If you've never been a real sim game buff or especially never played a game the likes of the Euro Truck Simulator series, you would probably snicker or roll your eyes at the idea of driving trucks from A to B, often long hauls, being "fun".
But you know, I once thought the same thing! But, as you will see, I think that's too quick a judgement and one must at least try the game before dismissing it entirely.
Of course, it isn't for everyone. But if you have even a passing interest in trucks, simulation games or perhaps even racing games, it's well worth giving SCS' latest trucker sim, Euro Truck Simulator 2 (or ETS2), a try.
Why racing games, you ask? I know it would probably seem to make no sense, but I've personally witnessed gamers who are more racing game fans than sim fans who have been quite taken to Euro Truck Simulator 2. Why? Let's find out!
First things first, let's be clear: ETS2 is not a racing game, by any means.
Though, perhaps, one could argue "racing" the clock to get a delivery to it's destination on time would qualify, but in general the game tries to be as realistic as possible and you often won't be going anywhere terribly fast. Especially as, by default, your trucks have a 90 km/h speed limiter on them...
However, there is a real sense of satisfaction driving a big hulking truck in this game. Where, in say a racing game, you have to use your skills to negotiate a track at speed for the fastest lap times and outmanoveur your opponents, in ETS2 you're negotiating city traffic or highways, often with a huge cargo trailer on the back. You'll soon learn to take corners properly and wide, in order to get your huge hunk of metal around the tight European roads and intersections and learn to brake and downshift enough to go round a bend without totalling your vehicle and damaging your precious cargo (and lose a lot of your delivery pay).
The interior of the trucks are accurate to their real life equivalents and really add to the immersion. Simply putting on the indicators (blinkers), the parking brake or even just flicking on high beam headlights all display realistic interactions on the truck's dashboard. The exterior of the trucks are generally just as impressive. Actually the game as a whole is generally quite beautiful.
Just on the trucks and their real life equivalents - there are some various recognisable brands such as Volvo, Scania, Renault, Iveco, DAF and MAN. All of those are licensed and appear with their proper names and badges in-game. The one exception is the Majestic truck brand, which soon becomes apparent is actually a certain famous German automobile maker with a star emblem, just renamed.
Besides taking various trucking jobs in the real life European towns and countries (where you are simply given a truck for the job at hand and tasked with driving it to a destination), you can actually build up enough money, get a loan from the in-game bank and buy your own truck. Besides the fact this gives you the freedom to free roam and take jobs with your own vehicle and customize things such as paint, engine, decals and wheels etc, it is also the basis for you to start your own logistics company.
With your own truck serving you well, you can eventually build up enough money to buy more trucks and hire drivers who will take on various jobs and give you an extra avenue of income as well as keep growing your company, if you choose to do so. Your drivers all have their own names and stats. The latter which can be "levelled up" as they gain in experience.
There is a feel of realism to the hired drivers, in that sometimes, seemingly regardless of stats, you get better drivers than others. Some will serve you faithfully and reliably, racking up good amounts of cash and finding plenty of work. Others... not so much. Some may leave you pulling your hair out as they keep failing to find jobs after a delivery, therefore having to return to home base at a charge of expenses to your company (ie. you) and just generally not performing so well. Whether this is, technically, good or bad AI (Artificial Intelligence) I am not sure, but regardless it works to make the hired drivers feel more realistic, have a bit more personality and not just a bunch of 1s and 0s.
The Not-So Good
While the game's AI works well for your employee truckers, it's fair to say it doesn't always work so well for the AI-controlled vehicles on the roads and highways.
Unless all the various cars and trucks getting around the countryside were deliberately programmed to be psychopathic and unpredictable road menaces, the AI could do with some tweaking here. While sometimes it seems some nice fellow will slow down and let you out of your driveway on a busy road, often it's the opposite reaction.
The AI motorists also sometimes take exceptionally dangerous chances, like say, a car overtaking another the vehicle on the top of a hill in an obvious blind spot, so as you come over the hill from the opposite direction... well, in a split second, aforementioned overtaking car then smashes head on into your lovely shiny truck, causing ten's of thousands dollars of damage. And there's nothing you could have done about it.
Of course, these things can happen in real life and many would argue that having to look out for trouble and assume that every other motorist around you is an "idiot" is what you do anyway. But there are definitely many times where you feel the AI is rather erratic and could do with some smoothing out. However, it's no game breaker and certainly, for the most part, does the job.
The other thing worth mentioning is, of course, specifically about the Linux port. To be honest, it could be better in some areas.
As of writing, the in-game radio (which allows you to stream actual real life internet radio stations) doesn't actually seem to work in the Linux version. At least for the internet radio stations; you can also play local OGG format audio files in the in-game radio as well and this does actually work just fine.
The performance, I feel, is also a slight letdown. Particularly in townships, where buildings, pedestrians etc are more likely to be seen, can cause quite a frame rate drop even though the game may run swimmingly for you out in the countryside. Of course, extra assets on screen and AI to process will always take it's toll and is to be expected, but often the differences between some extra scenic differences or a change in weather effects can be very stark and perhaps some extra optimization could be done here.
It is worth mentioning however, that the machine I currently run is quite modest (Intel E5200 Dual Core CPU, 3GB RAM, NVIDIA GTX460 GPU) and while it does handle many modern games well enough, it doesn't compare to many typical gaming rigs out there. I suspect the game is quite CPU-intensive, so anyone sporting a faster and more modern dual-core or especially a quad-core (or higher) machine, will likely handle the game well enough that you mightn't notice any real large perceptible difference in framerate even on highest settings. On my machine the game was running Medium-High settings at 1920x1080 resolution.
Besides some wacky AI in places and potentially some optimizations being needed, Euro Truck Simulator 2 is otherwise a surprisingly engaging and rich experience, immersing you in the life of a trucker and even the life of a logistics operator/manager, if you so wish it. While many of the sim aspects are more "sim-lite", rather than being particularly complex, and the managing aspect of your own trucking company is fairly barebones, the whole package comes together well.
Even if you snicker and find the idea of just driving trucks hauling cargo about the place to sound boring or tedious, it's well worth giving the game a shot and you may well find you'll start sinking hours into making money to upgrade your personal truck or perhaps simply trying to grow your trucking business and when you want to relax a bit more, you may simply wish to free roam and view the beautiful countryside of the various European countries.
Euro Truck Simulator 2 can be purchased (for Linux) on Steam.