Daddy, when I grow up I want to haul logs! - by Mr. Domino
Games are usually made to let us do something we couldn't possibly do in real-life, cause real-life isn't all that great and often prevents us from doing what we want to do. Few (and fewer) people can race on the NASCAR circuit or gun down monsters to save who knows what, but tractor truck driving? Is getting a class D license really that exciting? Sega must think so, or else we wouldn't be getting 18 Wheeler American Pro Trucker.
While Crazy Taxi certainly began Sega's obsession with real-life video games, every game thereafter has been giving a more and more realistic presentation of the occupation it's trying to emulate. Brave Firefighters doesn't let you gun down a nearby water tower, Emergency Call Ambulance lacks any kind of crazy dashes since that would kill the patient, and 18 Wheeler is missing any kind of zany power-ups to make you forgot that you're, well, hauling cargo in a big truck. A monkey would have been nice.
Still, that's not to saw the game is boring. If you got the chance to play 18 Wheeler at a local arcade, then you know how seriously not boring the game is! While it technically is a racing game, you'll never break past 80 MPH. 18 Wheeler is more of an obstacle game with a time limit. While bringing your goodies from coast to coast, you'll be presented with any number of obstacles to dodge and overcome. While sometimes the roads and environments themselves will pose a threat, you mostly have to watch out for other vehicles. Usually you can just blow your horn and scare them away, but it's not always a guaranteed tactic, in which case you must find a way to maneuver around them. Other trucks you encounter on the highways must be passed as well, and hitting other vehicles on the road will both slow you down and damage your cargo.
Can you feel the parking excitement?
The trucks are huge, the largest vehicles ever in a racing game.
Therefore, you actually will want to drive as carefully as possible to gain a larger score, since your total points are determined by not only how fast you get to the end but also how much of your cargo survived undamaged. The stuff you hitch onto your truck also affects your speed and handling -- heavier cargo is more difficult to move, but you'll also earn more points for taking it to its destination. You'll carry a tanker of fuel, haul cars and logs, and more! Okay, that doesn't sound exciting in and of itself, but the variety does help to give the game some more depth, especially since it's quite linear.
Yes, the game is on one path after another. No careening through a mall with your rig or bounding over the hills for a shortcut in 18 Wheeler. The only technique at your disposal are the slipstreams created from other 18 wheelers ahead of you. Traveling behind another truck will give your rig a slight speed boost since the other is taking the brunt of the opposing wind force which would otherwise slow you down. Of course, real-life truckers have died from getting to comfortable with the ease of riding behind in the pocket, so you better make your move when you can.
You'll need all the moves and skill you can muster to make it to the end and beat your rival. You select from four characters at the start of the game, each with his or her own vehicle a la Crazy Taxi. There's Texas Hawk and his Asphalt Cowboy, Wild Rose and her Highway Cat, Mad Bull and his Longhorn, and Moon Light and his Streamline. Each character has a rival who will show up on the course to make your like miserable, but, if you can beat your rival, you'll get an additional bonus. Of course, that's easier said than done, since you can't just honk your rival to the curb. They'll do everything they can to avoid getting passed, and when you're already dealing with cars and the occasional natural disaster (rock slides, tornadoes, etc.), passing them is even tougher.
College degree or truck driving? Hmm...
The original cabinet is very nice and unfortunately something to be missed with the home port.
18 Wheeler has to be one of the largest sit-down arcade cabinets of all times next to Sega's R-360, and a lot of the game's fun came from the feel of actually being a real truck driver in that monster. Unfortunately, you can't take it with you, and Dreamcast players will miss all the hydraulics and flail of the cabinet, including the huge industrial-sized 18 wheeler steering wheel. Thankfully, Sega's including some stuff which should take your mind off that and help extend the life of an admittedly short game.
The Dreamcast 18 Wheeler port will include a much needed two-player split screen mode along with some new courses and a parking mini-game. The parking mini-game is just an extension of the parking breaks found in the arcade game in which you must, well, park your truck at a certain spot within a time limit. The new courses are meant to take advantage of the two-player mode, as they are not new routes across the country, but, rather, large oval race-like tracks to compete against. Unfortunately, there is no on-line mode, so the split screen will have to do.
18 Wheeler is a short experience, and while the branching paths keep it from feeling too repetitive, it still is a linear arcade game at heart. Arcade and racing fans will likely enjoy the game for its strategic mix of racing and an obstacle course. Short or not, the new modes will certainly extend the life of an already fun game. 18 Wheeler is definitely something to look forward to, and you can decide whether or not to add this game to your collection when it is released later this May.
AM2 - The Sega team which made the game. It has the official site.
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