The wheels on the truck go round and round in this no-frills driving sim
That videogames allow us to wreak havoc in luscious fantasy worlds populated with over-sexed models and over-sized weaponry is certainly an aspect of their core appeal, but lest we forget, the flipside to that coin is frequently just as enticing. Plotting a road around a city zone, trying on new clothes, setting taxes and fetching the paper are all virtual experiences firmly embedded within my gaming psyche. It's this willingness to find entertainment in the mundane that 1C is banking on with Rig'n'Roll - a trucking simulation that revels in minute automotive detail juxtaposed against a rather daft narrative.
This is a truck
Having had the good fortune to drive the California coast a couple of years back and with preparation arriving in the form of UK Truck Simulator, the developer's efforts at providing at least a sliver of context and detail in the setting are welcome. In a nod to the series' Eastern-European roots, you play the role of an up-and-coming Russian driver delivering goods, mysterious cargo, people and whatever else he can get his hands on. He's then aided and sometimes hampered through a rough storyline by a variety of stereotypical and gloriously badly-voiced characters that meets through his travels.
The year is sometime around 2014, but you'd hardly know it was meant to be the future judging by the visuals. Aside from some Minority Report-style office computers, Rig'n'Roll's world is clearly inspired by the present and framed with the same landmark-condensing techniques favoured in the likes of Grand Theft Auto. It feels like California, no doubt about it, but squashed into a traversable menagerie of identifiable locales.
Following a comically inept and seedy introductory cut-scene, you take the wheel of your first truck and head out onto the highway... well, if you can figure out the controls that is. One thing Rig'n'Roll definitely isn't is newbie-friendly. Expect a full keyboard of incidental levers and viewpoint tweaks, along with in-game help that's determined to be as ambiguous and confusing as possible. There is no real tutorial here, and for a while, no actual indication as to where you should be headed. Blind luck and perseverance will eventually force you down that first stretch of highway, and then quickly into the initial outing of many, many fetch and delivery quests.
This is a slightly larger truck
Surprisingly, the driving aspect seems pretty well-made. The trucks themselves barrel down the freeway with a convincing sense of weight and inertia, audio effects are suitably growly and the detail within each cabin goes a long way to convincing that this is a proper simulation. Cornering at high speed results in tragic under-steer and the inevitable consequences thereof, whilst it's easy to jackknife a heavy load if the tyres grab a little too much at lower speeds and fishtail your cargo into oblivion. In short, the core aspects of actually sitting in a cab and putting pedal to the metal are convincingly reproduced (complete with terrible country music on the radio), and you have to commend 1C for pouring so much effort into getting it right. Regardless of the rest of the package, a devoted segment of their audience are being delivered exactly what they want with just those aspects.
But unfortunately for the rest of us, the illusion is quickly shattered as soon as your behemoth comes into contact with, well, anything. Collision physics range from barely competent to non-existent, with objects and cars actually teleporting. Any sense of realistic physics simply flys out the window, over the barrier, and then somehow lands back onto the road fifty yards in the opposite direction. Police cars in particular seem to be prone to ending up in all sorts of weird positions and situations, more than likely as they're the only vehicles to match - and occasionally beat - your own driving aggression. They routinely clip through other traffic, drive head-long into walls or anything stationary, and even swerve across lanes for no discernible reason. Funny? Undoubtedly. Intentional? Probably not.
And whilst these journeys represent the core of the game, there is an interesting meta-simulation processing in the background, delivered in the form of managing your own truck company. Whilst it isn't going to give any serious economic simulation pause for thought, there is enough depth here to force serious decisions over hiring and firing staff, purchasing vehicles, maximising profits and keeping a happy workforce. Ultimately though, it means little outside of the main story (but would make a fantastic small-scale MMO project at some point), and the daily grind of ferrying cargo against a time limit always returns to full focus.
I... I think I'm sensing a theme here
Criticising a title like Rig'n'Roll for lack of variety would be churlish considering the niche subject matter, but even so, the lack of interesting graphical presentation, open-world vitality or any compelling storyline presentation doesn't help its cause as you make your way from point A to point B for the 90th time. Poor collision physics and the occasional (but brilliant) terrible voice acting quickly wear down any lingering sense of affection for the subject matter, and only hardcore truck fans will prevail over those disappointments. If you sound like that person, you could easily add another one or two onto the score. If you're not - and I suspect that's almost all of you - dust off the Dreamcast and fire up 18 Wheeler instead.
Criticising a title like Rig’n’Roll for lack of variety would be churlish considering the niche subject matter, but even so, the lack of interesting graphical presentation, open-world vitality or any compelling storyline presentation doesn’t help its cause as you make your way from point A to point B for the 90th time. Poor collision physics and the occasional (but brilliant) terrible voice acting quickly wear down any lingering sense of affection for the subject matter, and only hardcore truck fans will prevail over those disappointments. If you sound like that person, you could easily add another one or two onto the score. If you’re not - and I suspect that’s almost all of you - dust off the Dreamcast and fire up 18 Wheeler instead.