We all know that truck driving games are some of the best things out there, while some prefer the American stylings, I still hold candle up to European Truck Simulator 2, which is now a scary seven year old! It is probably my fascination with ETS2 that led to YouTube pushing a video for FIA European Truck Racing Championship my way.
In these summer months where AAA releases are few and far between, now is the time for smaller more obscure titles to try and make their mark. It’s something which ETRC might have had a chance of achieving, even with the slim pickings when it comes to what you get in the box if the pricing was different. It’s a shame that the price point of £35 (on Steam at least), or £45+ on the consoles, is so high.
It might be the cost of the official FIA licence for the European Truck Racing Championship, along with associated real-world trucks, drivers and tracks, that has pushed the price so high, but it’s something that should give you serious pause before throwing down your hard earned money on this.
That’s not to say this is a bad game, far from it, but it doesn’t do enough to stand out from the crowd. What you do get is a perfunctory racer which despite its simulation stylings is vanilla when out on the road. You don’t need a wheel here to succeed in races, while the weight of trucks doesn’t necessarily come across as much as the game suggests during the lengthy process of acquiring a licence, a requirement to stepping into career mode.
There are numerous truck racing features to the racing that are quirky. Bollards are can be found in strategic places around the edge of the racing line, knocking these off can lead to potential time penalties and you have to be careful in wheel-to-wheel racing to avoid being punted into a spin, or taking a time penalty for unsportsmanlike driving. More detailed features come into play with the 160 km/h speed limit the trucks must adhere to. While you set this to be automatically controlled, you’ll need to watch yourself if it isn’t.
It isn’t just getting the trucks up to speed that you need to pay attention to, stopping them is a challenge in and of itself. Your brakes have an ideal operating range between 200°C and 500°C, if you let them get too hot for too long, they’re going to wear away and you’ll be driving straight into the back of another truck. Fortunately, you can manually control the application of water to cool the brakes during a race, adding a nice strategic layer to proceedings as you want to ensure your water lasts the race distance.
Race weekends can become something of a chore. While their setup is comparable to the real world, after the first couple of races at an event you’re waiting to move on. The events take place over two days, each with a practice session along with a qualifying session. If you qualify in the top eight, you’re through to the super pole qualifying session. There are two races on each day, the first set by the qualifying positions, with the top eight of the second race lining up in reverse finish order.
The realism is welcome, but sadly also ensures things can drag on quite a bit, even when you set the races to 25% of full distance. The interruptions from your engineer “Cool your breaks”, “Keep on pushing” become grating after one race, let alone the full race weekend.
The career mode seems to have some depth to it, with teams offering you short or long-term contracts depending on the reputation you have built up, and once you’re on a season long deal you get to manage your finances alongside upgrading and repairing your truck. It’s just a shame that the career mode is locked until you complete the licence, a series of tasks highlighted by the drive-through penalty scenario where you have to drive into the pits, allow the computer to navigate the pit-lane for you before taking the first corner of the track.
What you do get with ETRC which is appealing is a nice variety of the lesser known circuits around Europe. The new Slovakia Ring appears, alongside Zolder in Belgium and the Le Mans GP circuit. There are a number of tracks from across the globe to get stuck into, with Beunos Aries and Laguna Seca some famous names. The trucks themselves come in two flavours, the European trucks and the American style trucks fashioned for the in-game World Series. The trucks feel different between categories, but within their category, there isn’t much to differentiate them from each other apart from appearances.
Some people will have a lot of time for ETRC, and there is a decent racer here. More could be done to create a hardcore simulation handling model, but what you get is fine. For me, the price point is what puts me off giving this anything more than an “On Target” Verdict. If you want trucks, then take a look at SCS Software’s titles, while if you want a racer, then F1 2019 will be your best bet for track action.
The Verdict – On Target
Platforms Available – PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch
Platform Revewied – PC
Review based on Steam media account copy. Please read this post for more on our scoring policy.