SCS Software have been making truck sims for so long and so dominate the sector, it’s easy to forget they didn’t invent the genre. That claim to fame, I’d argue, belongs to Siberian studio SoftLab-Nsk – more specifically a chap called Yuri Miroshnikov.
While Yuri’s Hard Truck: Road to Victory (1998) was more truck racing sim than truck driver sim, its sequel Hard Truck 2: King of the Road (2000-2001) incorporated everything we now consider fundamental to juggernaut gaming.
HT2’s most revolutionary innovation was a sprawling highway network dotted with towns and free of loading screens. The map’s eleven settlements were fictional, small, and, generic, but were given character by the countryside that surrounded and separated them. Seaside North Harbor had a Californian vibe. High and hairpinned, Windcliff felt distinctly alpine. Desiccated Greystone brought to mind New Mexico or Nevada…
Each town had its depot, a warehouse offering a choice of four dynamically generated delivery jobs. How much a player earned for completing a particular job depended on how many competitors reached the destination before them and the state the cargo was in when it arrived (some cargos were more fragile than others).
Worried perhaps that a straight recreation of the trucking industry would be too pedestrian for some gamers, Yuri turned every job into a pedal-to-the-metal derby. Rival lorries loomed menacingly in rear-view mirrors, and overtook recklessly on bends. They sideswiped, cut up, and sometimes – if you were lucky – pranged without player intervention.
Remarkably, considering the ever-present incentive to go like the clappers and drive aggressively, HT2 also managed to evoke the soothing and satisfying side of long-distance lorry driving. The roads were lengthy and interesting enough, the weather effects and day-night transitions sufficiently atmospheric, to induce those reality-dissolving reveries that fans of ETS2 and ATS know so well. One minute you were departing St. Helena with a load of live chickens, the next you were pulling into Foothill, the long journey over. Where had the minutes and the miles gone?
True, sometimes your Zen-like state would be rudely interrupted by a flashing speed camera, a brusque traffic cop, or the crunching consequence of a clumsy bit of steering or braking.
The unarticulated starting trucks were extremely sure-footed, but the big rigs purchased later could be real handfuls especially in wet conditions and when running on worn tires (HT2’s damage and wear modelling was both detailed and meaningful).
Unmapped off-road shortcuts… dynamic roadworks… hirable drivers… illicit cargos… multiplayer… negotiating with rivals, the cops, and the mafia via a CB radio… the scale of Hard Truck 2’s ambition and the richness of its world still impress today. To experience this simulation milestone for yourself all you need to do is pop along to GOG.com with $1.39 in your pocket.