King of the Road

Published by JoWooD Productions
Designed by
Platform: PC CD-ROM
Price £19.99
Released: Out Now

When you think of a truck racing game, you think of a game that involves high speed races with custom, high powered trucks and races in such places as Silverstone and other Grand Prix circuits. You wouldn't for one minute think that it involved using 'run of the mill' trucks on normal roads and having to deliver goods in the process. King of the Road is a surprising and unique title to say the least. Let's take a look and see how it measures up as a game.

The basic idea of the game is to pick up some goods and attempt to deliver them before your AI opponents. This can be tricky as you're not always the first to pick up the goods. Once you've picked up the goods it's a race to the drop off destination. The catch here though is that you have to abide by the various speed limits that exist. Failure to do so can result in some hefty fines and being pulled over by the police, which delays you even further. You sometimes encounter the Mafia who insist on taking a large slice of your money. In addition to this cargo hauling there are also races that you can take part in and you are notified when you are in the vicinity of a soon to happen race.

You can choose to begin the game with either a car or a truck. The biggest difference between the two is that the car is easier to handle and gets to destinations quicker but the flipside of this is that car carries nowhere near as much goods and your profit will always be a great deal smaller. Once you have started the game it is possible to trade your vehicle in for better ones which is a good thing as the default car and truck are rather lacklustre in the performance department. There are over 20 trucks in the game with Mercedes, Volvo and Renault all having trucks in the game.

There are a few things that you have to keep an eye on whilst your driving your truck around. Naturally you have to keep an eye on your fuel but you also have to watch the condition of your trucks. The blue fuel stations and the green garages are marked clearly on your map (you press the Tab key to bring up an onscreen map) so it is best to keep an eye on your distance from these key places. The garages can also help you fit extra parts to your vehicle such as better engine parts, better brake systems and even a detector that warns you of nearby police and speed sensors. These items are crucial if you are to succeed in the game. Should you become successful at the game then you can hire fellow drivers to make journeys for you. The game is won when you have a 51% share of the deliveries market.

King of the Road initially seems like it is going to be an enjoyable game but after spending a fair amount of time with it you come across some major problems that will damage your opinion. After you've picked up your goods and are heading towards your destination it will only be a matter of time before the AI rivals are on your tail. Now you would expect the opposition to be somewhat aggressive in their driving but your opponents are suicidal and will stop at nothing to ram you off the road. You could live with this but if the rival truck crashes into you they become stuck to your vehicle and you just watch in horror as your goods gain increasing damage. You could use the 911 feature which is supposed to restore your vehicle, for a fee, but sometimes you need to do this 3 or 4 times before you are detached from the rival truck.

When you are driving down the road and you pass a truck that is for sale a large side panel will pop-up to inform you of the truck's details. This blocks your view some what and can get annoying. To make matters worse on some occasions you will have two information panels pop-up, on either side of the screen, and this makes your vision very limited especially if you're travelling at some speed. The game engine that has been used isn't what it should be. For some reason whilst driving down the road the frame rate occasionally becomes very spasmodic and this, temporarily makes control difficult. The graphics are quite bland too. Having said this though the wind and rain effects look surprisingly quite good.

The good news though is that every piece of information in the game is given in text that is clear to read. In fact to be perfectly honest the sounds that are in the game, such as the ones from the trucks, are minimal to say the least. The detector that picks up on nearby police and speed sensors beeps but it also has flashing red lights, that are clearly visible, when you are near to trouble.

King of the Road, whilst the concept of the game is unusual, could have actually been a very good game if it weren't for the aforementioned faults. The game needs some kind of campaign to add life to it. There are three multiplayer modes which are essentially a road race, an off-road race, and a game where you have to knock a ball up against different monetary value goals with your truck in an arena. These modes are OK but the interest in them will be short lived. If you want a taste of a truckers life on your PC then this may be the game for you, if you can live with it's faults but others might not find it so appealing.

Overall Game Rating: 5.3/10 King of the Road is an uninspiring attempt at fast road race action. The crazy thing is that with a bit more work on the structure of the game, and including something like a campaign as well as ironing out the collision problems, it would have been a very interesting title indeed.

Deaf Gamers comment: Absolutely fine for deaf gamers as all information is given in text.