Welcome to American Truck Simulator, with its new DLC, UTAH that was released on 7 November 2019. The game itself was developed by SCS Software, developers that hail from Prague, Czech Republic. The game was released on PC and Mac, but boy do I wish it was available on console too, specifically the Switch.
This is the first time ever I have played American Truck Simulator. The original was released on Steam on 2 February 2016, which featured the American States of California, Nevada and Arizona. Subsequent to that, more States were added in DLCs which featured Washington, Oregon and New Mexico. For this review, I obtained the West Coast Edition (all the West Coast States DLCs) as well as the Utah pack for review.
So let’s start with what ATS is all about, before we head to Utah. Just as the name suggests, it is a simulation game where you drive trucks around the roads for America. You start off doing some quick jobs, since you don’t own any vehicles of your own. There is quite a selection of jobs you can pick from, each with their own type of cargo, varying distances, as well as different pay values for successfully completing the jobs. When you start the job, you are placed within the truck that the company has given you for the duration of the job, as well as the cargo on a trailer.
When you earn enough to buy your own trucks and equipment, the option to use your own vehicles is made available for jobs, which means higher pay. When you starts jobs, you need to actually drive to the company’s base, pick up the cargo, and then deliver it. I have learnt to take jobs that are the closest to me. The very first time I used my own truck, I stupidly just accepted the highest paying job, which meant driving 8 game hours to the company’s base, and then a further 15 game hours to the destination.
Your job, should you choose to accept it, is to take the cargo from point A to point B. Sounds simple right? You couldn’t be more wrong. Not only do you have the daily traffic to contend with, but you need to ensure you fill up on fuel when the need arises. Thankfully, when using the company’s vehicles, they pay for these expenses. There are also events that sometimes arise that cause you to have to pick another route to get to your destination, such as cops blocking the highway or a break-down.
Now, the game hours almost equate to minutes. I would say about 2 – 3 real-time seconds to a game minute. So a 15 hour job would take about 18 real minutes, depending on any events that may occur within the game. Also, there are deadlines to each job, and later you unlock a mode where you try to beat deadlines for urgent jobs. However, as much time as they give you for normal jobs, don’t be overconfident. I rammed my truck into a railing so hard at one point, that it took several hours (and thousands of dollars) to repair the damages, cutting my time short.
What I really loved was the realism in the game, specifically the Weigh Stations. As you approach the stations, a message will appear as to whether you should pull over to weigh your vehicle and cargo or not. Even though sometimes I got frustrated at the interruption, it is still a great feature to have. But be warned, traffic violations is a major stickler in this game. You have to adhere to all traffic regulations, such as stopping at traffic lights, adhering to the speed limit, crossing lanes safely, etc. If not, you can amass quite a hefty amount of fines that you need to pay off (unless you turn this setting off in the game settings).
Getting to the graphics quickly, when I first started ATS up, I was alarmed. The graphics were utterly terrible, and was something I expected from the 90’s. I stared at the screen and played the first job with a ‘WTF’ expression on my face. I couldn’t even read the digits on my dashboard. However, that was my fault, for firstly not using GeForce to optimise the game before starting, and not going into the game’s graphic settings to see that everything was set to low as default.
Having buffed up the graphics to the max, I had tears of joy. ATS is an absolute beauty of a game to behold. From the indicators to the cruise control function, from the beautiful landscapes to the different types of vehicles that I came across in the game (trains, helicopter, bikes, etc). There was one absolutely stunning moment where a bi-plane (probably a crop duster) flew across my view, with this amazing sunset in the background and the sun’s final rays streaming in through the window. It was one of the most beautiful sights I had ever seen in a game.
It was only after witnessing this that I realised that there is a Photo mode for the game. This pauses the game and let’s you select the type of view you want to take photos of. You can then keep these to share with your friends or online.
Driving at night (in the game and for real) is a surreal experience. Even with a twenty minute real-time drive, you can almost feel that same serenity one gets when driving at night. The dashboard lights up nicely, and even cop lights on the street reach inside your cabin when you drive past. The extra touch was the reflections on vehicles, not only yours, but the traffic vehicles too.
Let’s hit on the sound for a moment. This is one of the few games where you will get the best in music variety. How did they manage that? Gone is the standard game playlist that loops over and over again, and hello to the ability to add your own music from your computer! Not only that, but you can load up streaming radio stations from the internet that plays actual radio stations, with news broadcasts and adverts included.
One final thing before I get to the Utah expansion, is the actual gameplay. I first started off playing with the keyboard. This was rather tricky at first, as I would need to look for the appropriate keys for the indicators, lights and cruise control. Once I got the hang of it, it was perfectly fine, but nothing beats the experience with a Xbox controller. All the main functions you need at the touch of a button in your hand. This became my preferred mode to play, as it just enhanced the enjoyability of the game.
The gameplay also features an ability tree of sorts. As you level up, you can unlock new features, such as hazardous cargo, longer distances, and other types of cargo. You will be rewarded with higher paying jobs that is relevant to your skill level. And with that, you also unlock customisation parts for your trucks and trailers. The customisation section of the game is massive, allowing you to upgrade and get new parts for almost every part of your vehicles, as well as paint jobs. Imagine Need for Speed Underground 2, with trucks. And also, you can upgrade and customise your city bases and garages.
Now let’s get to Utah. Here are the features that comes with installing this new State:
- 3.500 miles of road network
- 10 major cities (Salt Lake City, St. George, Moab)
- New quarries and mines including the largest open excavation Kennecott Copper Mine
- Expanded oil industry (oil mining sites, oil storage sites)
- Improved agriculture production chain (country stores, feedmills)
- Famous landmark sites: Great Salt Lake, Monument Valley, Virgin River Canyon
- Over 260 recognizable natural and man-made landmarks
- 12 well-known truck stops
- New and improved process of landscape creation
- Utah achievements to unlock
Even if you are just starting new to ATS, Utah is available immediately if you have purchased the DLC. I needed to increase my Long Distance ability to at least level 3 to be able to reach it in Quick Jobs, but after that, Utah jobs became rather regular. I’ve never been to America, but just by driving in the simulator, I got at least some idea of what it is like to live as a trucker in the United States.
ATS feels almost like it can go on forever. I’ve been playing this whole week, and it truly feels endless. You can take as many jobs as you want, there will be more for you when you look again. Everyone has a job for you. And boy, the game is really addictive. Just one more job to unlock that new part, just 2 more jobs to afford that trailer.
And while I find it hard to complain about anything, I do wish there was some form of reset function. I know it isn’t realistic, but I do wish for it. The back of my truck got stuck on he edge of a pavement in such a way that the wheels that revolve the driveshaft was suspended in the air. Which meant I could not go anywhere. The only solution I had was loading the latest autosave, which there was plenty of and luckily was just before the incident.
ATS: Utah makes me very happy. It is such an easy, addictive game to get into. Action junkies may well and truly steer clear of titles like this, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they too are converted by the likes of ATS: Utah. It is a massive business management system with driving simulation at its core. And once you progress far enough, you can also hire workers to do all the hard work for you. Personally, I love doing the driving myself, but they do help boost your income. If you pick the correct drivers.
As mentioned before, this game would have been awesome on the Switch, enabling you to play it anywhere on the go. I cannot wait future States to be unlocked; hell, bring on South African Truck Simulator!!
ATS: Utah is on sale on Steam for USD $11.99 / EUR €11.99 / GBP £8.99, and I can easily say it is by far worth the price. It receives a 9.5 / 10 from me.