On The Road is out now joining a handful of transportation sims such as Train Sim World, Bus Simulator, MudRunner, SnowRunner and most appropriately Truck Driver, Truck Driver is seen as one of the worst Transportation Sims on Xbox, so there’s plenty of space for a true trucking simulator to find a home on consoles with the absence of PC greats like American and Euro Truck Simulator.
While downloading “On The Road” I watched some footage of the game on PC and I was quietly optimistic, so let’s take a look at the game on Xbox.
When you first launch On The Road, you’re greeted with a simple menu presenting you with starting a new game as well as options and credits, it’s safe to ignore the options at first, but you’ll certainly be visiting these later.
Starting a new game consists of selecting a player name, company name as well as your headquarters, company logo, which truck brand you’ll be starting with and the character avatar from a selection of people performing their most impressive fake smiles.
After a lengthy loading screen (even with the SSD loading times of the Series X) you’re presented with your first vehicles, a rigid box truck and a semi-tractor with a large cattle trailer as well as a little money to start off.
You’ll then find an email from a guy called Rocco welcoming you to your new haulage company and encouraging you to start running some assignments and pick up some fuel.
At this early stage, although there’s the absence of any quality presentation, zero voice acting and no music, it doesn’t feel too bad,
you can take a look at the map to locate the closest fuel station and select nearby companies to see what assignments are available. It’s then possible to pick up a number of assignments and sort them into any order you wish, so that you make a single journey, dropping off multiple deliveries as you travel to your final destination.
Once at the end of the journey, you can repeat the process with companies close to where you end, and build new routes, cramming as many goods into your truck to make more money from single journeys.
It’s a great idea, that beats Truck Drivers single-track deliveries and feels more similar to a game like Bus Simulator where you can plan your route to maximise as many stops as you travel from A to B
Soon after, you’ll be getting to the important part of actually driving your truck, and sadly, this is where things start to go downhill, pretty quickly.
While Truck Driver gives a radial menu for controls such as lights and ignition, On The Road uses a menu that’s brought up and controlled by the d-pad, starting the truck isn’t too bad, but then you have to insert the Taco card (Black Box system) change the driving mode and confirm it, it’s a necessary awkwardness, which does add detail to the simulation, but it feels like too much attention has gone into minor details leaving glaring issues unresolved,
Once you’re finally ready to pull away, you glance at the road in front of you, a few cars passing by, but unlike the PC footage I saw, there wasn’t a single pedestrian, I initially thought they might be simulating a nationwide Covid lockdown, so I slowly approached the road and turned to see if there was any oncoming traffic, instead, I had a large white box, which on PC (or any other similar game) would be a mirror, but sadly On The Road doesn’t have any reflections in the mirrors,
Driving carefully around the corner, I made my way to the fuel station and slowly pulled in. I was then able to get out of the truck and press A on the fuel tank to fill up, this immersion continues with deliveries, where upon arrival, you’ll walk to the office to confirm, then open up the rear doors so they can load/unload items from your truck.
They’re small details which really help, but in order to discover these, there’s sadly plenty more weaknesses you need to come to terms with.
My main issue was the steering, clearly designed for PC users on a steering wheel or keyboard press, there’s no analogue steering, so no matter how far you push your stick, the wheel will move at the same speed, this means you’ll spend far too long pre-steering into anything more than a 45-degree turn, and then you’ll have to wait for the slow default speed to centre the wheel unless you try to counter-steer (which is even slower).
In total it took me about two hours of gameplay and constant juggling with control settings to find a happy medium, no matter what I tried it was never perfect, around town steering would be too slow to drive safely so I had to have the auto-centre as fast as possible, and when on the open roads, this meant I was having to tap and adjust the steering for even the slightest bend.
The result is, no matter how hard you try, it’s near impossible to stay perfectly in the lane on corners, and with no reflections in the mirrors, I was constantly switching between the three cameras, one in the cab, another fixed to the roof where you cant look left or right and a third-person view allowing you to view around the truck, however, this would remain fixed, so returning to this camera would be disorientating if you’d previously used it to reverse or to one side.
On regular dual carriageways and 3 lane autobahns, with cars, buses and other trucks overtaking you, there’s a constant battle with the camera and with the awkward steering controls, there’s always going to be a few collisions, even though there are no penalties for crashing with an empty truck or breaking the speed limit constantly.
But driving as carefully as I could, I found I’d built up 46% damage on my first run, which almost halved the profit from making the delivery.
The few times you’re on these faster roads and there are not any kinks in the road to contend with, you have chance to look around a little, and beyond your own relatively well made licensed truck, many of the other vehicle models aren’t bad at all. Nearby scenery doesn’t look terrible, but it’s incredibly repetitive, but soon enough, the horizon will catch your eye, and not too far away in the distance, you’ll literally see cars dropping onto the road ahead, the trees and distant landmarks popping into view is distracting enough, but cars appearing in mid-air and then falling onto the road in the distance completely kills any level of immersion you may have built up.
I know many transport simulators struggle with textures popping in, Train Sim World 2 especially, but when you’re travelling at over 250kmph it’s almost acceptable, but cruising at 70kmhp down a road, with far less detail around you, shouldn’t be responsible for the issues we see constantly with On The Road.
There is a multitude of German cities with some landmarks you might recognise, but mostly they look too similar to each other and only serve to house the companies you’re travelling to and break up the monotonous long main roads.
Audio has a better performance, with no major issues, but in the absence of any music it’s all a little too quiet, I’d love to see a radio station or maybe something like spotify integration to liven things up in the cab.
Obviously, the main comparison here is Truck Driver and as I mentioned previously I wasn’t initially impressed with that at all, but I’ve returned to it for comparison and sadly the difference is night and day, Truck Driver looks better in almost every area, there are more trucks (although they’re not licensed) there are more camera angles, better (if a little arcade-like) steering, and there’s no noticeable pop-in and the mirrors actually show a reflection.
Obviously, there’s massive room for improvement for On The Road and if Steering, graphics and overall presentation can be improved, there’s certainly hope for some long runs that feel like travelling and details such as multiple deliveries on the route, exiting the cab to fill up with petrol and the overall experience, but in its current state it’s almost impossible to recommend, even though it’s not terrible value considering it’s only £24.99, but if you compare that to what a packed title like Train Sim World 2 offers for the same price, it brings what little value On the Road offers into perspective.
I really hope the developers continue working on the game, fix the glaring issues to bring a closer parity with performance on the PC (or at least to Truck Driver’s standards) and maybe next time consider releasing under the Game Preview Program where gamers (and the gaming press) have much more consideration for a work in progress.
It also has to be mentioned that the Xbox store page is currently displaying a trailer for “On The Road” which is clearly the PC version with far better graphics, draw distances and reflective mirrors, none of which are found in the Xbox version, It feels dishonest to see a game that’s being advertised as something it’s certainly not but hopefully there’s some major updates and improvements coming very soon, which might just rescue the game.
Right now, On the Road: Truck Simulator has a trailer full of potential, but unfortunately, it’s broken down in the middle of nowhere.