FIA European Truck Racing Championship (PS4) Review

I’ve always been a fan of arcade racing games, squeezing the Right Trigger as hard as I can as I drift around corners and barge into the opponents like it’s a giant game of bumper cars. As such, games which lean more towards the simulation and realistic nature don’t usually spark any interest with me, I usually find driving around a racing track quite monotonous and dull. However, I couldn’t resist trying out FIA European Truck Racing Championship, despite it being more realistic than I’d hoped for, as you get to drive a heavy truck instead of a flimsy car.

After putting approx 20 hours into the game, completing the European championship once and then encountering a bug which pretty much forced me to stop playing until it’s patched, it’s time to put my foot on the brakes and write about what I thought about this rather unusual, and brutal, racing game.

FIA European Truck Racing Championship 1

It took a while to adapt to the heavyweight!

I’m not going to lie to you, I know nothing about the world of Truck Racing, cars and vehicles aren’t really one of my interests in life, as I mentioned in my Car Mechanic Simulator review the other day. However, I don’t believe you need to know the ins and outs of what the sport is and their rules and regulations – as you’re given a rather comprehensive list of dos and don’ts for each event. That’s right; if you thought this was going to be a simple racing game in which you can use your massive size and weight to bash the opponents out of the way whilst you force yourself into first place, cutting some corners as you got, think again. 

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FIA European Truck Racing Championship is probably one of the most unforgiving and brutal racing games I’ve ever played; If I wanted to use the term which everyone hates, I would say that this is the Dark Souls of racing games! Not only do you get punished for using your brute strength to nudge the opposition in the right direction (into a ditch), but you also receive punishments for hitting strategically placed poles around the course, cutting corners to save any amount of time, and a massive slap on the wrist for refusing to attend detention when it’s demanded of you!

I’ll get into the punishments in more detail below, but don’t go into this game thinking it’ll be an easy ride. from performing a number of objectives to pass your driving test, ensuring your brakes don’t explode ala Star Wars: Podracer style, and trying to stay awake whilst performing a single race, FIA European Truck Racing Championship will not only test your skills as a heavy vehicle race driver but also test your patience and ability to follow orders.

FIA European Truck Racing Championship 2

Pass your driving license if you wish to proceed!

The first thing I noticed, when I loaded up FIA European Truck Racing Championship, was the similarity to Driver – bear with me. Unlike the vast majority of games, where you can jump into the action straight away, in this one, you must first pass your driving examination over a number of various points. Things start off simple with driving in a straight line, braking within a set location, performing a simple slalom around some barriers and traversing corners without smashing into a wall. However, the intensity of these events are all amplified by the fact you’re against the clock and are rewarded a bronze, silver or gold, based upon how well you do. 

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Once you’ve mastered the beginners part of the licence, get ready for more aggressive versions of the previous tests as well as learning how to cool down your brakes so that they don’t get too hot and knock you out of the race. One of my particular ‘favourite’ license exams was driving around a whole course whilst keeping your brakes between two temperatures – not too hot and not too cold. This meant cooling down as the temp rises, forcing myself to brake a lot so I could raise it before it got too low, and keeping an eye on both the road and the small temperature meter at the same time so my truck doesn’t go off-road! Seriously, this particular one made me feel like Keanu Reeves in Speed!

Thankfully, there’s only one license you have to earn for both championships, so you don’t have to go through the ordeal of getting two of them. It’s not that I have a problem with the process of getting a license, I thought it was quite realistic, I just wasn’t expecting it and thanks to the unique break temperature mechanic, I struggled with a few of the elements a number of times. But, once I had passed with flying colours (well, mostly gold with one or two bronze trophies), I was finally ready to experience the main game and have some fun, well, almost…

FIA European Truck Racing Championship 3

Ramming others isn’t nice…

The second thing I noticed with the game is the impressive and extensive selection of vehicles on offer…  sorry, I meant lack of. Whereas the game provides 45 massive trucks which are all fully licensed, you can’t actually pick the vehicle you’re going to be driving around the course. FIA European Truck Racing Championship operates a little like 2K sports games, once you’ve picked a championship (European or World Wide), you’re presented with a calendar. From here, you can pick which races you wish to participate in, with practice events spanning one day being optional and two-day weekend events being mandatory for the championship. 

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Once you’ve picked an event which you want to participate within, you must pick a sponsor – there are 20 to pick from but you must improve your reputation in order to unlock the bigger and higher-paying ones. The sponsor you pick determines which vehicle you’ll be driving – although you won’t know what you’re driving until the course overview screen pops up. Basically, for the first ‘year’ you play for either championship, you’re basically a driver for hire as you flip from team to team each week, changing your alliance and truck at the same time. Once you’ve completed a whole year, you can choose to take a sponsor for a whole 12 months, but this brings with it much more responsibility as you become in charge of the vehicle when you do this.

Each race grants you money and reputation points depending on your finishing position. Whilst you’re working for a team, in your first year, all repairs and maintenance are provided by the team you sided with that weekend. However, once you take on a yearly contract, you must use your hard-earned monies to repair any damage you incur as you smash into people (and walls) unintentionally, as well as upgrade the various components within your vehicle to give yourself an unfair advantage over the competition. Now, this is what I’ve read you can do but as of today (31st July), the game has a bug where you don’t earn any money – so I can’t actually spend any money in-game and see what I can do to my hired vehicle. **This should be fixed shortly, an update was released on PC yesterday**

FIA European Truck Racing Championship 4

There are a number of views, I prefer third-person.

Let the race begin!
So, what’s it actually like to have control of a five-tonne vehicle? Well, it feels like you’re controlling a five-tonne vehicle… Forget Bowser and Donkey Kong in Mario Kart, they were a heavy-class but they were still quite zippy as they sped around the racetrack, these trucks are slow, slow and powerful. As such, you’ll accelerate at a slow pace, need to apply your breaks much sooner than usual due to the momentum, and they have a tendency to slip and slide all over the place when it’s raining or the ground is full of grit. In short – it’s a whole new ballgame when it comes to racing in a massive truck!

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As I mentioned before, you have to not only concentrate on your driving skills, but you also have to be aware of all of the penalty-inducing hazards which have been strategically placed around the course. These include:
• Bumping into other trucks, or them bumping into the front of yours (as it counts as being your fault).
• Going off-road and then coming back onto the road in a fashion in which the game feels you gained an advantage (such as to overtake or cut a corner).
• Hitting a ‘penalty pole’ which is placed on almost every corner and on the side of the road throughout the game. Although, if someone knocks it over first, feel free to ride over it!
• Going over 160 km/h – this is a rule imposed for safety reasons but you can toggle an option so you literally can’t hit this. Alternatively, live wild and manage your own speed!
• Finally, if you’ve repeatedly performed any of the above (like rear-ending the truck in front a few times within a matter of seconds) then you’ll be told to visit the penalty pit stop.

I’ve never known a racing game with so many rules and regulations you must abide by, although I guess it’s just trying to be as realistic as it can. As I mentioned above, the punishment for performing these actions consists of one of three things; First, you get a warning, advising you not to do it again, then you’ll a time penalty (5 or 10 seconds added to your final time). However, if you’re not in the final two laps, you may be told to go into the penalty pit stop lane – this isn’t a suggestion, it’s a mandatory requirement. You have to enter the lane which is usually used for Pit Stops within the next two laps, forcing your truck to drive at a max of 60 km/h – watching as all the other trucks pass you by and overtake you. If you forget, or just don’t bother going into this lane, 30 seconds is added onto your final time.

At this point, you may as well just restart the race!

FIA European Truck Racing Championship 5

The sunset races look great.

Time flies…
Again, this is going to be down to how ignorant I am with the sport, but I really didn’t like the length of the races. By default, the races are set to 100% length, this means you’ll be performing between 10 and 12 laps on each track, with each lap taking you around 3-4 minutes each. That’s right, over 35 minutes of going round and round a bendy and twisted track. What makes it worse is the AI. Sure, you occasionally see them spinning off due to the corners, bumping into each other, different people will be in pole position on each race, and things sometimes get fun when they decide to try and ram you. However, the AI is too ‘good’ for the game. Each truck is almost identical (stat-wise), so if you drop down to fifth place or lower, restart the game as you’re not going to see first or second place again.

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It’s like a stalemate as you furiously push on the accelerator in hopes of catching up but, even on easy, they stay at a constant distance from you almost the majority of the time. With 12 laps to go, you can usually catch up, gradually, as you take corners faster and tighter than the opponents, but it’s really hard to do. I grew tired of playing in 100% (quite literally, I was getting tired as I drove round and round, it was making me almost fall asleep at points), so I put it on 50%. This was much better as I now only had to do six laps, but it meant it was now harder as I had less time to try and catch up and overtake the other drivers. Finally, I put the game on 25% so I only had three laps to do, this would usually be very hard but I discovered an exploit which basically disabled all penalties…

However, even without the exploit (which I won’t disclose as it breaks the immersion in the game), I found the game rather hypnotic and relaxing. Sure, I got frustrated and rage-reset a number of times as I knew I was in a position I couldn’t pull myself back from, but I still found myself returning to the game night after night, playing it until three or four in the morning. Now, this could be because each race weekend consists of four races, two practices and two qualifiers (about three hours gameplay per event), but it got me addicted to the slow and instinctive nature of the game. 

FIA European Truck Racing Championship 6

Wet levels have realtime reflections on the wet floor as well as really good lighting reflections.

Realistic features!
I briefly touched on them before, but the fact you have to monitor your brake temperatures is both ingenious and annoying beyond belief at the same time. Throughout the licence examination, you’re forced to play the game with this mechanic enabled, having to read the small dial and push circle to let out a burst of air and soothe your brakes before your vehicle blows up from the inside out. However, once you shove the license in your pocket and place your butt in the cool leathery seat of the five-ton death-machine, you can disable this feature via the options menu if you find it too hard to handle. I had it on for a while but I prefer to have it off as I’m already monitoring a lot of things mid-game, adding another mechanic was making me stress out a little. 

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Aside from the 45 trucks, all based upon real vehicles you’ll see out in the world with their official livery designs, we have access to 14 circuits which include official ETRC ones and a bunch of World-Wide tracks (but no UK ones as far as I could see). You can also fully tweak your vehicle’s performance (suspension and other variables) before a race if you wish.

Other Modes
If you’re a single-player fan, you have the championship modes, which will take many, many hours to complete, as well as a ‘Quick Race’ mode which lets you pick your favourite event type (World or ETRC), driver (and truck) and track. You can also try your hand at the time trails if you wish. Both Quick Race and Time Trials let you fully customise the game from disabling the penalty markers to what weather and assists you want – everyone will find their perfect combination for a quick race or two. There is a weekly events tab but I’ve not been able to get this to work so I don’t know if it’s disabled, broke, coming soon, or just glitched on my version?

For those out there with friends, multiplayer. You can play locally via split-screen or create/search/quick join an online match against friends and strangers alike. As people usually ask me, you can set up an online game in both public or private and you can either play a single race or an entire race weekend (four races). At this moment in time, I couldn’t find an online race but there are no online trophies, so it’s a nice addition for you to play with your friends but you aren’t required to use it in order to get the elusive Platinum Trophy.

Technical
Interestingly, the ‘display’ options within FIA European Truck Racing Championship states it contains window style and resolution options, but it only has a gamma bar. I imagine that’s the description from the PC version! There’s no toggle for PS4 Pro support – although the game probably has it baked in. The visuals themselves are pretty good, everything looks nice and clean and as you’d expect. The courses themselves are both detailed and basic at the same time – they look realistic and have some really nice textures and background buildings, but there are some compromises such as the crowd of people which is consisted of 99% flat 2d people and a few scattered moving NPCs with flags.

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The quality of the trucks is very nice though, all of them looking like their real counterpart (from what I’ve googled) and a bit of visual damage appearing should you turn that on. Also, you’ll usually see smoke, dirt and water fly around as you drive through it, each also affecting your driving and grip on the track.

Audio-wise, it’s a mixed bag. Sure, the trucks and race sounds are as you’d expect, but the music simply stops when you get in-game. In the menu, we have an alternative rock soundtrack which really gets you pumped for driving these massive machines, but then… silence. For me, this was fine as I put on my iPad and had on a podcast or show whilst I drove (not something you should do in real life) but it just felt strange how there’s no racing music. Maybe it’s because the standard length of a single race is about 35 minutes?

Official Trailer:

Final Conclusion:
FIA European Truck Racing Championship is a rather unique and time-consuming racing game. With the settings all set to default, a single race weekend will take you approximately three hours to complete, three hours of driving around the same racetrack in hopes of catching up to the parallel-running CPU who hardly ever slow down to give you an advantage. Not to mention the large number of penalties you can incur by breaking the official rules, thus further increasing your time and making restarting the race your only chance of success. However, despite the brutal nature, the unforgiving punishments, the long-winded racing (which I turned down) and the credit system not currently working, I quickly became addicted to this game and couldn’t stop playing. 

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If you like racing games but want to try out something different which isn’t space-based or involves powerups and weapons, FIA European Truck Racing Championship is an interesting game to try out. Is it hard? Sure, at first. Will it take you many hours to get the Platinum? Yup, especially if you have the race length set to 100%. But will you become as addicted to it as I have done over the last few weeks? That all depends on you, I like games I can put on and mindlessly play whilst listening or watching something on my iPad at night – this fit the bill perfectly. 

A copy of the game was kindly provided for review purposes

FIA European Truck Racing Championship

£49.99
7.5

Final Score

7.5/10

The Good:

  • - Driving the trucks feels much heavier than standard racing games
  • - Very addictive and almost therapeutic
  • - The championships will take hours to complete
  • - For better or worse, the penalties and punishments mimic real life rules and regulations
  • - Graphically, the trucks look really good

The Bad:

  • - The AI is a little too unforgiving, even on easy, as they're really hard to catch up to and overtake
  • - There are a few glitches such as oponents sitting the race out if they get shoved into a wall hard enough and I once had a pileup of trucks because one spun in the middle of the road
  • - No truck selection as everything depends on which team you side with
  • - Some people may not like the repetitive nature of driving the same course four times in a row each weekend
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