STAFF REVIEW of Truck Racing Championship (Xbox One)

Wednesday, August 28, 2019.
by Adam Dileva

Truck Racing Championship Box art Some sports I understand, others I just don’t get the appeal. That’s not to say that others don’t find them interesting, such as NASCAR, but sometimes it doesn’t just grab your attention. I wasn’t quite sure what to make of Truck Racing Championship (called FIA European Truck Racing Championship elsewhere for some reason) initially, as it’s racing, but with massive 5-ton trucks, instead of the NASCAR, Formula 1 or MotoGP that we’re accustomed to spectating.

To say that racing huge heavy trucks changes the racing dynamic is an understatement, as it’s not simply the same thing as regular racing but slower (though it is obviously), but there’s more nuances you need to manage, such as the heat and wear of your brakes, as stopping a massive truck at high speeds is much more taxing on the vehicle than a regular car.

I knew that trucks were raced before, but it’s not really got a huge following here, as far as I know, so I’ve never watched an actual race. After spending hours with Truck Racing Championship, the FIA ETRC (European Truck Racing Championship) league is something I’m now aware of, and have even watched a handful of the races on YouTube. It’s unreal to see these racers perform how they do in these vehicles, and ETRC has some really interesting rules that makes it stand out, like being speed limited to 160 km/h for safety precautions.

More on the simulation side of racing, Truck Racing Championship is trying to emulate the actual ETRC sport, and if you’re a follower, you’ll be happy to know that this is an officially licensed game, developed by N-RACING, and includes actual circuits, drivers, teams and liveries. Even if you know nothing about the sport itself, you’ll get to race on infamous tracks like Laguna Seca, Fuji Speedway and Nurburgring, among others.

The bulk of your gameplay will come within its Career Mode. Here you have two options, from ETRC racing or a World Series Tour. ETRC is what the sport is actually modeled after, so I decided to spend the bulk of my time there, as the other career actually isn’t based on real events and has you racing a different type of truck that is noticeably faster. Both careers can be played separately, as they have their own progress, but mimic one another structurally.

You begin as a freelance driver, looking at the contract options and what teams need a driver for their team for said weekend race; a two day event. In the beginning you’ll change teams on short term deals, but eventually work towards a long term, which unlocks the ability to modify and upgrade your vehicle, though it takes a while to get to that point given how long races take.

This is because every ETRC event is more than just the race itself. It begins with a Practice run, Qualifying, Super-Pole and then the four races (2 races on each day). That’s a lot of racing for one track, though thankfully you can skip all of the pre-races should you choose to. Luckily you can also set the number of laps, as a full race is about a dozen and will take a serious time commitment per event if you decide to keep it that way. I chose short, which makes races 2-3 laps, depending on the length, and was a little more bearable. Factor in that these trucks are quite slow compared to your regular sports races, and you’ll see where fatigue can start to set in quite quickly.

There are dozens of trucks from actual manufactures, and each of the two types handle quite differently. The ETRC trucks, resembling a classic Optimus Prime look with a square boxed cab, whereas the others are more of your standard semi-trucks you’d see driving on the actual roads with the front nose. ETRC trucks are much slower and handle nothing like your typical race car. These are 5 ton beasts, and as such, will take some time to get up to full speed, and even more skill needed to brake properly for turns.

Visually, everything looks authentic, though not impressive when compared to the latest Forza for example. Not to say that it looks terrible, as I was quite impressed by the water and reflections on the tracks, but it’s nowhere near a Forza in terms of visual fidelity. While I normally always play in a far out 3rd person view in racing sims, the cockpit view was quite interesting here, as you sit much higher in a truck and it gives a much different perspective, able to see upcoming turns and opponents easier.

Before you can get racing though, you’ll need to obtain your license. If you’re having dreadful flashbacks of having to do the same thing in Driver on PS1 back in the day, it’s about the same. You’ll go through a handful of tutorials that teach you the basics, not only of turning and maneuvering these big rigs, but more importantly, how to brake in them properly. It’s a pain at first being forced to do these, but it does teach you invaluable tips that will make your racing career much more successful in the long run.

Braking is what arguably sets Truck Racing Championship apart from other race sims. These are 5 ton trucks. Have you ever heard a semi slam on its brakes to avoid hitting something ahead of it? It’s not a pleasant sound, and these trucks are doing it at up to 160 km/h and in hairpin turns. Much like how professional drivers want their tires to be a certain temperature for ideal grip and turning, the same goes for brakes with ETRC drivers.

If your brakes overheat, they will eventually give out, and if they are too cold it’ll take longer for you to stop, so there’s an ideal temperature that you’ll want them at to be the most effective. Because of this, trucks are actually equipped with water reservoirs, used to cool down the brakes after a heavy stop by dumping water on them. You actually have to do this with a press of the ‘B’ button, and while it’s doubtful you’ll run out of your water in the tank, it does need to be monitored via the HUD.

Remember, these trucks aren’t built like super cars, and as such, don’t corner like them either. You will need to acclimate to the controls, as you can’t really drift in these vehicles like you normally would in other games. When you brake, your wheels lock up, so you need to plan ahead of turns and slow down purposely well beforehand if you want to keep the best momentum possible.

AI opponents seem hit or miss for how they decide to drive. Sometimes they concede to my position and won’t try to hit me or rub, other times it’s as if they don’t know that I’m there and use me as a wall to bounce off of. What did surprise me though is that the AI will make human-like mistakes, such as a spinout, drifting off into the gravel now and then.

That’s not to say that you’ll have an easy time winning, as it seems they have much better speeds and handling than you do, even if racing near perfectly, making those first few turns ever so important to get out in front early. Also, there’s sadly no rewind feature, so if you make a huge mistake, you either live with it and finish, or restart the event from the beginning.

There is multiplayer support, splitscreen and online, though as this was written well before the official launch, I was unable to test the online functionality as no one joined my lobbies any time I made one. What I did get to test was how to mute and disable the terrible narrator that does nothing to really help you at all. Now and then you’ll get advice like “try and overtake” or “work for a better position”, even when it contextually makes no sense as to what’s currently happening in the race. Factor in that there’s no musical audio during races either and you can see what it became a nuisance to only hear engines, squealing brakes and a brain dead narrator.

Truck Racing Championship may not be the most polished or impressive race sim out there, but it’s meant for a specific audience, one that I believe will appreciate the authenticity to the ETRC sport and trucks themselves. It’s a different racing experience than I’m used to, but it definitely piqued my interest in the actual sport, something I had never heard of or paid any attention to until playing Truck Racing Championship, even if the game itself wasn’t terribly robust.

Overall: 7.5 / 10
Gameplay: 8.0 / 10
Visuals: 7.0 / 10
Sound: 6.0 / 10


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