Once again reaching into the bag of titles purchased from Sega, Acclaim has re-released the arcade favorite Eighteen Wheeler. Similar to the Crazy Taxi release, it's pretty much in the original form with almost no improvements or additions. Unfortunately for this title, what made it an arcade hit was the truck cab you sat in while playing and fast paced gameplay that made that quarter you spent worth the quick thrill. When porting it to a console however, there's more than a quarter involved, usually around $50 and when the game can be completed in a hour or two, a sense of not getting your money's worth will likely be the impending feeling.
Eighteen Wheeler is a truck simulator where the main goal in to deliver your cargo before another contending driver beats you to the delivery. Originally ported to the Dreamcast and then to the Playstation2, the GameCube port definitely shows it's age with dated graphics but still retains the arcade style fun with easy to learn controls and gameplay. It's the time involved in finishing the game that is its biggest drawback, however, as most will expect more value from a $50 investment.
Gameplay, Controls, Interface
With Acclaim resurrecting these older titles from Sega, one has to be cautious as to what is being offered. Often, when developers re-release older titles, the games will at least get a face-lift if not new additions to the original gameplay. This however wasn't the case for Eighteen Wheeler as few changes were made in gameplay or graphics.
The gameplay consists mainly of four different options. There is the original arcade version, a parking game, something called "score attack", and a versus mode. Each option allows you to select one of four drivers each with different big rig attributes and personalities. The attributes are spread across three categories: speed, torque, and toughness. The Asphalt Cowboy big rig, for instance is more middle of the line in all three categories while the Highway Cat is more for speed but the torque is its Achilles heel. The Long Horn on the other hand is the toughest rig but also the slowest while the Stream Line rig has enough speed but may have a hard time plowing through obstacles. Your big rig selection will make a difference in how the rig handles so don't be surprised if your driving style also changes depending on the rig.
Although four gameplay options are included, the arcade mode is where the majority of the game is located. Almost in its original arcade format, the goal is to beat your opponent to the unloading area before time runs out. There are ways to get addition seconds to help reach the goal line howeverl, as certain vehicles will give three-second increases if run over. Other vehicles will also increase the cash received at the end of the level if destroyed but again it must be done before time runs out. You don't have to beat your opponent to the finish to advance to the next shipment however, as long as you managed to finish before the clock hits zero. If you do manage to drop off the shipment first, a bonus-parking attempt is given allowing you to compete for more cash and an extra rig part. The point of the parking is basically to maneuver the big rig to a specified location without hitting any obstacles in the process. If this can be done in the time allotted, a bonus rig part like a new horn is given. Not real exciting'maybe in an arcade format it works better. The real problem with the arcade mode isn't the actual gameplay as much as with the ease at which it can be completed. From start to finish, there are only four routes that take you across the country. These routes from New York to Key West, from St. Petersburg to Dallas, from Dallas to Las Vegas, and from Las Vegas to San Francisco can be completed in about an hour. Not having experience doesn't even affect the length, as most will be able to finish in their first attempt.
The other modes like parking and score attack are also plagued by short life spans, only their problems are compounded by either simplistic or senseless gameplay. The parking option is the same as the bonus stage in the arcade mode except there is more of it. Spread over five areas, you'll basically be parking a big rig over and over again and when four of the areas are cleared, bonus areas will open for more parking fun. The other option is called score attack and consists mainly of a track where cars, trucks, and other obstacles can be hit for points and after three laps, points are awarded for the obstacles hit and the time left. There are four different tracks to try but even ten different tracks wouldn't have made it any more exciting.
As far as the control structure, since it was originally ported from an arcade version it is extremely simplistic. The L button for instance is the brake and the R button accelerates while the steering is accomplished using either the d-pad or control stick. Other functions like reverse using the B button and gear shifting using the A button are also included. To give some flexibility to the way the game is viewed, the Y button is set up to change between two different views, one from inside the cab and the other is a third person view. The last control function which is a horn using the X button doesn't appear to serve any purpose but for those who get a kick from having truckers pull their horn, this might make their day. Other than that, getting a grasp on the controls should take less then five minutes and becoming proficient should only take another five.
As stated earlier, Eighteen Wheeler is a direct port and one place where it shows it's age more is in the graphics. They look like they're five years old, which is well below the ability of the GameCube. The backdrops are blurry, objects like buildings or vehicles lack detail, and when an obstacle is run into, it breaks apart into geometric shapes. Any improvement would have been welcome but don't expect any as none will be found.
There's not much to say about the sound quality other than it's fairly unexciting. The CB chatter sounds like an actual CB radio picking up static with the voice but often it's hard to understand what is being said. The music played is appropriate as its mostly country based which may be annoying to some but you don't notice it for the most part. Other than that, most of the other sounds at least aren't distracting but there isn't much value added either.
Eighteen Wheeler may have worked well in the arcade but fails in many areas on the console. With gameplay that's extremely short and dated graphics, most will visit this only as a rental and even then there will be other games that would be a better investment of their money. The only saving grace for this title is the fact that there still aren't enough GameCube games on the market so for those who are looking for some variety, this may be a way to get it.