Hard Truck Apocalypse (PC)

By Chris Dahlberg

Published on Thursday, November 24, 2005

Hard Truck Apocalypse is a vehicular action-RPG from Targem Games and Buka Entertainment. Although it might be a somewhat odd name, looking past that will reveal a very deep and fun to play game. I recently got my hands on a demo version of HTA, and despite a few flaws this could be a sleeper hit.

Gameplay is unusually deep for a vehicle based game. While a good portion of the game involves exploring the environment and fighting bandits, there is a lot more to it than that. Numerous towns/colonies are scattered about the area, and once you get within their boundaries you can press your horn and enter. While in the town, players have several options available to them. The first is to repair and refuel their truck, which will usually be a necessity (environments are huge so after going from one area to another it would be a good idea to refuel). Next, players can visit the bar where they can talk to NPC’s about current quests or even take new ones. At this time there are two types of side quests. The first involves taking a package from one location to the other, and the monetary rewards vary on how far away the location you have to go to is. The second is known as the hunt, where you strive to find and eliminate as many enemies as you can within a certain amount of time in order to earn extra cash. Hopefully as the game goes further on these types of quest will expand and have even more variety.

Controlling your truck is similar to a lot of other games, as you use the standard WASD keyboard setup to move. Handling will take a little getting used to due to the fact that your onscreen persona is a truck and not a person, but after a few drives through the environment players should get the hang of it. Using the mouse players can control the direction their weapons turrets face as well as control the in-game camera. Another nice feature that Targem included was the ability to go into first person. By moving the mouse wheel up, players can put the view further and further on their truck until it is entirely first person. This is a nice inclusion and gives players the right to choose how they want to view the world around them.

Targem has definitely put a lot of work into the graphical look of this world, and it shows. The demo environment was massive and it can take up to 5-6 minutes just to get from one end to the other. In addition the draw distance is very impressive as well, and you will be able to see structures and forests far off into the distance that come into clear focus when you eventually reach them. While everything isn’t destructible (you can’t just destroy every building you see), all of the trees can be knocked down by running your truck into them. This isn’t something that players should strive to do (as doing so can sometimes cause damage to your truck), but it feels great to accidentally run into a tree and see it come crashing down. As long as the developers keep the locales interesting, I can see many people getting sucked into the game.

There is a story in the game, and in the demo it involves your character tracking down a mysterious person known as Jeri. It seems that you are part of a mercenary hunter group, and while you start out with a very powerful truck, after an unusual cut-scene you are stuck with a standard grade truck. By the end of the demo players will be tasked with choosing to fight or ally with Jeri, which should influence the final storyline. The official website mentions that there will be two distinct endings to the game, and I’m guessing that the choice you make with Jeri will influence which storyline you follow. All of the cinemas use the in-game engine, which doesn’t take you out of the experience.

Combat is fast paced and fun. A standard truck can only be fitted with one gun, while bigger ones have more weapon slots. Enemies will effectively drive around and fire at you and their AI isn’t bad at all. If there is one thing that could be improved about the AI though, it would have to be the distance at which they can recognize you. In one particular encounter I fired at an enemy from a good distance away and they just sat there and took the fire. This isn’t a big issue, but would make the game even better. Adding to the RPG elements of the game, both your truck and enemy trucks and structures have a health bar. Once an enemy has been defeated, you can take what’s left of their cargo and then sell it or use it.

Up to this point I have covered the action elements of Hard Truck Apocalypse, but there are two other elements that make the game more than your standard vehicular action/adventure. Players can customize their truck as they wish. They can change the colors, weapons, and other parts. Different weapons and parts have different statistics, adding a very RPG like element to the game. As trucks take damage their appearance will be altered to let the player know that, and the damage effects are quite nice. Next, the game has a whole economic system going. Extra parts and salvaged materials can be sold to merchants in towns for different prices, and these prices will vary on where exactly you are selling. This adds a nice option to players who choose to take it.

There are some things that could be fixed before a final version is available. First, in towns if you stop your truck in the middle and just sit there, NPCs will still walk right into your path. When this happens they will go into an animation similar to if you had run them over. This is a small issue but should be addressed before the game is finalized. Secondly, the localization still needs quite a bit of work. While the voice acted segments are well done and spot on, most of the captions and other bits of dialogue could use quite a bit of grammar checking. I’m sure this will be taken care of before the game is released though.

No specific North American release date has been given for Hard Truck Apocalypse quite yet, but I can see it being a sleeper hit when it eventually does come out. Targem and Nival Interactive have crafted a very compelling adventure through a post apocalyptic wasteland, and I can’t wait to see the final product.

http://www.nival.com/exmachina/

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