You’ve got to hand it to the think tank team at Jester Interactive. Faced with the daunting task of producing a racing title to compete with the million or so jostling for position on the shelves, they hit on something genuinely new and untried. Trucks. Big ones. Now, now, before you scoff and sneer with contempt, take a moment and suspend your disbelief. Up until quite recently, the subject of truck racing was solely a past time for red necks reared on a diet of Jerry Springer and home brewed moonshine. But, as is the way with any hobby offering the potential for commercial cash-in’s, the sport has grown into an obsession for whole new generation. It’s a fact that, in the US at least, a typical race event attracts over 200,000 spectators and cash prizes of over $100,000. Now with those figures dancing before your eyes you can probably see the sense behind Jester’s decision to give us a digital representation of this wholly unappreciated sport.It’s true that hauling a five-ton juggernaut around a racing circuit may not have the immediate appeal of an F1 dream machine but the sensation is different – and here at Loadedinc.com we like innovation. We like it a lot.At a time when the games industry is in danger of becoming more imitative than innovative, it’s refreshing to find a company brave enough to offer gamers something new and inspired.Super Trucks boasts a respectable offering of 14 officially licensed teams racing on real tracks with a top-drawer selection of real drivers. The trucks themselves are the cream of the crop from manufactures such as MAN, Moto LKW, Mercedes and CAT. And, like any racing simulation, you have the option to tinker about under the hood until its time to go home. Excuse me while I fiddle with my front Anti-roll Bar Level and bring my Limited Slip Differential Level up to par.Ok, I admit I have absolutely no idea what that meant, but doesn’t it sound like I know what I’m doing? Not even the mighty Gran Tourismo offered so many adjustment options. From your front suspension dampening to your rear ride height, you really have the option to create a racing behemoth that’s uniquely yours.The races themselves include arcade, single race, two-player, time trial and championships. If that wasn’t enough to keep your thumbs glued to the controller, the championship mode offers four increasingly difficult competitions that will see you pushing your reflexes and instincts to the limit. A note of warning: Before you pick up this game it’s a good idea to sit in a quiet corner and practise emptying your mind of everything you thought you knew about driving games. These babies handle like real trucks. They are fast, heavy and boast unforgiving physics that leave you cursing yourself for mistiming that corner or not cutting your speed as you jack-knife around a bend. During the early stages of the game you will undoubtedly lose control of your rig as your mind starts to adjust to the realities of manoeuvring a massive juggernaut around a tricky curve. But after a while you find yourself relishing the feeling of raw power as you hurtle down the track in a shiny vehicle the size of a New York apartment. This is a tough simulation to master but, once you do, it is undeniably a fun and rewarding challenge to boot. In another nod to the simulation camp, Jester have even included a brake pressure gauge which warns you when you’re over-heating from excessive tension. When this happens you have to quickly apply coolant or risk a huge reduction in your braking efficiency. This element of strategy makes a Super Trucks race a heady c**tail combining timing, manoeuvring for position and monitoring your rig for telltale signs of wear and tear.The computer A1 is also on par with other top racers. Here your opponents will do their best to cut you up, nudge you off the track and thumb their nose at you as your truck goes into a spin.Super Trucks, is not however, a perfect racing experience. Despite the instant appeal of a novel racing challenge, there are some disappointing elements, which will gnaw away at you like a rat chewing on a month old piece of cheese. The first let down – and perhaps the one for which the developers deserve the sharpest slap on the wrist – is in the sound department. At a time when the PS2 is competing with the X-Box’s ability to record tracks from CD’s and play them in-game (yes, the X-Box can do that), sound quality is now as important as visual appeal. The kindest way to describe the music in Super Trucks is “nondescript” and the sound of your rig’s engine doesn’t fare any better. Even cranking up our surround sound speakers to the level marked “Too High” the noise coming from the TV had about as much atmosphere as a party on the moon.And while we’re picking holes, it has to be said that the in-game graphics, although respectable, are hardly groundbreaking. The draw rate is impressive and without any visible signs of pop-up. But, after playing early code for Colin McRae 3 with its stunning weather and lighting effects, Super Trucks will look decidedly drab and uninspiring. If you want your friends to go green with envy as you show off the graphical power of your new PS2 you might want to try another title.However, these minor niggles aside, Super Trucks is a worthy addition to the racing genre. Whether its novelty factor will be enough to see it competing bumper to bumper with the likes of F1 and Gran Tourismo is uncertain. But what we do know for sure is that it is innovative titles like Super Trucks that continue to breath new life into an old and lack lustre genre.
Founder and Editor of PC Invasion. Veteran PC gamer of over 22 years.