18 Wheeler: American Pro Trucker – Dreamcast
Platform: Sega Dreamcast
Developer: Sega AM2
Release Date (NA): May 22, 2001
Nerd Rating: 6 out of 10
Reviewed by Nerdberry
Ah, the early 2000s, when big-rig driving was all the craze. Kids begged mommy and daddy for a commercial drivers license so they could be career load haulers a la multiple axles and 18 wheels. Oh wait… Not your childhood, huh? Well, I guess I’m wrong, but the gaming industry would have me think otherwise. We had 18 Wheeler: American Pro Trucker, 18 Wheels of Steel, Big Mutha Truckers, and The King of Route 66 in arcades and home consoles across America. Tipping the scale at the overexposure weight-scale maybe? Perhaps. But let’s not forget who started this short-lived fad way back in the year 2000… Sega, the King of the Arcade.
Sega has been an arcade powerhouse for a LONG time now, and it’s likely their quirky games that attract so much attention and make people want to play them. Some might call them gimmicky, but I personally think it’s a mixture of gimmick with solid, fun, and exciting gameplay that makes people keep adding credit after credit to continue playing. One such “gimmicky” and “quirky” arcade game is 18 Wheeler: American Pro Trucker (more often referred to as just 18 Wheeler). The thing that made 18 Wheeler stand out in the arcades was the giant cabinet in which you played.
This arcade rig was set up with large vertical exhaust pipes, an extra large steering wheel (just like the real deal), and the seat was pretty high off the ground. Playing 18 Wheeler in the arcades was pure excitement, fun, and a semi-interactive experience! Everything from having to climb up into your high seat to the giant exhaust pipes above your head gave an almost surreal experience. We all remember the line of kids standing by watching you ram cars off the street in anticipation of you missing your checkpoint so they could play next. But what most people don’t remember about 18 Wheeler: American Pro Trucker is what this game was like as a Dreamcast port. Good thing Nerd Bacon has you covered, huh?
18 Wheeler: American Pro Trucker is about as simple of a game as they get. The concept is elementary but that doesn’t make it a simple kiddie game either. Your entire purpose is to travel across America in a 26 meter big rig, competing against rival truckers to be the first truck to arrive at the final destination. Along the way you can, and you totally should, destroy literally everything that you see! The rival truckers are very aggressive and are often quicker and faster in the most frustrating of ways. Not only are you trying to beat out the rival truckers, you are trying to get as much money as possible. Since this is a traditional arcade game, you have a time limit within each course, and you can extend your time by reaching checkpoints or hitting special time bonus vans.
All of this sounds fun, yes? But once you strip away the big wheel, smoke-stack exhaust pipes, and extremely loud horn, what sort of game do we have for playing in our homes? Well, 18 Wheeler is definitely too simple of a game to warrant the $50 price tag when it was brand new. And that’s possibly one of the many reasons most Dreamcast owners didn’t even know this game existed outside of the arcade. But nearly 15 years later, 18 Wheeler is inexpensive and worth some consideration.
When you first start the game, you are given the option to choose between 4 different trucks, each with their own attributes. While one truck might be hauling a heavier load and is worth a lot of money upon delivery, it is extremely slow and tough to handle. Another truck might have a much lighter load but is worth less money upon delivery. The option is yours. But there doesn’t appear to be any REAL incentive for making money, and this is sort of the problem I have with a lot of these older arcade ports. Everyone raves about Crazy Taxi being super fun, but the incentives just aren’t there. People don’t care to play for points and fake money anymore. That doesn’t mean 18 Wheeler can’t be enjoyed however.
The gameplay in 18 Wheeler is extremely solid, even by today’s standards! The right trigger accelerates the truck, and while you might not have a full manual straight drive operation with your controller, you do have to control low gear and high gear. You always have to start your truck in low gear, or you will go nowhere. Once you get up to speed, you then need to switch to high gear. The “A” button toggles back and forth between gears. Other buttons include reverse (“B” button), camera angle change (“Y” button), honk your horn (“X” button), and brake (left trigger). And that’s it! Talk about simple, right? Wrong… wait, I mean, yes. Correct. It is extremely simple. But navigating your truck through light traffic, tornadoes, off-road debris, sharp turns, and more is one of two major challenges. The second major challenge is beating the time limit.
18 Wheeler features a time limit, just like most arcade racers, and oddly enough I seem to cross the finish line with 1 or 0 seconds just about EVERY time. The special bonus time vans have a tendency to appear JUST when you need them, rewarding you with 3 additional seconds (if you destroy the van). In some arcade racing ports, the time limit is actually the biggest pet peeve for most gamers. But in 18 Wheeler, it puts so much significance on driving and steering, not to mention a more realistic representation of driving a tractor trailer. You can always use your GameShark CDX to cheat and have unlimited time, but then what would be the point of the game? You would have NO challenge!
18 Wheeler is an exceptionally fun game, albeit a little short. Each route takes approximately 1 min and 30 seconds to traverse, which is a good thing and a bad thing. It’s good because if you fail, it doesn’t take a whole ton to replay the level. It’s bad because it limits the replay value of the game. But the short amount of time that you do play is loaded with excitement, as I found myself on the edge of my seat whenever my time was anywhere below 10 seconds!
Other notable features of 18 Wheeler: American Pro Trucker are the graphics, the tiny details, and the mini-game. The graphics are absolutely stunning and truly show off the Dreamcast’s power and capabilities! The landscapes are gorgeously rendered with wonderful desert mountain backgrounds, city skyscrapers, and so much more. The tiny details are what take 18 Wheeler to the next level. Little things like having slip streams behind other big rigs so you can momentarily increase your speed, having to shift into a lower gear to go uphill, and the ability to destroy so many things like street signs, covered bridges, and more. These tiny details add another dimension to the presentation and playability. And let’s not forget the mini-game. Between courses you can play a parking mini-game for extra cash. You have to navigate your truck around sharp turns and park the truck all within 30 seconds and without hitting anything. It’s not much but it’s still enjoyable.
Overall, 18 Wheeler: American Pro Trucker is an above average arcade port worth consideration for any Dreamcast fans! The gameplay is stellar and can be quite challenging at times, but still forgiving at other times. Just because the game is fun doesn’t mean it’s a GREAT game, but it does just enough to give players a small amount of fun without having to work their brains at all, and there’s nothing wrong with that.
There is a 2-player versus mode in which you can race a friend to the finish line. The eye-catching environments paired with the fast-paced gameplay are the key highlights for 18 Wheeler. Replay value is extremely limited considering how linear and one dimensional this game is, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have fun playing it from time to time. I think it is best played with a friend! Is it worth your dollar? Only if you can find it for cheap! I think $5 is the maximum dollar anyone should spend on this title.
Nerd Rating: 6 out of 10
Reviewed by Nerdberry
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