Written on: 19/04/2006 by TOMLEECEE (121 reviews written)
Not a lot of longevity
A review of 18 Wheeler: American Pro Trucker for Dreamcast Games.
Trust Sega to turn cross-country haulage into an arcade game. Another title in the list of driving games that attempt to simulate real life jobs (after Crazy Taxi and Emergency Call Ambulance), 18 Wheeler allows you to get behind the wheel of an American big-rig and blast across the USA in a battle against the clock and a rival trucker to get your cargo to it's destination on time. Where 18 Wheeler differs from the other titles in the stable is that it isn't set in a free-roaming city environment, rather the game is played out along closed route tracks where you occasionally get the chance to take an alternative path when they come along. Starting the game at the depot, you choose your cargo taking into consideration weight/speed ratios and also the bounty attached to a trailer. So while a flatbed laden with logs may be lighter (and therefore allow for a better top speed), a double-decked car transport will be heavier but will yield a greater bounty upon delivery.
After that, it's out onto the open road, as it were. After joining the freeway you'll be introduced by radio to a rival trucker who will stop at nothing to get to the drop off destination before you do, and his dirty tactics include ramming you off the road and trying to divert traffic into you. Beating the rival isn't the only challenge though - the ever-ticking clock is also against you, so there's no time to dawdle.
Converted from the arcade to the Dreamcast, 18 Wheeler is definitely something of a mixed bag in terms of production and gameplay. Most other arcade conversions by Sega were top-drawer spectacles - look at Daytona and Crazy Taxi - both superb looking and playing games. 18 Wheeler on the other hand really doesn't look that good and is plagued by a fair amount of scenery pop up. The overall appearance of the game isn't that bad - everything is painted in high-res gloss and the menus and music are all very trucker-ish (i.e. Smokey and the Bandit), but it is missing that spark that most Sega arcade titles have, and in places it looks rather grotty (although the weather related set-pieces can be spectacular). The gameplay too, is somewhat hit and miss. The trucks all handle as you would expect - slow with enormous turning circles and they all have a pseudo manual gear shift (albeit with only two gears - Hi and Low), but therein lies the problem - 18 Wheeler just feels slow to play. Obviously, having massive haulage trucks going at 200mph would not really be within the realms of reality, but 18 Wheeler is more like playing a milk float simulator at times as you struggle to get the speedo needle to touch the 40mph mark. Granted, the pure grunt that the rigs hold allows you to plough through oncoming traffic, fences, petrol stations (not recommended in real life, kids) and houses with considerable ease, but after a while of playing you'll be willing your rig to go just that bit faster. The routes that the game will take you through do vary and transform in very subtle real time, so you'll hardly notice that the vibrant city environment has been left behind to be replaced by lush meadows and forests or dusty desert towns; and as each destination is reached, new cargo is picked up.
On occasion you'll be invited to test your driving skills in a between stages mini-game. The mini games are generally time based parking challenges and the like, where you have to manoeuvre around a tight alleyway while avoiding cones and pulling up within the designated area before the time runs out. Complete these tasks and new items for your rig are bequeathed to you, but are generally only aesthetic equipment like new horns etc.
And for a while, you'll be happily battling to your destination; smashing through roadblocks and quiet neighbourhoods; avoiding tornadoes and other natural disasters and playing mini-games until the game abruptly ends after little more than 20 minutes.
This is due mainly to the way that 18 Wheeler was initially only intended to be a 5-minute blast in the arcades. It drew you in with its unique big-rig styled cabinet complete with massive steering wheel and you were expected to play for a few minutes. It clearly wasn't intended to be played for hours on end - and it's painfully obvious in the longevity department. Sure, there are a few different trucks/characters to play as (but they're generally all the same) and there is a rather tedious score-attack (where you drive around circular tracks avoiding traffic and collecting time bonuses) to amuse you for a few minutes, but once the main game has been beaten for the fifth time, there will be very little to keep your attention. There is no straight mini-game mode like in Crazy Taxi and there aren't even any new stages to unlock - so what you effectively get with 18 Wheeler is a slightly expensive arcade experience. Don't get me wrong - it's quite good fun while it lasts, but if you expect more than 20 minutes of entertainment from your games, you'd be best advised to look elsewhere for your driving kicks.
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