I have never been particularly interested in trucks. Sure, as a kid I used to get excited when we passed a huge semi-articulated lorry on the motorway, but as an adult at the wheel of a small car, I’ve always been wary of them. When I first heard about SCS Software’s series of ‘Truck Simulators,’ I was sceptical – surely a game in which you just drive trucks and make deliveries would be, well, boring. Many people clearly disagreed with me as American Truck Simulator and its slightly older cousin, Euro Truck Simulator 2, have both become big hits. New Mexico marks the American version’s first paid map expansion (with Arizona previously released as free DLC), so is it more of the same, or does it add something new for all the virtual truckers out there?
Through their earlier releases and DLC packs, SCS Software have developed a reputation for their eye for detail. When you cross the state line from Arizona to New Mexico, it is immediately obvious that they have surpassed themselves here. The environment has a unique and highly immersive feel to it. Near the Mexican border, semi-arid scrubland stretches out to the horizon. More centrally, rock formations loom ever closer as you power along the highway. Further north, it all gets greener and more mountainous, and these changes in the landscape add to the vast feeling of the map area. Many landmarks are also added, natural and man-made, allowing you to stop at the birthplace of Billy the Kid and drive past Baylor Peak and Pyramid Rock, all recreated faithfully. There are also 11 trucker’s stops located around the state, so your driver can get some sleep on those long overnight jobs.
New Mexico is a large state with a small population (the 5th largest state in the US but only ranked 36th in population numbers according to the DLC notes). That means long stretches of open road between cities, unlike the more urbanised areas of California in the base game. The roads themselves, with 4,000 miles of asphalt, concrete, and tarmac added to the game, are also different. They are often a single lane in either direction, twisting and turning through the desert and the mountains. You even get to experience the ‘musical road’ of the famous Route 66. Being used to the wide highways linking Los Angeles to Las Vegas and San Diego to Phoenix, this made for a refreshing change. No more getting up to speed and slapping on the cruise control! The roads of New Mexico require more concentration to avoid careening off the road or clipping other cars.
14 new cities have been added with each location having a unique look and feel. Albuquerque stands out with its huge interstate intersection – a veritable Spaghetti Junction of the Wild West. Roswell is also filled with UFO references, and Santa Fe serves as a suitably large-scale state capital. The streets are lined with spoof versions of real-life business, such as Wal-Bert supermarkets and, my favourite, chains of ‘Iflop’ pancake houses. The cities are also alive with various vehicles and even pedestrians moving around. Manoeuvring double trailers and heavy cargo through these busy urban areas can be a challenge, and the AI drivers are infuriatingly dumb at times. However, that frustration as a minivan hits your trailer when it should have stopped at the junction mimics real-life driving perfectly.
New Mexico does not exist in its own little bubble, of course. It is fully integrated with the rest of the game map, allowing for some long cross-country drives. You can now pick up cargo in L.A. and take it all the way to Santa Fe or make a run from Reno to Roswell. This means the American edition of the game is finally giving a real feel of the sheer size of the states while also moving closer towards the scale of Euro Truck Simulator 2.
One thing I have not mentioned up to now is the trucks. That is because there are no major changes here. This is a map expansion offering new roads, cities, deliveries, and landscapes. It does not offer any additions to the truck cabins from the original version of the game, which is bound to be a disappointment to fans of the series. A few new models and/or makes would have added more variety to the game without the need for downloading third-party mods.
Another thing that remains the same is the core gameplay, but this is certainly not a disappointment. SCS Software have hit on a winning formula with this virtual trucking. While the concept, as noted in the introduction, sounds boring, it turns out to be surprisingly engrossing. It is a great way to relax after a long day at work. Firing up the engine, collecting a precariously balanced load of construction equipment, and making my way to Roswell is a great way to blow off steam. Taking in the scenery, driving through the subtly changing environment, and watching the digital sunset keep pulling me back on the road again. Even tumbleweeds make regular appearances without the need for bad jokes first.
To refer back to my question at the beginning of this review, yes, this is more of the same. That is no bad thing, however. The driving experience remains the same, as does the ‘career mode’ of building up your freight and haulage empire, and the temptation of ‘just one more delivery’ to get that vehicle upgrade or expand your garage is strong. What the New Mexico DLC offers is an enhanced experience – new locations and environments, longer distances to travel, and thousands of miles of new roads. If you are a fan of the base game, you will like what you find here. If you have not played before, you will find a unique, alluring game with plenty to explore.
Developer: SCS Software
Publisher: SCS SOftware
Release Date: 9th November 2017