With the arrival of Update 1.40 to Euro Truck Simulator 2 and American Truck Simulator, developer SCS Software has formally taken the most dramatic steps yet to modernize its aging pair of sims. In video game terms, both of these titles are rather dusty considering the advancements made in the industry since their initial releases several years ago. That’s why this move from SCS is so commendable, as it shows the team has a strong passion to ensure that its products are well supported. Seeing the virtual worlds of the Western US and Europe glistening in the new lighting engine certainly accomplishes this very feat.
The overall package looks clean and is far more vibrant and dynamic. I’ve also noticed a lot of new little details here and there that do a good job at making these sims fit in with newer titles. That said, seeing that SCS is welcoming user feedback, there are still some things I’d like to see implemented to push the modernization of these sims even further.
Deeper than the paint job
Before getting into possible additions, I must give credit where credit is due. After looking back at earlier footage of Euro Truck Simulator 2 from a few years back, the differences are clear. The new lighting engine and other graphical improvements just give a satisfying feeling all around, not to mention they make previously attractive aspects of the sims even more striking. Not to mention it’s even changed things I barely paid attention to before.
For instance, traffic lights now softly fade from one color to another. Some other differences I noticed are that intense rainstorms are explicitly different from passing showers, and streams of water are kicked up behind tires. The golden glow of streetlights brightly stands out against the dark of night. And even the soft luminosityof man-made light sources and the moon makes nights just a tad easier to navigate. This update has also made reflections more abundant; lights on the chassis of vehicles and wet roads turn into beautiful hazy mirrors.
Sunrises and sunsets are amazing showcases for the update. They always looked nice, but the revamped skyboxes along with the new lighting technology make these short parts of the virtual day all the more pleasing. Altogether, these graphics enhancements don’t exactly make Euro Truck Simulator 2 and American Truck Simulator suddenly look like next-gen games. But, as SCS has stated, this is just the beginning. And here’s where I would like to see the developer take these sims next.
Bringing it to life
In the realm of visuals, the new reflections are nice but can be taken further. Right now, the reflections are soft and a bit muddy, so sharpening them would help a lot. While rain showers now look absolutely gorgeous (arguably the best phase of the sim), the lack of volumetric clouds stunt the effect just a bit. Farming Simulator 19 shows just how effective such an addition would be. It too sported a revamped lighting engine when it launched, and the inclusion of volumetric clouds bolstered its atmosphere rather well.
Dynamic puddles (or even just puddles at all) would also really deepen the effect of rain and add to the realism. Proper physics of wet surfaces would also add to believability. Visibility reduction is already present, so why not go all the way? And since we’re on the topic of weather, there’s still one glaring omission: seasons.
Both Euro Truck Simulator 2 and American Truck Simulator have maps that feature areas of the world with distinct looks and feels. While the geographical features of these areas have been well captured, the same is not true for their climates. For the most part, these virtual worlds seem stuck in a perpetual state of spring/summer, with no hint of autumn or, in particular, winter weather. Driving on wet roads would be one thing, but what about ice-covered ones?
The dynamic road events that were patched into both sims some time ago have already proven to be a great way to add to the sense of challenge and surprise, on top of making them feel even more alive. Thus, dynamic weather would be a great supplementary step in this direction.
Such an effect would also make players more conscious of how they upgrade their trucks and would train them to be more adaptable. SnowRunner is a great example of how this can all be done, as it features just about everything I’ve mentioned here — albeit it’s focused primarily on off-road driving. Interestingly enough, SCS has flirted with this very idea of having extreme road conditions quite a few years ago in the form of 18 Wheels of Steel: Extreme Trucker 1 & 2. It would be great to see the devs build upon that formula in their modern sims.
The last big change I would like to see is a bit of a pipe dream, but also maybe not. I say that because it technically already exists in both sims, but it’s used very sparingly: the ability to walk. We’ve had this feature in games forever, and the sim genre is absolutely no stranger to it.
But, SCS’ sim titles have always kept the action dedicated to the cockpit. However, a few updates ago, the ability to walk was patched in. Yet, this feature is limited to just the garage. It’s incredibly basic, but it does show that this is currently quite possible. The studio’s scenery designers and truck modelers continue to pour so much work into new environments and objects. Why not let players take the low and slow approach by getting out of their trucks and admiring some of these details up close? What about more interactions like truck maintenance and washing from this perspective? Farming Simulator has been doing this for some time now, so it would be nice to also have such a feature here in the world of big rigs.
Improvements like the aforementioned would allow Euro Truck Simulator 2 and American Truck Simulator to not only look more modern but also feel more modern. Both sims have grown substantially in terms of world size, truck roster, cargo types, and other small improvements since their initial launches. Even so, the gameplay formula hasn’t really changed much if at all.
It’s a great formula no doubt, but other sims that have come along over the years prove just how much further the medium can be pushed. As SCS remains the undeniable king of this sub-genre of driving simulators, it’s not a matter of if such things can be implemented, but how.
Both Euro Truck Simulator 2 and American Truck Simulator will continue to age, but SCS seems dedicated to refurbishing and building upon what’s already there rather than creating entirely new titles. Compared to the rest of the industry, this is a unique choice. But, it’s ultimately one that’s beneficial for longtime consumers. All things considered, version 1.40 is a nice, big push in the right direction—and I hope at least one thing from my here wishlist will make it in at some point or another.