Since recently obtaining the publishing rights to several of Sega's first-party Dreamcast titles, Acclaim has made a little cottage industry out of quickly porting games such as Crazy Taxi and Ecco the Dolphin to more modern consoles such as the PlayStation 2 and the GameCube. Without exception, these ports have been without any bells or whistles, providing an experience that is on par with, if not slightly less engaging than, the original Dreamcast games. The GameCube version of 18 Wheeler: American Pro Trucker is no exception to this trend. Now, a game that was less than impressive on the Dreamcast is even less so when presented on the technically superior GameCube.
With its roots firmly planted in its arcade origin, the gameplay modes in 18 Wheeler are all incredibly straightforward. In the arcade mode, you'll carry your payload from one city to another, all the while contending with an ornery rival trucker named Al and a limited amount of time, which you can extend by ramming specific vehicles off the road. You can also gain extra speed by using other trucks as a windbreak and slipstreaming behind them. This mode requires some precision driving, as even the most minor of driving mistakes can keep you from making it to the next checkpoint before time runs out. The driving abilities of the rival trucker are pretty suspect, as he will constantly speed up and slow down to maintain a similar pace to your own.
The parking mode is exactly what it sounds like: You take your truck through a series of tight turns before parking your truck in a designated area--and before time runs out. Score attack challenges you to run three laps around a circular track to score points, which is done by plowing through designated "bonus" cars, beating your rival trucker to the finish line, and keeping other vehicles from running into your cargo. Finally, the versus mode pits players against each other in a straightforward race, albeit with trucks. These different gameplay modes are only moderately entertaining, but they're brought down by 18 Wheeler's predictably slow, plodding pace. The feeling of actually driving a big rig is conveyed reasonably well--the problem is that big rigs are generally slow and hard to handle, which doesn't translate into a very fun experience at all.
18 Wheeler on the GameCube doesn't look any better than the PlayStation 2 version, which is to say it looks only slightly better than the Dreamcast version. The environments are sparsely populated with vegetation, the occasional truck stop, and very simple-looking vehicles. There's no slowdown to speak of, though the game's draw-in distance is distractingly close. The soundtrack consists of a vague, forgettable mix of country-western music and rock 'n' roll, though this is overpowered by the almost constant shouting of your dispatcher and your rival trucker. They like to talk a lot, but they don't have much to say, which means you'll likely hear the same grainy exclamations shouted several times in any given level.
Considering the price tag of the average GameCube game and the limited play value of 18 Wheeler, it's impossible to recommend to anyone but the most die-hard big rig enthusiasts. Even if starting convoys and talking on a CB radio are your idea of good fun, you should definitely approach this one with caution.