The King of Route 66 suffers from a lot of its predecessor's problems.
The King of Route 66 is the sequel to 18 Wheeler: American Pro Trucker, Sega's previous entry into the wonderful world of truck driving. Originally released in arcades and developed by Sega-AM2, King of Route 66 attempts to improve upon many of 18 Wheeler's shortcomings, adding a few new modes to give the game some much-needed depth and undergoing a graphical overhaul to make better use of the PlayStation 2's capabilities. While all of this is well and good, The King of Route 66 still suffers from a lot of its predecessor's problems.
The King of Route 66 presents you with five main modes of gameplay. The heart of the game is in the aptly titled King of Route 66 mode. As the story unfolds, you learn that along the fabled highway Route 66, all is not well. An evil organization known only as Tornado currently rules the road with an iron fist and is muscling out the family-run trucking businesses that helped create the Route 66 legacy. You choose from one of five truckers, each with his own strengths and weaknesses in the categories of speed, torque, and truck weight, and set out on the highway, challenging Tornado's roster of villainous hard-truckin' thugs. You start out in Illinois and progress through Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and finally, California. Along the way, business owners will charge you with different missions to help you in your quest. These missions can range from simple time-based delivery situations to no-holds-barred races against rival truckers. The King of Route 66 mode definitely has more depth than anything 18 Wheeler had to offer, providing multiple mission options and a decent number of courses, but it is still extremely short, requiring only about two hours to complete the entire thing.
The game's other modes pad the experience a bit, but they don't really make much of an impact. In the Queen of Route 66 mode, you move from state to state, performing tasks that ultimately will endear you to the queen of whatever state you happen to be in. Most of these tasks involve collecting a number of items in a specific amount of time, and achieving them will provide you with cash that you can use to upgrade your truck, both performance-wise and decoratively. In challenge mode, you may choose from one of eight minigames: emblem catch 1 & 2, convoy golf, moving targets, destroy the cars, long-haul slam, protect Annie, and sooner the better. Each of these generally involves item collection or destroying objects before the clock runs out. Rival chase puts you in a series of head-to-head battles against Tornado truckers in each of the eight states featured. Finally, versus battle is the game's sole two-player mode, where you and a friend can go head-to-head in a split-screen race using any of the five main truckers or one of five hidden characters that can be unlocked throughout the game. While these modes make for pretty good filler material, none of them provide enough depth to truly make a complete package.
When it comes to actual gameplay, King of Route 66 is essentially Crazy Taxi with semis. As you would expect, the trucks themselves aren't the speediest of vehicles, so the racing can, at times, feel a bit sluggish. However, you are provided with nitro containers that can help you speed past opponents any time you find yourself lagging severely. The trouble is, any time you get your truck up to a decent velocity, you tend to lose all ability to properly control the truck, which makes sharp turns nearly impossible. This can be a huge problem, thanks largely to the game's unpredictable difficulty level. While a lot of the missions can be downright simplistic, some of the races against rival truckers are blatantly one-sided, as your opponents tend to have the uncanny ability to breeze past you at a moment's notice. This fact, coupled with the cumbersome controls, leaves you only the slightest margin of error and essentially robs many of the game's missions of most of their fun.
Graphically, King of Route 66 has a good look to it. All of the trucks are bright and colorful, and the courses all have a decent number of elements to interact with, whether it's other cars or just pieces of the scenery you can crash through. Socialization with your opponents and other characters in the game is represented by a talking head in the bottom corner of the screen. However, there are a few CG cutscenes that appear at certain points in the story. While these sequences look OK, they don't add much to the story, and they feel very much out of place when compared with the rest of the game.
King of Route 66's in-game sound effects are all as they should be. Engines rev, gears shift, and crashes sound like, well, crashes. The majority of the game's dialogue is passable, and it stays informative without getting too irritating (though there definitely are some cringe-worthy moments). There's also a generic rock soundtrack that accompanies the gameplay and assorted menus, but it's so forgettable it's barely worth mentioning.
The King of Route 66 isn't a terrible game by any means, but the lack of gameplay depth and the game's frequently erratic difficulty make it tough to recommend to anyone who isn't absolutely desperate for a game about big trucks. And even then, do yourself a favor and rent King of Route 66 rather than pay full price for a game that belongs in the budget bin.