Have you ever wanted to drive a lorry? Me neither. In real life it looks like kind of a drag, with endless tedious hours behind the wheel punctuated by greasy rest stop sandwiches and nights on an uncomfortable mattress in a lay-by.
But, like so many things, it makes perfect sense as a videogame. In the virtual world you’re free to enjoy the spectacle of the open road and the bracing challenge of steering a vehicle the size of a blue whale without any of the downsides.
Truck Simulation 19 is the latest trucking simulator to arrive on the app stores, and it comes to us courtesy of sim-specialist astragon (Construction Simulator, Bus Simulator).
Set in the US, the spiritual home of trucking, it sees you travelling from place to place, collecting cargo here, dropping it off there, earning cash, and eventually expanding your haulage empire across North America.
While you’re free to explore, there are campaign missions to help you get started. In the first, you reconnect with what appears to be a former girlfriend who needs your help. After a frosty exchange you agree to do a job for her, and from there the story gradually builds.
On the road again
First things first. Truck driving sims can take a bit of getting used to. While most driving games – or games generally, for that matter – revel in misbehaviour, Truck Simulation 19 encourages you to drive responsibly.
After all, your constant goal is to earn cash, and every time you collide with another vehicle or break the speed limit for too long you end up paying a fine. Every time you carelessly smash your truck into a barrier or collide with a wall while attempting a shortcut across a grass verge you inflict damage that costs money to repair.
This has the effect of turning responsible driving into a rewarding challenge. The less money you fritter away on roadside recoveries and avoidable penalties, the more you can spend on your progress.
That includes buying new trucks, unlocking new bits of America, and making a vast number of adjustments and modifications to your vehicle, inside and out.
Eventually you’ll also be able to buy new depots across the country, which has the effect of opening up new jobs and also giving you fast travel spots. America is a big country, so these are essential.
The missions you complete for the campaign inject a welcome dose of drama into proceedings, as well as generally pointing you in the right direction.
Conversely, the jobs that you can take on are much more open. While there’s always a GPS route to follow, you can always take a different route after consulting the map. In fact, you don’t technically need to be doing a job at all, though you will eventually run out of money. Just like in real life.
But what about the actual driving? Truck Simulation 19 not only simulates the professional experience of a US trucker but also the physical driving bit. Again, it takes some getting used to – particularly when you have to reverse with a trailer in tow, an operation that the game is happy to let you figure out for yourself.
Grab Truck Simulation 19 now
At times Truck Simulation 19 is quite helpful and accessible. If you’re running low on fuel, for example, it will offer to plan a GPS route to the nearest gas station. And when you need to navigate towards a mission, or indeed any other feature of the landscape, you can visit the menu and find it with ease.
But at other times you’ll find yourself scratching your head, such as when you arrive at the GPS point where you’re supposed to deliver your cargo but still need to hunt for the exact spot where you can unload it.
As well as giving you the choice of four different steering methods, Truck Simulation 19 allows you to view the action from a number of camera angles. This has a practical use, in that certain viewpoints are helpful for certain manoeuvres.
But the best angle by far is the one that puts you inside the cab, where you can swipe with your finger to look around your little compartment. Watching the freeway disappear under hood of your rig, the weather changing, the headlights shining the road stretching out ahead is surprisingly immersive.
While it’s not perfect, Truck Simulation 19 is a decent way to glimpse the life of a trucker in the greatest trucking environment the world has to offer - and you don’t even need to eat any greasy sandwiches.