FIA European Truck Racing Championship Review – Switch

I’m a trucker I’m a trucker, I keep country rolling. I’m a trucker I’m a trucker, I like beer and broads and bowling.

Now that’s out of my system, let’s talk about FIA European Truck Racing Championship, drop the FIA European for our Northern American buddies and ETRC from now on. It is an officially licensed game meaning all the tracks, drivers and trucks from the real life championship, unfortunately it’s based on 2018 not 2019. It is the first console truck racing game for over 15years that alone will make it a truck racing fans wet dream. But how is it for your general racing game fan or casual racer?

There’s some really tight racing.

The first thing you’re treated to when booting the game is a nice 3D model of a truck and some heavy metal, really fitting for the 5.5ton trucks. Commonly for modern racers you’re thrown into a tutorial before even seeing a menu, this for once is really important because truck racing is not like other forms of racing, a big difference is that brakes are manually water cooled. The trucks are limited to 100mph (160kmh), for a racing game that’s crazy slow, most games going 100mph feels like you’re on a mobility scooter, but not here, obviously it’s not the fastest feeling game, that’s not the point of ETRC but it has a decent sense of speed. You’ll probably learn in the tutorial that being a bit overzealous with the go pedal is far more costly here than any other racing game, as mistakes take a life time to recover from due to the slow acceleration and awful turning angle trucks have. On the other hand you can have some awesome controlled drifts in 5.5ton trucks. Can’t get that in Gran Turismo. 

Can’t drift trucks like this anywhere else on Switch.

The handling is fantastic the trucks feel extremely weighty and the rear end feels light, it is exactly how I’d imagine racing a truck to be. This is a sim game and the learning curve was a few hours for me. The heat in the brakes makes a massive difference and set ups are noticeable. There are 3 premade settings, I always pick cornering as trucks obviously don’t turn as well as cars and momentum through corners is vital, the balanced setting is broken and give extreme oversteer so change all those 0%s on it.

Race starts couldn’t be more hectic.

After a few races the lack of analogue triggers no longer feels detrimental to the game (no option for right stick acceleration, why N-Racing?), you just feather the throttle out of corners and you’re fine. Or blast it out, apply opposite lock and enjoy the good (albeit slower) times. It’s not all hunky dory though, wet weather made no difference to corner speed or braking distances, the grass and gravel barely effect you and there’s no sector times so it’s hard to tell if a different line is quicker or not.

The brake overheating message is handier than you’d think.

Race lengths come in 4 flavours 100,75,50,25% of real life with 100% generally being 12 laps or just under 30minutes. That’s a tad long for a slow paced truck race when there’s 4 (with no option to do less) of them at each track for my liking but luckily because the CPU actually make mistakes and can be quite aggressive with overtakes in ETRC, even 3 lap races can have more action than your average 1hr30minute F1 race. The only problem with short races is it negates the need to be careful with the amount of water cooling you use when braking as your water isn’t scaled, nor is tyre wear, hopefully a future patch? Qualifying for races 1&3 is two hot laps then a single superpole lap if you’re in the top 10, there’s no options to change this either. Races 2&4 are roughly half points and reverse grid for the top 8 finishers of the preceding race making for some interesting racing.

You have to watch the opponent indicator arrows really carefully to not get spun or put in a wall.

The main and only draw here is career mode. You start by doing 15 Gran Turismo style license tests (which have online ranking) to get used to the trucks then jump into the 8 round 32 race official ETRC. The first season you have one off race contracts with teams expecting you to do no better than 10th each race to earn reputation needed to sign a year long contract in your 2nd season. This is where the fun of career really begins, or so it’s meant to as from the second season money is meant to be important with you able to buy upgrades and have to repair your truck. The only thing is a standard truck only needs $1200 to fully upgrade when you earn $2000 for one single race win and there’s only one reliability upgrade and one performance upgrade for each of the four upgradable parts.

One race weekend and my Truck’s fully upgraded with money to spare.

Running parallel to the ETRC is the fictional World Championship with 6 famous international tracks such as Laguna Seca (no the CPU can’t handle the corkscrew) complete with different heavier trucks more powerful trucks resulting in lap times about 10 seconds quicker due to increased acceleration and far more management of brake temperatures.

You can switch categories whenever you want and set different difficulty and race lengths for each.  

You do have to repair parts from time to time to keep the reliability up.

As for other modes there’s a quick race, time trial and championship mode. The later doesn’t save after each race so might as well not be in the game. Would’ve been cool to be able to mix up the tracks between the two championships.

While you’re only racing against 11CPU (sucks I know but the official championship is often only 17 or so), what is done well is that the championship is the same 11CPU all the way through making a more interesting championship, I won’t name games but I’ve played a Switch racer where I won the championship simply because I raced in more races than the top CPUs. What I really love about career mode is that you don’t need to win every race to win the championship, your competitors performance like real life varies from track to track creating a far more engrossing experience than many other championship based racers. The AI definitely deserves an honourable mention as they keep it clean apart from their mistakes and you can happily have some really tight racing in these huge trucks. They obviously make less mistakes when the CPU level is set to professional which makes races less eventful but you will need to turn the difficulty up if you’re into racing games. Half way through my 3rd race weekend I turned it up while racing with no assists and still won the championship by a large margin in my first attempt, taking the lead after turning up the heat. The CPU are better in race trim than qualifying as often a few will stick better to your pace but the game is easy once you’re used to the handling, braking and short shift (changing gears early). I decided in my second season to not bother qualifying which makes every race an exciting sprint.

Some CPU spin at the Laguna Seca corkscrew every lap.

The trucks look pretty good, a little blurry in handheld mode but okay. The rest of the game has bland and poor graphics but I didn’t care because I’d much rather have thrilling gameplay and decent AI anyday. It is a bit odd considering the graphics that loading tracks can take 40seconds but then you’re on it for a while so loads aren’t too noticeable. For the most part, the frame rate is acceptable but not fantastic, it’s not 60fps for those who don’t stoop to the level of 30fps and there’s the odd corner on a few tracks where the frame rate plummets, especially in the cockpit view, making those corners quite off putting.

Every overtake is satisfying.

The sound effects are perfectly acceptable, trucks sound heavy but lack ‘oomph’. The turbo sounds awesome as well as the brakes and tyres screaming in agony. Tutorials are well narrated and there is driver radio, some of which is pure comedy gold, my favourite was “keep going you can win this race” as I crossed the finish line 5th. However the severe lack of varied radio means it gets rather grating very quickly.

The game is missing one of my favourite features in modern racers, the rewind. It also really could do with it, not only because a small mistake is extraordinarily costly but I had instances where the CPU sideswiped me on a straight after making a mistake and I got a warning or at times a 5 second penalty (also can’t be turned off, nor can penalties for touching three bollards round the outside of the track), you have to really keep your eyes peeled on the position markers for other trucks to not get spun around going onto straights.

A CPU spun Infront of me.

ETRC is to other racing games what sumo wrestling is to martial arts. Big hulking mammoths moving far slower than the opposing medium but less entertaining? Not in the slightest. Though rough around the edges, lacking in modes, only 12 trucks on track at once and suffering from niche game pricing, this utterly unique sim provides something you can’t get anywhere else with fantastic gameplay, tight racing, realistic AI and the most satisfying overtakes. 

A big thank you to Bigben for providing the review code. FIA European Truck Racing Championship is available now both physically and digitally on the eShop for £44.99/$39.99 great deal for North America.

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