Sunday, February 13, 2011

18 Wheels of Steel - Pedal to the Metal

Daily PC Game Review Score: 8 / 10
Game Category: Simulation
Date: 13 Feb 2011

Looking around the Internet, I noticed that today's game, 18 Wheels of Steel - Pedal to the Metal (18WoS - PttM) by SCS Software, has probably been unfairly stereotyped as being low quality only because it was published by Valusoft which essentially equates the game to being a budget title. Or perhaps game critics out there tend to hate truck driving simulation games usually for the reason that they tend to be dull and should have more action, or that they should play more like an arcade game.

Whatever it is, reviews of 18WoS games are truly scarce.

In that case, I am hoping that this review shall address this deficit.

18Wos - PttM is at its heart a simulation game, and I must also mention that later in the game there is an element of business management thrown in so that you can manage your very own trucking company - complete with a fleet of trucks and truck driving.

When you start a new game, you get to name yourself and choose a picture to represent yourself. Most importantly though is your starting city; there are 30 that you can choose from. Cities are all uniquely designed for this game and if you look carefully, you just might see a familiar landmark.

A beautiful startup screen

There are four game rules that you can choose from next, they are:
  • Simulate fatigue requires that you find the nearest hotel or rest stop to recover your strength. Otherwise, you are going to encounter a darkened display for 1 to 2 seconds as you hear an almost contagious yawn in the background.
  • Enable police means you have to obey all traffic regulations. Police may fine you for skipping the weigh stations, bashing straight through immigration checkpoints, or for speeding. You will hear a beeping sound as you approach the police, so stay on the side of the law.
  • Enable timed jobs means you have to haul and deliver your trailers on time for that all-important green stuff - CA$H.
  • Upgrade anywhere allows you to purchase trucks from anywhere and is only more useful later on in the game.
Define your profile

I recommend that you either choose a city on the East Coast (like New York or Washington D.C. or Miami), or one on the West Coast (like Seattle, Los Angeles, or Vancouver). Since you start off in the game as an Employee, your jobs will therefore be randomly determined, but I am hoping that you will get one of those long haul jobs that bring you across the continent.

Me Oversized? I am not fat!
Once you have attained $100,000 you will unlock the second phase of the game. It took me 9 hauls to accomplish this - so hang in there, the game gets more fun after this.

In the next phase, you have graduated to become an Owner Operator. From here on, you can now choose the jobs that you want to haul from a pretty long list. Some of these jobs cannot be picked right away, for they require you have enough reputation stars before you can select them. You can now obtain reputation stars by completing jobs. If you earn enough, your reputation will advance to a bronze, silver, and finally gold status.

Such crummy weather
The final mode of the game is the Company Boss mode, achievable only after you have attained a silver star for your reputation. This is where you can buy up to 35 truck and hire truck drivers to drive them. They will help make money for your company. If you need to, you could even take a loan to start off your fledgling company. The more reputation a truck driver has, the more you can trust them.

If you selected the harder option at the start of the game, you must visit truck dealers that are hidden all around the game map so that you can unlock the trucks for purchase.

Planning my next job
Driving is probably the most important feature in 18WoS - PttM.

The trucks handle pretty realistically, I have seen the trailer side slip on snow, and braking leaves behind tire treads on the road. However, colliding into vehicles is not always realistic. I have seen cars bounce off each other once in a while and even when I am not involved in an accident; you should have seen the look on my face when two cars in front of me just flipped into the sky for no obvious reason other than a minor fender bender. Luckily this cranky behavior is rare.

There are quite a number of views to see from your truck. I find myself using three views the most often - the cabin view, the outside rear view, and the plan view.

The cabin view shows me the beautiful interior of the truck I am driving and it is equipped with working steering wheels and indicators. The rear and side view mirrors can be adjusted if you so desire, but the right side mirror disappears when you have the map enabled. The outside rear view is useful for an overview of traffic nearby while driving on the freeway, while the plan view is best used when hooking up your truck to a trailer.

There's no business like snow business

There are a few things I disliked about 18WoS - PttM:
  • The theme music is really loud and noisy, and it's also the only piece of music available in game. Fortunately, there is a radio option where you can place music in a folder to listen to, but this feature only works with Vorbis files (OGG file extension), so you will need a utility to convert your MP3s to this format.
  • The sound effects had its share of hits and misses for me. I loved some of the engine sounds, while others sounded rather tinny or just plain unrealistic. The ambient sounds at the haulage centers can be quite noisy at times.
  • The most jarring visual is this - you may notice that the reflection of clouds will appear on certain chrome trailers, will the reflection stays there even when you are in a tunnel!
  • You may cause a hundred accidents - like hitting other vehicles, destroying traffic lights or signs, or perhaps cause a fatality involving a mean looking biker... but the police are never around at all. The only effect all these accidents have is the damage inflicted on your truck and trailer.
  • Lastly, traffic lights take just too long, and you find yourself wasting a lot of time waiting for them to change. 

I love the Big Apple
If you like the simulation and business management genres, love the idea of driving huge Peterbilt trucks and blowing your horn as you drive down the freeway, and are thrilled to have the chance to haul exotic trailers such as those bearing military vehicles, turbine engines, boats, and even nuclear waste, then I suggest you get 18WoS - PttM.

In fact, this game can also be argued to be one of the better ones in the entire series of 18 Wheels of Steel games. I was engrossed for a few hours playing 18WoS - PttM over this weekend, so that I can write this review for a game that deserves more attention than it currently deserves. In fact, I winded with a huge folder of photos as I busily clicked on the camera hotkey built into the game - there's lots to see and do in this game.

So, think about that... maybe you should just give it a chance...


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