Review – FIA European Truck Racing Championship
Remember the article I wrote about AA gaming not long ago? Remember when I said that the beauty of AA games is that people can actually make titles catered to a very niche and specific audience and still get away with it? FIA European Truck Racing Championship couldn’t have been released in a more appropriate time, because it’s the perfect example of why I like these types of games, even though they are far from perfect or properly polished.
FIA European Truck Racing Championship, or just Truck Racing Championship for short, is a racing simulator focused around driving humongous hunks of metal on the same tracks tailor made for Ferraris and Bugattis to fool around on. All of this while having to cope with the physics and complicated logistics caused by, well, having to drive humongous hunks of metal on the same tracks tailor made for Ferraris and Bugattis to fool around on. It’s a game that, while riddled with some really annoying issues, actually proved to me that racing with somewhat slow and really cumbersome vehicles can actually be occasionally enjoyable, and in some aspects, even a bit innovative.
How can you even innovate in something as by-the-books as a racing simulator? The answer is something you definitely wouldn’t expect: braking. Let’s think about physics: you’re driving a 1000-horsepower monster that literally weighs as much as a small house. This isn’t a game in which you’ll be able to drift like an American driving in Tokyo for a movie spin-off, nor a game in which you can freely brake like a maniac mere inches from the beginning of a corner. Your brakes need to be really strong in order to withhold so much stress, and that results in them constantly overheating.
One thing I learned from Truck Racing Championship is that these trucks are already equipped with tanks that spray water onto the brakes in order to cool them down. Given how there’s just a limited amount of water that you can use per race, braking comes not only a game of skill, but also a game of wits. You need to know when to brake properly, and when to use your scarce amount of water in order to avoid turning your wheels into rings of fire so hot that they would put a smile on Johnny Cash’s face. May he rest in peace.
Besides this, the game acts as your typical racing simulator. Grab a pilot, choose between two racing classes, do some races, rack up points, and win the championship. You are constantly being offered new contracts, both short-term and long-term, you earn money that is used to both fix your trucks and pay for your team’s salaries, buying upgrades, and so on.
For a game clearly made on a smaller budget, this career mode is actually impressive. The problem is, it takes ages for this to actually become playable, because Truck Racing Championship follows the Gran Turismo route of forcing you to obtain a driver’s license by playing some lame minigames. The difference is that in Gran Turismo, those minigames were simple, short, and required you to drive a light car. In this game, however, you drive trucks and they are intentionally cumbersome to drive. The sole act of braking the damn thing in a designated space is harder than you think, as there’s this thing called inertia. I am so grateful that Forza Motorsport eventually showed up and proved that you can remove the boring bits of a racing simulator and still be considered a racing simulator.
Career mode aside, Truck Racing Championship features enough content to satisfy those into this (very specific) kind of motorsport. There are quick races, time trials, licensed drivers and tracks, online multiplayer, and surprisingly enough, split-screen multiplayer as well. The races are pretty straightforward, but I really didn’t like how punity the ETRC penalties are for things as menial as driving outside the tarmac, given how difficult it is to steer these damn hunks of metal in the first place.
The only other big issue that I found in this game was its framerate. Forza Motorsport 7 this is not. The best performance you can achieve is a mere 30 frames per second, but once there are too many trucks onscreen, especially in the beginning of a race, that number plummets. Weirdly enough, the inconsistent framerate didn’t annoy me THAT much, and that’s mostly because those trucks aren’t exactly very fast. I never felt like the framerate was diminishing the game’s overall sensation of speed because, truth be told, there wasn’t a lot of it to begin with.
With that all being said, I’m still really glad that FIA European Truck Racing Championship exists. It’s far from being the best polished racing game out there, but the sole fact that there is such a niche game with enough content to satisfy its target demographic is why I love AA gaming in the first place. If you’re into this kind of motorsport, for as specific as it may be, be glad that there is a game that will entertain you for hours. If you’re just a racing game fan, this can still be a very different but competent game for you to enjoy. Just be prepared to endure the boring license minigames before the career actually begins.
The ideal visuals for a game like this, with highly detailed trucks and tracks that look as good as their Forza Motorsport 7 counterparts. The framerate is nowhere near as ideal, though.
Driving these trucks isn’t exactly as smooth and intuitive as driving a normal car, but that’s part of what makes the game so challenging. The framerate and overly punitive penalties are beyond flawed, though.
Some above average voice acting coming from your paddock team, a few rock tunes and engine sounds. Nothing out of the ordinary, it gets the job done without any issues and without ever impressing.
Fun Factor: 6.5
This is a very competent racing simulator, even though it’s as niche as niche can be, and its career mode starts with an unbelievably boring driver school.
Final Verdict: 7.0
FIA European Truck Racing Championship is available now on PS4, Xbox One, PC and Switch.
Reviewed on Xbox One.
A copy of FIA European Truck Racing Championship was provided by the publisher.