“Magnificent,” says Pete, your flatbed truck driving instructor and future foreman. “Congratulations on passing basic training. Now you can go ahead and fulfil your dream of running your own construction company.”
You’ve never even thought of going into the construction business before, let alone dreamed of running your own company. But give yourself a couple of hours with Construction Simulator 2 US and you’ll be pulling all-nighters and cramming in “just one more job” to afford a new concrete mixer before the financial year is over.
“But don’t forget: The job is tough and you still have a lot to learn,” your friend and colleague brings you crashing back down to Earth. You’ve only just started on your journey to becoming the construction world’s hottest magnate, whereas Pete, with his spotless high-vis jacket and blossoming Hulk Hogan moustache, is a seasoned industry veteran.
The first thing he teaches you is how to drive your lumbering flatbed truck. From reverse-parking to purchasing new vehicles, he knows it all. If you’re a wannabe Lord Sugar in high-vis, Pete is your Karen Brady whispering sage wisdoms into your ear along the way. A guardian angel on your shoulder, he remains perpetually patient in the face of repeated driving offences and impulse machinery purchases. And if there’s one thing you need to learn from Pete as you progress through Construction Simulator 2, it is patience.
It may be irritating the first time that you position your crane at a fractionally wrong angle. It can be annoying when you only realise this after lifting a window frame, manoeuvring the crane, and landing a metre away from the required destination. It is undoubtedly infuriating that you have to reset the whole crane, reposition the truck, and repeat the entire process to reach that extra metre. But, next time, you won’t make the same mistake. It is through trial, error, and patience that you learn the skills of the trade.
Simulation games strive for accuracy. Yes, they are meant to be fun, but they are also meant to accurately replicate the tasks of a real construction job. This accuracy can be frustrating at first, but it is what makes Construction Simulator 2 a good, well, simulator.
The controls differ for each piece of machinery. Not only do they change depending on the type of vehicle, but also depending on the different brands and sizes. While these controls can get kind of fiddly, once you find your rhythm, every vehicle becomes another satisfying extension of your joystick. But, no matter how long you practise for, you will never get used to obeying the rules of the roads.
You see, it can be difficult to control a multi-tonne concrete-filled machine teetering upon its six wheels. Even when you’ve got the hang of driving a specific vehicle, their stopping distances are so vast that there is no chance you’ll avoid a collision with a Fiat that didn’t indicate or an SUV that veered into your lane for no apparent reason. While pedestrians conveniently disappear in your proximity to stop a Grand Theft Auto-esque bloodshed scenario, you’ve just got to take the financial hit that comes with causing a road accident. Although, it can be hit-and-miss whether the fine actually comes, as the crash physics and fines are as erratic as the AI drivers.
For instance, you may have to foot the $300 bill when another car swerves into your lane and clips your wing mirror, but another time you may escape scot-free after ploughing into the back of a car at a red light when you weren’t paying attention, sending it flying hundreds of metres into the air until it disappears over the desert horizon. The random nature of the roads also disincentivises the driving process – while it is often a relaxing way to move between jobs, what’s the point when you can pay a few hundred dollars to fast travel? You’ll likely save money thanks to the numerous traffic violations that are otherwise impossible to avoid. It’s a shame, because the beautiful roadside vistas and garbage-rock radio tunes are as important a part of the Construction Simulator 2 experience as they are of truck driving life.
Driving is the only unpredictable task in a game of consistency. Concrete pouring is the same for every job. As is digging, paving, lifting, building, or anything else. The jobs will take different shapes and forms, but the tasks are always the same.
Construction Simulator 2 is slow and repetitive, but that’s what makes it brilliant. The constant repetition of the same mundane tasks can build houses or repair bridges – and that is inherently validating. It sounds boring, but constantly checking your books to see whether you can afford to expand your fleet can be hugely exciting. Three more concrete-laying jobs until you can afford a paving machine. Two. One. And a brand new CAT is yours.
Of course, if you ignore Pete’s wise advice and overspend, splashing out on a whole fleet after only a handful of jobs, things can go badly wrong. Suddenly things look like a cancelled episode of Bob the Builder, where he’s run every red light and found himself in crippling debt because Scoop, Muck and Dizzy all needed maintenance. It can be hard to see a way out, but you’ve just got to be patient because the way out of trouble is the same as the rest of the game. Repeat the same jobs. Build some houses, repair some roads. Dig a hole because a religious zealot believes there is an artefact of great holy significance on his plot of suburban land. Slowly, steadily, and patiently repeat the same tasks on different jobs, and things will start looking up.
Construction Simulator 2 is a celebration of the mundane; a relaxing game that reassures you with every repeated action as you patiently build your construction empire. And it achieves that with brilliance. It would be harsh to say the unpredictable driving ruins the reassuring regularity, but when every other nail has been hammered with such precision, this slight misstep sticks out like the sore thumb that the hammer hit instead. Still, this is a highly recommended way to spend a few weeks, despite that rather odd issue.