Grab your CB radio and hit the road! - Review By Vash T. Stampede
Sega's arcade-to-home ports have been a mixed bag. Although Sega occasionally does an amazing job, adding plenty of extras for gamers at home, more often Sega arcade games come home in a somewhat bare-bones fashion that, while of high-quality, leaves a lot to be desired in terms of replay value. While one of Sega's first arcade-to-Dreamcast translations, Crazy Taxi, got the full treatment when it came over to Dreamcast, the recently released Crazy Taxi 2 was a slimmer package. 18 Wheeler: American Pro Trucker, unfortunately, continues Crazy Taxi 2's trend by offering few extras to players who decide to pick the game up.
18 Wheeler puts the player in the driver's seat of one of four different eighteen-wheeled, semis and sends him across the country, delivering different cargo to various destinations. Along the way, the player tries to overtake his rival, the vaguely-threatening-but-basically-harmless Lizard Tail, self-proclaimed "number one trucker in the U.S. of A." Beating the rival allows the player to participate in a parking bonus level that allows him to outfit his truck with various goodies, such as a more powerful horn and an improved muffler, that enhance different characteristics of the truck. Each of the four courses the player races has at least one alternate path, allowing the player to try to discover shortcuts and other time-saving tricks as he goes.
Aside from the basic arcade mode, there are a couple of different versus modes, both against a computer opponent and split-screen against another human being, and a parking mode, which is an expanded version of the bonus level found within the arcade portion of the game.
The detail in the cab is pretty astounding. Some parts of the track are amazing too!
First and foremost, the game plays very well. It is a fun, rewarding game, easy to pick up and challenging enough to keep players coming back to it. The feeling of careening along at 60 mph in a huge semi, bashing anything that happens to get in the way, is definitely a good one. The entire concept of the game, which has been described as "Crazy Taxi in a truck," is solid and well executed.
The game controls exactly the way one would hope. Each truck has different characteristics, and the player's choice definitely affects the way the course must be raced. For example, if the player chooses Highway Cat (the truck of the ridiculously unlikely cute, female trucker, Wild Rose) he should forget about any route that is going to take him up a hill. The Highway Cat may be fast, but it doesn't have the torque to pull a significant load up a steep incline.
Along the same lines, the player must learn when to shift into low and high gear. Although the game will eventually cue the player to shift, knowing to do it before the game cue comes up will shave precious seconds of a good player's time. Those few seconds can make a big difference in whether the player finishes the race, beats his rival, and how many points he gets at the end of the trip.
The total aesthetic presentation works pretty well. Graphically, the game is sharp and mirrors the arcade graphics nicely. The game has a smooth frame rate, and terrain draw-in never becomes an issue. The environments are nicely rendered, if generally pretty sparse, and other vehicles on the road are nicely detailed. The sound effects for the trucks are great, although the voice over in the game is generally weak. Lizard Tail's voice is very strange and doesn't really convey what the intent of the character seems to be. Other voices are adequate, but a little bland.
18 wheeler + small car = BOOM!
The game is short. There are only four courses in arcade mode, and there isn't a lot of variety. Even counting the shortcuts, each course doesn't necessarily hold up to a lot of play. A few new courses for the home version would have increased replay value and given players familiar with the arcade game a stronger incentive to pick up the Dreamcast version. As it is, the five to ten bucks it might cost someone to get through the game in an arcade is likely to quench any interest in purchasing the Dreamcast version.
As a racing game, 18 Wheeler comes up lacking. Lizard Tail is more frustrating than challenging as an opponent. He follows a very predictable pattern and essentially cheats, slowing down enough that the player can catch up, but then magically surging ahead to keep the race tight. The player never really feels that the rival is subject to the same constraints and strategies as he is. Lizard Tail never seems to use slipstreams, for example. He often goes off road in ways that would put the player out of the game entirely. Perhaps most importantly, the player doesn't actually have to beat Lizard Tail to keep progressing through the game. That the rival has so little impact on the overall course of the game diminishes a lot of the tension of racing him. The one thing the rival adds is the only meaningful radio chatter in the game, but the chatter and taunts he throws out are so repetitive that most players will probably tune him out entirely after playing through the game a couple of times.
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