It stands to reason that if you weld four wheels and an engine onto something, there’s probably bound to be someone who wants to race said thing around a track like a maniac. Because that’s the only reason we can imagine why there’s a real-life professional racing league for big rigs and trucks. It’s clearly a big deal for many motorsport fans around the world, because the European Truck Racing Championship now has its own official game, featuring plenty of famous race tracks (including Nürburgring and the Fuji Speedway) and a total of 45 official trucks to choose from across its two classes.
FIA European Truck Racing Championship is another semi-realistic racing experience from publisher BigBen Interactive, following in the footsteps of TT Isle of Man and V-Rally 4. If you’ve played either of the above, or any of Milestone’s recent offerings, you’ll at least have some idea of what to expect from this double-A racer. In terms of the driving model, the handling is more in line with a clunky arcade racer, with only a moderate amount of adjustment needed to correct oversteer or understeer. The AI isn’t particularly clever or aggressive either, so you’re only ever going to lose a race because you spun out after another truck tapped the back end of your cab.
The only real ‘simulation’ part of the game comes in brake management. Five ton rigs take a while to build up speed, but when they get going it takes a fair amount of power to slow them down, so that means putting some real pressure on your brake pads. For 'FIAETRC', that comes in the form of a brake cooling system that you’ll need to monitor throughout a race. There are two types of trucks on offer - the larger rigs used for the official ETRC tournament and smaller variants used for the World Series - and each one has its own temperature threshold and durability. The World Series trucks are heavier, but have higher top speeds, while the ETRC versions are nimbler but far more tetchy on corners. As unwieldy as the driving model can be, you can really appreciate the contrast between the two and you soon learn to race them differently.
You have a limited reserve of water for each race, and when your brakes become too hot after reducing your speed (represented by a circular meter surrounding the water gauge) you’ll need to spray them with water to reduce their temperature. Let them heat up too much and your brake pads will begin to deteriorate, which will reduce their performance and make taking bends and chicanes a nightmare. Inject too much and the pads will grow cold, making them too stiff to accurately gauge your stopping distance. It introduces a resource management aspect usually only found in F1 games, where you’re having to actively track a variable figure while traversing a course and competing with other drivers.
On Switch, the small temperature numbers can be very difficult to see in handheld mode, which makes taking your eyes off the track for a moment at a time even more tricky. It’s not so much of an issue when playing in docked mode, but it does make playing the game in a portable setting less enjoyable. If you’re new to racers in general, you can toggle the brake cooling mechanics off, and simply focus on controlling a giant truck as it careens around a corner on rain-covered track.
There’s your usual modes to play through, including a Career mode (complete with a race calendar and tournaments for both European and worldwide locations), as well as Quick Race and Time Trial options. The Career mode is quite basic, but there are some rewarding subsystems at play, including the need to earn credits to pay your team once you’re under contract, as well as the importance of repairing your truck in between races. You can race locally in splitscreen with five different multiplayer modes. In terms of content, it’s a pretty unremarkable package and one that’s only likely to appeal to truck racing enthusiasts and super hardcore racing fans who are interesting in besting another form of virtual motorsport.
The real issues come in FIAETRC’s performance issues on Switch, especially when playing in handheld mode. When playing in a portable scenario, the framerate only ever levels out when you’re moving at a slow speed on a track without any other trucks around you. Should you try to gain momentum or share the screen with your fellow competitors, the framerate plummets. Considering this is, first and foremost, a game about competitive driving, it’s a considerable issue. Most assets, from vehicles to track paraphernalia, suffer considerable jagged edges and it’s often awash with screen tearing. It runs noticeably smoother in docked mode, with a more stable frame rate, but it’s not a good sign when handheld mode - the main selling point of the Switch version - runs so poorly.
FIA European Truck Racing Championship does offer an officially-licensed way to race some of the biggest motorsport vehicles around, and with its unique brake cooling system, there’s a really rewarding balance between traditional racing tactics and resource management. However, the problems with performance on Switch - both in the framerate and the poor optimisation of trucks and track assets in handheld mode - really cause an already unwieldy racing experience to veer off the track. It's not without positives, but there are far better options for race fans on Switch right now, and far better examples of multiplatform optimisation.
Very disappointed that when you finish a race, it doesn’t say “Your Winner.”
Obviously a lazy port. If only Panic Button could have been here to save the day. I think the switch is powerful enough to do the new star wars game or call of duty. But loot boxes are for suckers.
Gosh, I guess this really messes everything up for those two guys who were going to buy this for their cousins/wives to play together in the double wide...
If only Sega could port their 18 Wheeler game on Dreamcast to the Switch and show these lookie-loos how it's done.
Just kidding, everyone knows we'd rather have Crazy Taxi.
Please port some version of Forza Motorsport to Switch through Panic Button... you will make money beyond belief.
How is it nobody can get this right? Where there no good racing games on the PS2, PS3, or XBOX360? Any racing game on any of these systems should run great on the Switch.
@aznable I suspect that's why this port is so shoddy. I see people wonder why games like this don't come out better. But from the studio's perspective, there's a small niche of gamers that will reliably buy truck racing regardless of quality, but there's very little market beyond that small core group (of cousins).
@BacklogBlues Grid Autosport should save the day when it finally arrives. That's a last gen racer that reviewed well and is being ported by an experienced developer. Surely it will arrive in a good state and instantly become the Switch's best racer. In the meantime I'll keep playing the superb Virtua Racing.
@TheFox cousins.... LOL
@MarioFan02 Some of the great racing games I want ported to Switch are exclusives: Gran Tourismo, Forza, Wipeout, etc. But some aren't: Ridge Racer, Project Cars, Blur, Burnout 3, Outrun 2006, Motor Toon Grand Prix 2 (1 in the U.S.), Sega Rally 1 and 2, Daytona 1 and 2, etc. Since Cuphead made it to Switch maybe we have a chance with Forza? I would be very excited about it, especially since Microsoft has a good record with Forza and Halo sacrificing whatever is necessary to hit 60fps on Xbox One. Could they pull off a similar feat with the Switch? I'd love to play it if they could!
About this game: what the heck?! I'd rather race hovercars or electric cars or anything on Nurburgring rather than a semi truck!
@60frames-please Motor Toon Grand Prix 2 is as likely as Grand Turismo since they were both made by Sony's internal dev Polyphony Digital.
Who in the hell ever imagned it would be good? It looks like a sierra game from 2001
GRID Autosport, you're our only hope. Where are you GRID Autosport?
@Mycroft Yeah I just noticed that. I left a comment on how this game runs really poorly and how odd it is that this is our first sim-like car/truck racer with real circuits.
@farmer_humpf Honestly I wouldn't be hyping that game up too much. It's an old PS3 game for me these days and while it would be nice to have a decent racing game like that it's hard to get too excited about it.
I also would like to reiterate my comment from the original article: if you want a good experience of driving a truck between cities, through the countryside, listening to talkback radio or country music, stopping at roadside bars, wearing plaid shirts... GTA San Andreas does a pretty good job.
And while I'm here: definitely the best way to drive big rigs on the Switch is Spintires Mudrunners. You can even take them offroad and get them bogged in a lake.
@JayJ It's a sad reflection on racing games on the Switch isn't it!
@N64-ROX Yeah Spintires is an under-appreciated game, it is the best truck driving simulator on the Switch for sure. The only truck driving games I like more are the Euro Truck Simulator and American Truck Simulator games.
@MarioFan02 lol... Switch isn't powerful enough even to render Forza's menu
4/10 by NL, that's like 0/10 on normal scale!
@X68000 Yeah, agreed. They're very very unlikely to come to Switch. But I still wish they would, somehow.
@N64-ROX Yeah for sure. I loved doing that in GTA.
@JayJ I also really liked that Sega M2 18 Wheeler arcade game back in the day. That huge truck steering wheel really made it stand out.
Tap here to load 25 comments
Leave A Comment
Hold on there, you need to login to post a comment...