When Carl Benz built his first truck in 1895, it's safe to assume the thought of his moniker one day gracing the mantle of these walloping 5-ton racers wouldn't have occurred to him. But far from turning in his grave, the old man would be proud of this crunching sport -- and Synetic's take on it captures the essence perfectly.
In much the same way that Gran Turismo set the standard for sports car simulations, Mercedes-Benz Truck Racing is likely to do the same for the niche sport of truck racing. Those skeptical of how this may stack up to more conventional forms of racing will be immediately impressed by the stunning graphics. The eleven tracks are resplendent in detail while the trucks (and even the drivers) are accurately depicted -- from logo placements to flailing arms. But don't expect to strap in and drive one of these behemoths without a good amount of practice.
The game accurately portrays the characteristics of a 5-ton, 1360-horsepower truck, racing at up to 240 k/mph. Your truck will understeer, turn, flip and basically crash at every possible opportunity until you become proficient. Until then, it's wise to start with a truck configured to give you every chance of completing a lap without a sortie into the kitty litter. Fortunately, just about every component of the game and truck can be adjusted for a smoother ride.
Lowering the ability of opposition drivers through Opponent Difficulty makes things (slightly) easier as will turning on ABS. Removing Damage (caused by crashes as well as fellow drivers) is another must during the learning stages, otherwise you're guaranteed to never finish a race, let alone a lap. Only when full competency is finally approached does this simulation of truck racing begin to reward the typical lead-foot. Truck damage caused by collisions is beautifully rendered and makes clashes a satisfying affair. Small details, such as flying sparks and steam caused by heavy braking, are well represented but colliding head-on with an opponent is true satisfaction. But, enjoy the moment, as most of the detail is lost in replay mode.
One minor issue is the menu structure, which is somewhat difficult to navigate. The instructions and game, however, provide plenty of extra information regarding the trucks, racing tracks and culture. A challenging take on racing games, Mercedes-Benz Truck Racing is an idiosyncratic, yet rewarding, foray into the ongoing need for speed.
Graphics: Graphics are uniformly excellent and high in detail.
Sound: The music and effects complement the racing experience without overwhelming it.
Enjoyment: Enjoyable and frustrating in equal parts until competent gameplay is developed.
Replay Value: The highly configurable nature and challenging characteristics will keep you coming back -- if you can overcome the steep learning curve.
People who downloaded Mercedes-Benz Truck Racing have also downloaded:
Master Rallye, Need for Speed 5: Porsche Unleashed, Michelin Rally Masters: Race of Champions, Microsoft Combat Flight Simulator: WWII Europe Series, Monster Truck Madness 2, NASCAR Thunder 2004, Le Mans 24 Hours (a.k.a. Test Drive Le Mans), Microsoft Combat Flight Simulator 2: WWII Pacific Theater
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