Review by Smirnoff

Reviewed: 12/05/02 | Updated: 12/05/02

The art of making games #1: The number of wheels is inversely proportional to the entertainment value

In the hierarchy of public hate figures established in the world today, truck drivers are right up there with traffic wardens and soccer referees. So perhaps basing an entire game around that particular profession wasn't the smartest way to attain mass-market appeal. But to give Sega (the developer for the ignorant) some credit, at least they've thoroughly researched the role, and appear to have captured the true spirit of trucking. For after just five minutes with 18 Wheeler you'll be cutting up faster moving traffic, blocking both lanes and hitting other vehicles with callous disregard. It could well be the most realistic driving simulation ever released.

Some and/or many of you might already be familiar with the game from its earlier Dreamcast appearance, others may recognize it from the arcades. Housed within an enormous speaker-clad cabinet and featuring an authentic trucker steering wheel, it's one of the few games guaranteed to attract a gaggle of onlookers desperate to feed the cash-hungry machine with fistful of coins.
What ensues is a race across five stages carrying different types of cargo: normal and hard. The latter weighs considerably more and impacts on the speed and maneuverability of your machinery, but the financial incentives for delivering the heavier cargo are considerably more substantial. Working against you are all manner of obstacles, from falling crates to slower moving traffic and a rapidly descending countdown timer (of course). It's possible to make up extra time by ramming the vehicles with a '+3 seconds banner' (of course), but it can be easily lost while jostling with your rival trucker.

It's good fun while it lasts, but the 'lasting-period' is pathetically short. And besides, it loses much of its appeal when stripped of the novelty arcade cabinet, and so i have serious reservations over the longevity of the game. Even the most inept players should be able to uncover most of what 18 Wheeler has to offer within the first hour of picking it up. Crazy taxi was a similarly shallow experience, but at least they had the good sense to pad it out with a decent array of home extras, not least an all-new city level to explore. In this department 18 Wheeler is woefully lacking, with only a lame Multiplayer mode and a handful of rather dull mini-games to accompany the main Arcade mode.

With the Dreamcast now officially dead (although not quite buried) we'll be seeing an awful lot of more of Sega's arcade-to-home conversions on PS2, this was one of the first. Good news indeed, so long as they can be bothered to increase the lifespan with some decent home extras.
This PS2 conversion is just criminally short and the lack of an arcade cabinet and scarcity of extras make it a particularly unattractive proposition. Put it this way: would you be happy shoveling $60 into the coin-up?

Rating:   2.0 - Poor

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