Hard Truck 2/King of the Road

tsuneokatou's picture

Ahh, Hard Truck 2...my childhood. My mother and father had joint custody of me seven years ago when they both lived in the same province, and whenever I'd go to my father's on the weekends, I couldn't wait to play this. He had this game sitting around on his shelves and never played it (preferring instead to play hunting simulators as well as Hard Truck 2's successors, the 18 Wheels of Steel series), but I made good use of it. Though at my young age, I just preferred to drive around. That in itself was fun, and there was a bit of satisfaction to be had in knowing you drove across an entire state in just a few hours. However, the real point of Hard Truck 2 is to hop into a truck, haul loads from point A to point B, and literally race rival truckers in doing so. If you won, you got a license to hire a driver, who would go out and net you more money to buy more trucks, hire and pay more drivers, and get upgrades, repairs, and refuels for your truck. For the most part, it was pretty realistic, but there were a few things that were...well, not so much, or just annoying. So let's dig in.

The graphics actually aren't bad for their time, and these days when I play the game, I don't find myself wishing the graphics were better. When your truck takes damage, however, it's extremely abrupt. The damage seems to be mostly taken in the front -- rather, the front is where it's most noticable. There's some graduation, but not a whole lot. It depends on the impact, but let's assume we're ramming the same wall at the same force each time. First, your bumper disappears. Just...disappears. It's not there now, deal with it. Then the hood gets scrunched up, which is troublesome in first-person view since it hinders your vision. Then, the hood's just gone. It disappears, showing us the engine. Hey, at least we can see now. lol However, other than the trees being 2D, the ground all looking the same, the slopes being obviously flat surfaces that just incline gradually, and the abrupt visuals from vehicles taking damage, the graphics are...pretty good. The vehicles all look very nice, well-modeled and everything flows smoothly.

The soundtrack. The music ranges from peaceful to driving and intense, but there's no real rhyme or reason to the music cue. It's just random. Though that aside, the music is nice to listen to. The sound effects, however, aren't very realistic -- mostly the sound of your truck being damaged, and, ironically, the sound of you truck being repaired at a shop. The sound of a truck crashing into anything (because it's the same sound effect no matter what you crash into) just sounds like someone very quickly tried to sharpen a sword against a rusty lead pipe. It sounds metallic, but not like a vehicle crashing. And the repair sound vaguely resembles the sound of...some kind of tool, but not actually a tool. I don't know what it's supposed to be. Everything else is pretty standard -- horns, tires screeching, revving...doesn't stand out in a good way, but hell, not in a bad way. It sounds right.

As for the gameplay, if you're looking for a realistic trucking simulator, turn back now and don't ever look back. This isn't a complaint, it's just saying that the game doesn't emulate being an actual trucker. In Hard Truck 2, you get cargo from any given town and take it to another town. There's usually a wide array of destinations to choose from in each town, and if you pick something up, you're entered in a race against other truckers hauling the same cargo to the same destination. And it does feel like a racing game. Your pager will tell you what place you're in in the race, and you can keep track of your cargo damage. You get paid more the less damage your cargo takes, so it's rather fun trying to balance going faster than everyone else as well as being careful not to be too reckless. I already talked about the reward for races, however. Also, there's a Circuit, which is a racetrack where you can enter your truck in a race with other trucks to compete for money, if races are going on at the time. Your pager will tell you when races are to take place. I take this Circuit as a nod to the first Hard Truck game (also a part of my childhood, but sadly I can't seem to find a copy), where the first race you enter is an actual truck-racing circuit. I digress. When you finally make it big, you've hired plenty of employees, and become a trucking tycoon, you can invest in a car, of all things, and just drive around. What the point of having a car is, I don't know -- obviously cars can't haul cargo, so all that's really left is wandering aimlessly around the map and maybe participating in circuits. Also, two things can happen that mean game over -- Either you go bankrupt (though how exactly that happens, I'm not sure. It would happen to me when I played the game years ago, but I don't remember how.), or your truck can become irreparable -- usually by driving into a river/lake. There are a few other realistic things -- like cops. Though they only have squad cars (all the same model) and huge choppers that patrol certain areas. In HT2, speeding isn't a crime (because holy fuck it's A RACING GAME), but driving on the wrong side of the road, ramming other cars, and other things can have the police chase you (in fact, [link]). If you don't pull over, they start shooting at you, and eventually catch up once they've debilitated your truck and fine you for whatever you did. Also, if you run out of gas or your truck becomes so damaged that it won't move, there's a "911" function on the pause menu that refuels and repairs your truck, at a hefty cost of cash. Sometimes things will happen that block certain roads, and you pager will inform you of this. "BRIDGE IN THE VICINITY OF NORTH HARBOR IS UNDER CONSTRUCTION" "ROAD FROM ST. HELENA TO MERCURY IS FLOODED". When you start a new game, you can even choose how much traffic there is, how long the days are in comparison to the nights, and the weather. In the end though, the gameplay is fun and engaging, with plenty of replay value. The races are fun, the map is expansive, and there's a wide array of trucks to choose from.

I mentioned "King of the Road" in the review title, and yes. Hard Truck 2: King of the Road was the European release of Hard Truck 2. I do have some complaints about HL2, but I held off on mentioning them up until now because they were the complaints that King of the Road fixed. So, since King of the Road is essentially the same game with a few revisions, I'll just number the revisions off.

1. Every town looks the same and has nothing to it but a truck stop (where you can buy trucks and recruit drivers) and the cargo depot. In King of the Road, there are diners, houses, streets that lead into neighborhoods, and more elements that almost make it feel like they're actually towns you're visiting. Of course, the new additions have no practical purpose, but just serve to make more sense. There are also some types of buildings you can see outside of towns, like churches and even a dam. Luckily though, the military never blows the dam up. Fucking aliens.

2. The only people in this state are people who drive cars, or big rigs. In King of the Road, some more types of cars are added, as well as city buses, school buses, and other vehicles roaming around.

3. This isn't really a complaint I have nowadays, but I would've when I was younger -- you can't start off in a car. In King of the Road, when you start a new game, you have the choice between driving a truck or a car. However, obviously you'd want a truck so you can haul cargo. It's a nice feature if you're looking for a sunday drive, but highly impractical if you wanna make money and rise to the top.

While I've played Hard Truck 2 for years, I'm just starting out with King of the Road, so there might be more to comment on, but I haven't seen it yet and I don't plan on updating this since it seems long enough already. If you're looking for some wanton racing fun, check out Hard Truck 2 and Hard Truck 2: King of the Road. If you're looking for a highly realistic trucking simulator that even takes place in real-life places, check out the 18 Wheels of Steel series.

All in all, Hard Truck 2 is a classic, and I recommend it to any racing-game fans. It's a huge part of my childhood, and to this day I still love it.