobs I completed, the more money I had to fill the truck up with gas, fix the damage I did, or upgrade it. Experience points were also available as I progressed through the levels. I could use these to buy skills to assist in my driving style. The other characters had good consistent personalities, and after time I felt like I was getting to know them. The sense of the solitude of trucking was clear as well, I was very quickly on to the fact that I didn’t want to be a trucker as it was about as exciting as watching TV in a power cut. Unfortunately, this section is not very long.
The Less Good
Truck Driver: The American Dream has a few aspects that are genuinely a little niggly, possibly me being a little harsh, but I’m just doing my job.
The camera. When driving with the camera set inside the truck it’s impossible to see everything I need to see at the same time. The speed at which the camera moves is far too slow. Stop at a junction and I look left and then right, go to pull out and there is a car to the left ready to crash into me. Switch to the external camera and it always starts from directly behind the vehicle, so I had to remember to not do this whilst driving as for a bit there’s no way to see where I am going.
Get the camera above the truck to see everything and I run red lights before they come into view. That’s fine for me every time I do it. When hauling larger items, sometimes to see the actual truck cab I had to set the camera off to the side (not a good idea) or too high (again, not a good idea). The task of driving a truck was hard enough, but now I had to do it with handicaps.
Rain is prevalent, and I kept getting told to turn the wipers on. As my view was external, the rain had no effect on my view. To be fair, it hardly had an effect inside the truck either. This needed to play a bigger part, to add a little realism.
The time. The time it takes to complete a job depends on the distance travelled. The short jobs tended to keep my concentration better, but I was in danger of falling asleep whilst playing when I was doing a long haul. Some might say that this is just a part of the job, to be bored almost to the point of death, but for a game, it’s not a good idea. I got some caffeine in me and carried on. Sadly this was a recurring theme.
The map. This might sound silly, but when you create a map and put symbols on it, it’s usually a good idea to make the symbols on the key actually match the symbols on the map. Just putting that out there. If it’s a red circle with crossed tools on it in the key, then why is it a green garage door on the map? Please tell me, I’m so confused.
The other road users seem to consist of over-cautious or erratic personalities only. Stop at a junction and cars will move so slowly, some even slowing down as they drive across, despite there being no other traffic from any other direction. These drivers were the bane of my life when going through build-up areas. Fortunately, I could just drive the wrong way up to the junction and turn anyway, the police have never bothered me yet.
On the other side of the coin, the other drivers were so erratic that they literally crashed in front of me and rolled their cars. They also will attempt to overtake me if my truck so much a veer slightly onto the hard shoulder (or occasionally into the oncoming lane). Hitting an 18-wheeler in a sedan is not an issue for these drivers. I wanted to start a side hustle in the insurance business, but there was no such option.
Random is a concept that Truck Driver: The American Dream has taken to heart. They really have thought of everything from light at two o’clock in the morning, to sudden darkness at five in the afternoon. There is no gradual change, it is instant. I never had any need to use my headlights as I could easily see everything all the time (camera angle permitting). There was no scary nighttime driving with just headlights on, mind you, that would have probably put me to sleep even quicker. Sometimes the fog was so thick and near a red light that I did wonder if I was actually entering the gates of hell, even though I thought I was already there.
The developers seem to have had a last ditch attempt to make Truck Driver: The American Nightmare story driven. It’s not bad enough that I had to drive a truck, but now there was a story to adhere all the unlikable elements together. This was akin to being given a toothpick to defend yourself in a medieval battle, it was simply not enough to save anything.
Conceptually the story is so shaky that a light guff could blow it over. Develop a better family life by going away in a truck for long periods at a time. I’m no expert, but that’s just plain and simple ridiculous. Fine, yes Nathan did find his purpose, and he finally felt like he belonged and his personality did change, but that’s about as good as it gets really. Essentially he’s not nice, a bit of a whinger and doesn’t put his family first. No spoilers in here though, you will have to play the game (which is essentially the definition of spoiled) to see what really finally happens.
The Outright Ridiculous (possibly the bug list)
Automatic or manual? I started in an automatic truck, but I moved to a manual, I didn’t like it so I changed back and my old truck was now a manual as well. Have not been able to switch it back yet.
Finished a mission and started my new job. It was clearly morning and I had just got to work. My stamina was at 4% though and no rest stops in a short distance. I had had a good night’s sleep on Clint’s farm, well unless we partied the night away that is, so why was my stamina so low?
I destroyed my truck whilst towing a trailer. It was a neat feat, and I got towed by a lovely person to the closest repair shop. When the game resumed, my truck flew into the air and was destroyed. This happened a number of times until I quit the game and restarted it.
It Gets Worse
A section of the dual carriageway turned into liquid form. My truck sank, as did other cars. When the road returned to normal there was no way to get on it as my truck had to go up a considerable lip in the surface. I did however manage to shunt a car under the road completely and onto the other side. Unfortunately due to the game only having one save and it had automatically saved here it seemed that my adventure was gleefully over. Sadly I managed to turn around and head through the molten road, avoid the submerged oncoming traffic and get back onto a solid surface again.
My collision box seemed a lot bigger than my vehicle. I was being stopped when I got too close to the side of the road, but way before I was visibly touching anything. This was an absolute pain in the backside as it was hard to navigate past the invisible barriers sometimes.
Not Finished Yet
On more than one occasion the game just threw me out, much like an unwanted hitchhiker. No warning, black screen and then back to the XBox screen. I took this as a sign from forces higher than I could understand and used the time to do something more fun. When I got back from shaving my nut sack with a rusty razor I simply prayed that it would throw me out again so I could practice my blindfold motorway crossing skills.
At one point there were two conversations happening at once, the writing on the screen was doubled up and the audio was incomprehensible as well. I never found out what either conversation was about, though I was impressed at being able to speak two different lines at exactly the same time.
What I Hoped To Get Out Of It
I thought I would deviate from my usual method of writing a review and give more of an indication of why I was so disappointed with Truck Driver: The American Dream. Having seen a few movies based around the great American time of trucking, I had hoped for a more fulfilling experience. I wanted to get to know the other truckers out on the road, meet up at truck-stops and have conversations about job opportunities, where roadworks were, the best routes to get places or just about the latest baseball scores. I wanted to have friends that would go on two man jobs with me, maybe a couple of below board missions to complete to feel like a gangster. Most of all I wanted to smash through a police blockade and run from a bear in the air. Maybe a little side hustle in the bars with some pool or axe throwing? Maybe actually start my relationship on the road and have to get back to certain places to maintain it, start the family that I wanted. Become the kingpin of the truckers with my girl at my side. Living the whole American dream. That’s a game I wanna play.
Graphics & Audio
Oh well, I guess if you have made it this far then you have a genuine interest in the game so I had better cover all the sections.
The graphics are a genuine high point, take all the glitches out and it is actually a very pleasant experience to take in the surrounding scenery. The weather effects are very good and give a sense of treacherous driving conditions. The treacherous driving conditions do occur a lot so there is plenty to admire. I also liked the rough looking stills from the cut scenes, it gave me a sense of an unfinished element to the journey I was undertaking.
I wish I could say the same for the audio. The spoken dialogue was ok, the voice acting was good and there was a sense of getting to know the characters. The radio however was a different kettle of fish. The best setting is off, no matter how many times you get prompted to turn it on. There are a few stations to choose from, all with cliche bad examples of country, hip-hop, rock and other genres. There’s a limited playlist for a journey so long and in the end, it’s all just a little irritating.
Truck Driver: The American Dream is built to sap your time, energy and eventually your will to live. It achieves all three with great ease. Time and dedication are required to get far, so expect to not see your family for long periods of time if you decide to invest. It is all good though as you will build better and stronger bonds with them. Something learned from playing the game.
Some people go through life with no regrets, they use every experience to become the person that they are today. Truck Driver: The American Dream has done everything in it’s power to prove these people wrong, regrets are real. The fact that it is called a game and not an ordeal is in itself just mismarketing. Nothing new has been brought to the table, but hopefully the table will recover. Every cloud does have a silver lining though, and now when my children misbehave or wont go to sleep, I simply load it up and they are snoring in minutes. However, if you do suffer from insomnia and like a game that involves holding down the right trigger and making small movements with the thumb on your left hand, then this might just be the perfect game for you. It’s a niche market, but it might just exist.
I have awarded Truck Driver: The American Dream a broken award. Not only is the game broken, but it broke me too. Mothertrucker!!
Disclaimer: A code was received in order to write this review.