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by Sega

snap004-01.jpg (3487 bytes)Ah, the open road. One thing we’ve got in the USA is a lot of open roads. Our highways are fairly impressive, and an icon of the American highway is the American Trucker. These folks lead nomadic lives, making sure our goods make it from point A to point B and keeping our truckstops full of down-home je ne sais quoi. Eighteen Wheeler: American Pro Trucker brought the trucking experience into the arcade, and as the game moves into our homes on the Dreamcast I had hoped that experience would translate nicely. The arcade version of the game puts you in the cab of a big rig, complete with oversized steering wheel. The home version illuminates that fact that sometimes it’s the bells and whistles of the arcade machine that really make a game enjoyable. Stripped of its snazzy cab façade, the DC port, while arcade perfect in every other respect, becomes just another mildly entertaining and way too short game.

snap003-01.jpg (4299 bytes)APT allows you to choose from four truckers to play: Asphalt Cowboy, Highway Cat, Stream Line, and Long Horn. There’s a generic country trucker, a hot trucker lady, a 70s-throwback disco dude with an afro, and a big, fat leather bear. Each trucker has his own rig, and each rig has different statistics: Speed, Torque, and Toughness. The Arcade mode of the game is just like the original arcade version: You haul freight on four runs across the US, travelling from New York to Key West, St. Petersburg to Dallas, Dallas to Las Vegas, and Las Vegas to San Francisco. Along the way you can choose from two different types of cargo for each trip, both types giving you a different reward for prompt delivery.

snap001-01.jpg (4321 bytes)To add a bit of flair to the game, you are also challenged to beat your rival truck to the delivery point. Once you finish a run ahead of the rival trucker, you’re invited to play a parking mini-game. You are given a certain amount of time to navigate your truck into a parking spot. Points are deducted for any damage you cause to your surroundings. If you are successful at that, you will win new components for your truck, such as a new horn and new mufflers.

snap016-01.jpg (4587 bytes)There is also a Parking mode, where you only play the parking mini-games. These are meant to help you practice for the Arcade mode, and there is another mode that will allow you to get some practice in called Score Attack. In Score Attack you make a run, trying to destroy the bonus vans and to reach the finish line in time. In addition, you can race against a friend in the Versus mode, which is a split-screen version of Score Attack. In both Score Attack and Versus modes, you are given a "horn attack." When you honk your horn, cargo will fall out of the back of your trailer and you receive points if you hit your opponent with the cargo.

snap020-01.jpg (5122 bytes)The control is fairly simple. Your triggers serve as gas and brake, and you have change gear, reverse, horn, and change view buttons as well. These controls are the first of my complaints. While the setup is incredibly easy to use, and you’ll get good with it in no time, it is too simple. Big rigs like these have a dozen gears or so, and it’s incredibly frustrating to find that downshifting on a grade doesn’t help you accelerate at all. Most of the time you feel like you’re in too high of a gear, and your truck doesn’t take off with any kind of pep. It felt a lot like driving my old man’s VW Microbus – that van had an opposed four cylinder engine and always felt incredibly underpowered. Similarly, there are many points in American Pro Trucker where I wanted to just get out of the truck and push. Or walk. Once you get up to speed, the game feels pretty good, but only highly skilled truckers will be able to maintain top speed for very long.

snap022-01.jpg (5327 bytes)The graphics and sound are really wonderful. The first person view from inside the cab is excellent, and very detailed. Each truck has some kind of dangly accent hanging from the rear-view mirror, as well as various items on the dash that slide left and right as you drive. The vehicles and environments are rendered very nicely, with excellent lighting effects and crowded highways. Little extras like the tornado on the second level are also a lot of fun to watch. Still, there are some issues with the way the graphics work. For example, in the first-person view, you have a rear-view mirror. A rear-view mirror is almost useless in an 18 Wheeler – all you see is the top of the trailer you’re towing. Why are there no side-view mirrors? These would have been very helpful for maintaining that in-the-truck feeling.

snap011-01.jpg (5347 bytes)In spite of the things American Pro Trucker does right, it is ultimately a huge reminder of what could have been. The overall problem is that the game is just too damn short. Each run takes less than two minutes to complete. That means that in about ten to fifteen minutes of gameplay you are forced to believe that: a) you have actually completed the game; and b) you just travelled from New York to San Francisco – the long way. The game is difficult enough to mask its brevity for perhaps an hour or so while you get the hang of things, and if it takes you more than two hours to master the entire game (extra modes and all), then you need to put the training wheels back on your Dreamcast.

snap021-01.jpg (5685 bytes)What makes the brevity even more outrageous is the fact that Hitmaker (one of Sega’s development houses) could have added so much to it. As it stands, your CB is a one-way communication device that allows you to hear taunts and advice from other truckers. There is no kind of communication to NPCs in the game, and there is no way to form a mighty convoy. Cops don’t hassle you, and if they do you can just bounce them off the road with no repercussions. Between the lack of a complex gearing system (half of what makes a big rig so fun to drive) and the lack of any kind of story or NPC interaction, American Pro Trucker is completely devoid of anything to broaden its horizons. Even creating a thin storyline for each of the truckers would have been immensely helpful. It would have at least given you a reason to play the game four times. As it is, there’s not much reason to play it even once.

snap017-01.jpg (5307 bytes)I can’t even recommend Eighteen Wheeler: American Pro Trucker as a rental, unless you plan on renting something else, too. You’ll be very upset after you’ve had it home for two hours and you’ve already cleared everything there is to be cleared. A couple rounds of the Versus mode will satiate that curiousity, and you’ll be back at the video store, hopefully before it closes. It’s sad to see a game with so much potential be so incredibly thin. Rent Convoy instead.


Shawn Rider   (06/20/2001)


Ups: Big trucks; cool tornado; nice graphics.

Downs: Way too short; way too shallow.

System Reqs:
Sega Dreamcast


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