Goodbye fast cars and race girls...Hello diesels and truck stops.
For all you aspiring truck drivers, the game you've been waiting for is finally here. Buckle up and carry your cargo across America in Sega's latest arcade-to-home port, 18 Wheeler American Pro Trucker. Unfortunately, it's a very short ride, so don't bother packing any extra underwear.
The game is simple enough. You choose one of several truck drivers, each with their own strengths and weaknesses, and transport cargo from one location to another. If the goal is reached within the time limit, you are rewarded with a cash bonus and the opportunity to advance to the next level. You'll also face an opponent, a psycho-babbling truck driver who calls himself Lizard Tail. By beating this ingrate, a bonus level opens where you're required to park the rig. Completing the level within the allotted time earns an upgrade for the semi including a new muffler or a modified engine.
For the most part, this is a pretty identical port of the arcade version. However, Sega added several features in order to compel gamers to buy this game as opposed to renting it for the weekend. In the home version of 18 Wheeler, the aforementioned parking stage and a Versus mode are now available. Nice, but not enough to outweigh the things missing in the translation.
The arcade version features a mock diesel interior complete with oversized steering wheel and air horn. The feeling is greatly diminished with a standard controller, similar to the missing gun in another arcade-to-home port, Silent Scope for the PS2. Even playing with a wheel peripheral sort of leaves something to be desired. Being a near perfect port isn't necessarily a good thing.
The time given for each stage is not very generous, though luckily there are a few options that give the player a better chance. Most essential is the ability to 'Slip Stream,' or drafting. Put simply, get behind a big truck and go you'll ride along in a wind tunnel, moving faster. Also, each stage features a special car that, when hit, will reward a three second extension. Both are vital techniques in completing the stages.
Unfortunately, the home version (as well as the arcade) features only four stages, and each stage literally takes about two minutes to complete. So break out your calculators and do the math. Heck, I'll do it for you. Eight. Eight minutes or so to beat the game. This in turn greatly effects the replay value. How many times can a game with four levels be played?
I don't have a lot of experience driving a diesel, but I'm sure Sega has done a fine job in capturing the sluggish steering of a semi. Driving an 18-wheeler does have its advantages. In order to reach your goal in time it might be necessary to take another path besides the road; for example, through somebody's house. Smashing through stuff in a big truck certainly has its high points.
But even this feature has some problems. As I'm trying desperately to finish on time and ahead of Lizard Tail, I destroy houses, cars, and I think what might have been a Denny's. As I'm plowing through a particularly nice neighborhood, I see a feeble wooden fence in my way. I think this particular resident prepared for the onslaught by reinforcing his fence with adamantium, because when I smash into it the diesel bounces off. However, said fence is located far from the boundary. It takes some of the immersion and oomph out of the game.
Sadly, there's no online feature. This really hurts the already limited length of the game and leaves two-player split-screen as the only multiplayer option.
Graphically, the Dreamcast version is every bit as good as the arcade. The framerate is smooth, the textures are fine and the trucks look good.
But this game is not recommended for those who crave speed. Remember folks, you won't be driving a Skyline, NSX, or even a Gremlin. You will be at the helm of a big diesel monstrosity. Head down a straightaway, give your 500hp vehicle some juice and your will notice an 80 mph top speed.
18 Wheeler may be a good simulation for diesels, but it's something of a letdown as a game. It's just too short and is not worth the 40 bucks. A rental at best.