Hard Truck: Apocalypse proves that a fantastic name can only take a game so far, and without compelling content a game just isn't worth playing. It's an appealing concept: a role-playing game set in a postapocalyptic future where you have to drive heavily armored (and armed) trucks across a vast wasteland, delivering supplies, scavenging loot, and blasting gangs of bandits off the road. In execution though, Hard Truck: Apocalypse is about as exciting as counting the grains of sand in a postapocalyptic desert.
The game opens with a brief explanation of a cataclysmic event that led to the poisoning of the air, which killed off most of the planet's inhabitants. The prologue is by far the most interesting part of the story in the entire game, and it quickly degrades after the opening cinematic. You play the game as a young driver who just celebrated a birthday and is now officially a man. As such, you get a pep talk from your father, the keys to the family delivery truck, and your first mission to deliver some supplies to a nearby town. You head on down the road to get accustomed to life behind the wheel, and after a few scrapes with some local outlaws and some chance encounters with some mysterious characters, the adventure begins.
The gameplay in Hard Truck consists of driving from town to town across a large map and talking to people to accept missions and to get paid. The missions are mostly simplistic delivery tasks, escort missions, or extermination runs. Sometimes you'll have to deliver supplies to a distant town, blow up as many enemies as possible, or just travel from one town to the next and talk to the right person. There are a few mysteries to investigate and solve, but the majority of the missions are exceedingly dull.
There is no experience system in the game, so instead of leveling up your character, you simply get money that you can use to buy new and better parts for your truck. You can purchase new guns, new cargo boxes capable of holding more loot, more heavily armored cabs, or entirely new trucks. However, the upgrade system feels limited because there are only five different truck types, and they're all fairly similar save for slightly different stats for speed, armor, and fuel capacity. Most of the items are expensive too, so you'll have to complete dozens of dull missions before you can pick up that machine gun you've had your eye on.
You start off with a basic truck that isn't especially intimidating, but is certainly capable of getting from one point to another and blowing up a few enemies here and there. As you explore the vast, empty world you'll run into small packs of outlaws who will drive up to you and start shooting. The battles consist of driving around in circles using the WASD keys, and aiming your turret weapon with the mouse. Since the camera follows the turret, you'll just have to hope that you aren't driving off a cliff or into a tree as you're shooting your enemies. Of course, you can just stop and shoot, but you'll make yourself an easy target, and you'll miss out on all of the underwhelming action of vehicular combat.
Some of the enemies in the game are pretty tough, but only in the sense that they can take a lot of damage. The poison has apparently corroded the intelligence of people in this world, because you'll often see enemies run into trees and get stuck because they apparently don't know how to back up. Other times you'll get to see enemies drive right off of cliffs. It's not just the enemies that are stupid, as the allies are extremely dim as well. In some missions you'll have to escort allies from one town to another, and you can watch them drive right through fences, into trees, or just stop and wait while enemies open fire on them.
When you kill your enemies they'll usually drop some cargo, which you can pick up and use, or sell for more money. The money is important not only because it's required to upgrade your truck, but also because you'll often need to fork out a lot of cash for repairs and fuel for your rig. Fortunately there are enough gas stations and towns throughout the world that fuel and repairs are easy to come by, as long as you have enough money.
The world of Hard Truck: Apocalypse is actually fairly nice for being a supposed wasteland and all. There are green fields, smatterings of trees, large rivers, and quaint little farms. There are some areas that do look more appropriately barren, such as vacant, crumbling cities that you can check out. For the most part, though, the world is just a huge empty space that doesn't do much to encourage exploration. It doesn't help that your truck moves slowly, and with natural barriers like mountains and rivers to impede your progress, you'll often have to take lengthy detours to get where you want to go. Most of the towns look the same, and you don't even get to actually explore them because while you're in a town all of your interactions take place on menu screens.
The sound in Hard Truck is acceptable except for the voice acting. The conversations all sound awkward and unnatural, and there's not a single bit of enthusiasm or emotional inflection in any of the spoken dialogue. Even worse are the inane phrases that your driver will utter when enemies approach, like such catchy one-liners as, "The roof is on fire!" The music is actually decent, although it's still not good enough to make the experience of crawling across the country in a beat-up truck any more interesting.
Hard Truck: Apocalypse is a lifeless and boring game that lacks any sort of depth or excitement. If you're expecting an action-packed, Road Warrior-esque romp through a lawless desert wasteland, you won't find it here. Instead, you'll find yourself taking a trip down a long road that will have you asleep at the wheel.