Time Played: 38 Minutes
Sponsored By: Wordsmythe [Ed. note: Hello.]
Not all truck sims are created equal.
Semi Trailer Review
I’m a big fan of Euro Truck Simulator and American Truck Simulator, and that’s a problem. But not in the way you’re probably thinking. It’s a problem because they’ve spoiled me for other games of their type.
You run into this problem a lot when you play a lot of games, especially if you have highly specific tastes. You play person-shooters your entire life without ever encountering anything that transcends mediocrity and seem perfectly happy, (and judging from my Steam Friends list, all but 25 of you have) but once you start looking at mundane vehicle simulators, that ceases to be an option. You either play the best, or you don’t play at all. Mainly because you’re either playing the best, or you’re trying to play something that won’t even boot.
I exaggerate, of course. There are a few middling vehicle sims out there that are not made by Giants or SCS but also do not crash to desktop every time you try to decouple your trailer. The problem is they’re standing in a long, long shadow.
So how do I even play a game like Rig 'n' Roll, while copies of ATS and ETS2 both sit on my hard drive? The answer is, with duty, and for less than an hour, and only to remind myself why SCS owns that market.
That’s unfair to Rig 'n' Roll, though. It’s not a terrible game. It’s not even that buggy, by the standards of the genre. It even manages to do some interesting things on a narrative level, which surprised and delighted me. I can even hear you’re brain-gears grinding. Narrative? In a trucking sim? What does that even look like?
Well, it looks like fully voice-acted cutscenes, for one. Sure, they’re not voice acted well, but that’s not the point. Voice acting in a trucking sim is like hubcaps on a tractor. There’s no reason for it to be there, other than someone who really believes in it wanting it there. You have to doff your mesh-baseball-cap to anyone crazy enough to try something like that.
Another narrative addition involves side-quests. While you’re out making a run, you have the occasional opportunity for a little side-business. For my part, I picked up a hitchhiker whose car had broken down near a truck stop. I offered to drop her off at the nearest gas station, which happened to be in the town I was headed for anyway (this all in another voice-acted cutscene, I must add). As I switched back into drive-mode, I noticed that she was actually sitting in the cabin with me. Which was kind of a cool touch, and it might have helped me remember to drop her off had it not been for the fact that I tend to use the exterior cameras for actual driving.
Why would I do that? Because the interior camera is terrible. It’s like driving with your forehead glued to the windshield. You can’t see both sides of the hood at the same time, which makes staying in lanes and passing less of a chore than an impossibility.
When last I peeked in on her, she was quite calm and composed, considering that I was a few hundred miles away from her promised destination, heading away from it. She didn’t even seem to mind when the cops pulled me over for ramming another car while I was trying to pass it while using the interior camera. She probably gets this a lot.
Mechanically, I can’t say there’s a whole lot wrong with the game, exactly. It’s lighter on the simulation than other games in the genre, but you can still control the windshield wipers, shift manually, and decouple the trailer at importune moments. So far the game hasn’t asked me to back the rig up, as all of the warehouses are ultra-modern facilities with giant robots that work just off camera to lift the trailer off of your rig and replace it with a new one. It’s an endearingly video-gamey touch to a game that most video gamers wouldn’t even know about.
In the end, though, it was like when you’re living out on your own for the first time, and you’ve got all the ingredients together to make your Mom’s Hot Dish recipe, but when you take your first bite you realize that the tater tots are too soggy, and the meat is too crunchy, and the cream of onion soup tastes like cheese because you bought the wrong kind of soup. It has everything Mom’s recipe had, but it just didn’t come together right. Which is when you decide it’s time to head home for the weekend.
Roll On, Highway?
I think I’m going to leave this passenger at the off-ramp. I can’t justify spending more time with it when I’ve got much better versions of the same thing with criminally low numbers of hours logged into them. I appreciate that they’re trying to do something different, but they didn’t nail the fundamentals well enough to get much applause from me during the freestyle part of the competition.
Is it the Dark Souls of California Driving?
To be the Dark Souls of a genre is not to be the best of the genre, but to be the most compelling in spite of it’s own flaws. In Dark Souls, the game transcends the flaw of not giving a crap what the player thinks by leaning – hard – into not giving a crap what the player thinks. Rig 'n' Roll doesn’t achieve that level of transcendence. Not because it gives too much of a crap about what the player thinks – perish the thought – but because it doesn’t really do anything well enough to make the player care about how little the developer cares about what the player thinks.
If you could follow that last sentence, try this one, which I am assured is completely, grammatically correct: Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo.