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 release (especially when considering Euro Truck Simulator 2 graphics). 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 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. The new lighting engine changed things I barely paid attention to before. For instance, traffic lights now softly fade from one color to another, 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 glow of man-made light sources and the moon makes nights just a tad easier to navigate. After the update, reflections are abundant — lights on the chassis of vehicles and wet roads turn into beautiful hazy mirrors.
After looking back at earlier footage of Euro Truck Simulator 2, 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.
The sunrises and sunsets are good examples of this. 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 (probably the best phase of the sim), the lack of volumetric clouds stunt the effect just a bit. Farming Simulator 19 shows just how effective the addition would be. It too sported a revamped lighting engine when it launched, and the inclusion of volumetric clouds bolstered its atmosphere.
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 the 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 state of spring/summer, with no hint of fall or, in particular, winter weather. Driving on wet roads is one thing, but what about ice-covered ones?
The dynamic road events have already proven to be a great way to add to the challenge and surprise of the virtual worlds, on top of making them feel truly alive. So, dynamic weather would be a great step in that direction.
It 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, the studio has flirted with this very idea before in the form of 18 Wheels of Steel: Extreme Trucker 1 & 2. It would be great to see it build upon that formula.
The last big change I would like to see is a bit of a pipe dream, but maybe not. I say that because it technically already exists in the games, but 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. However, this feature is limited to just the garage. It’s incredibly basic, but it does show that it’s currently quite possible. The studio’s scenery designers and truck modelers continue to pour so much work into new 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?
Improvements like the aforementioned would allow Euro Truck Simulator 2 and American Truck Simulator to look more modern and feel more modern, too. Both sims have grown substantially in terms of world size, truck roster, cargo types and other small improvements since their initial launches. But the gameplay formula hasn’t really changed much if it all.
It’s a great formula, but other sims that have come since then prove just how much further this can all go. 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 sims will continue to age, but SCS seems dedicated to refurbishing and building upon what’s already there rather than creating entirely new titles. This is an odd choice, but ultimately one that’s beneficial for longtime consumers. All things considered, version 1.40 is a nice, big push in the right direction. Here’s hoping that such changes will eventually find their way in one way or another in the foreseeable future.