Time to get those engines started as American Truck Simulator continues its journey through the Southwest. The latest state to be added is The Land of Enchantment – New Mexico. This one is of particular interest to me as it is one of my favorites to drive through in real life. From East to West and North to South, New Mexico offers up an impressive diversity of scenery along the highways that few other states can match. Done right, New Mexico could very well be a place many virtual trucks will choose to make an extended stay.
The Journey Begins
As I’ve done with previous map additions (Arizona in ATS and France and Scandinavia in ETS 2) I made the long journey from my home base, in San Francisco, out to the new area. This will give me enough time to get reacquainted with everything and as an bonus a chance to check out of my favorite sites along I-40 in New Mexico. Luckily the stars aligned and I was able to head towards flagstaff then hop on I-40 through Albuquerque during the night. Yes, that’s right I actually want my first taste of the new scenery to be at night. One thing I vividly recall driving in this direction was the blacker than black skies at night, a sweeping bend in the highway that once cleared gave way to a shimmering sea of lights in the pitch black that is Albuquerque.
That of course is a pretty tall order to replicate. As I approached the city it seemed that bend was missing. That’s ok though, as one thing to understand is that the states, of course, aren’t an exact replica. While very close to real life in some ways they are still more akin to an artful interpretation. While it was something I hoped would be there as it made an impression on me personally I understand given the efforts to try and scale everything just so and working from afar, some of these nuances won’t be there. As light did finally break in game though I did get to sample some of the very unique New Mexico landscapes that are so beautiful to look at.
Heading South then up I-25
I ventured on all the way to the Eastern edge of the state in Clovis. I’m rather quickly falling in love with everything I’ve seen so far, but there is far more diversity to be found here. Off I got again, this time in the direction of Las Cruces. More similarly gorgeous views were to be had. I was certainly glad that when pulling into town it felt very much like Las Cruces, albeit a much simpler version, but that same feeling and atmosphere was generally there. Here I could have continued west along the I-10 towards Tucson, but wanting to stay in the state I opted for a drive back up north along I-25.
Looking on a map this may seem like a long ride through nothingness. But, like most drives in New Mexico there is more than meets the eye. Traveling north towards Albuquerque I spied a storage rental place near where Elephant Butte would be along the Rio Grande. It seems like an odd thing to remember, but driving there offers very little views of man made objects and it does have a habit of sticking out at you. I-25 offers some interesting driving in real life, in many places elevation hides man places nestled up against the banks of the Rio Grande, if it wasn’t for the occasional road sign you’d never know they were there. The highway is nestled in between two ridges, but game wise it is decidedly more flat. Nogal Canyon bridge is up the road and thankfully is far less intimidating in the virtual world than the real one (it’s not so much the bridge, but the high winds that make it more nerve wracking than you might expect).
Next Stop the Southern Rockies
My tour of the state continued up to the north all the way to Raton. From there I headed west towards Farmington and later on to Arizona. The winding mountain road was yet another show of some of that amazing diversity in the state and was a real challenge to drive. Thick trees and many sharp turns kept me busy at the wheel the entire time and made for a real memorable trip through Carson National Forest. This trip was also my first that was made entirely over ground I hadn’t covered in the real world. That probably made it a bit easier to enjoy as that comparison factor wasn’t there. I did notice a few things that are close but not quite right with the signage along the way, but otherwise an outstanding journey none the less.
More Like Driving in the US than Ever Before.
One thing that became immediately clear the second I finally got some daylight driving in was that New Mexico felt the most like a drive in the US than any other previous state. The massive interchange at I-40 and I-25 was another great site, but also one that felt truly American to drive. The signage also continues to improve along the roads as well has how speed changes are handled, mostly. I don’t expressly recall seeing many (or any) reduce speed ahead signs, but usually the signage is visible far enough ahead that it made up for that fact. I mentioned the signs along the route through Carson and it really is a minor point, but normally on a winding road like that speed changes only through sharp curves aren’t marked with the big white signs but rather smaller yellow ones under the curve direction and shape signs. It’s not a big thing, just more of a nuance and one that having not actually been on that particular road may not be the case this time around. Overall though the roads and settings are starting to feel more like the US than just ETS 2 but with an American background.
SCS Software has really done an incredible job of bringing New Mexico to life.The homes and scenery just scream New Mexico. Oh and the trains too! It’s hard to drive through the state along the highways and not see some massive 200 car behemoth rolling along the tracks. They are admittedly smaller overall, but I can imagine that a train that size would make a pretty sizable impact on game performance, so that’s ok in my book. Scale is really the name of the game here and while some of the majesty that is driving in New Mexico is lost when scaled down it still is by far the most enjoyable addition to ATS yet.
Each addition has continued to improve the game and this is surely some can’t miss DLC. ATS does have a tough road to climb however as there are a whole lot of states left to be added. Hopefully with the re-scaling that has been done and content pipeline improvements we can see more states come out at a quicker pace, but still at the same high quality. That may be a tall order but once the line starts extending to the Mid-West the pace should naturally quicken much faster. Keep ’em coming SCS, but in the meantime I’ll be cruising The Land of Enchantment for as long as I’m allowed.