Taking Euro Truck Simulator 2’s new France expansion for a spin

I’ve been playing Euro Truck Simulator 2 regularly for almost three years now, despite originally installing it as a joke. When I first heard about it I snorted at the idea of driving trucks at a reasonable speed around Europe, dutifully obeying the traffic laws. Then I lost 60 hours to it. As I often tell anyone who’ll listen, it’s a genuinely brilliant, well-made game, and the virtual road trips it’s taken me on are some of my fondest PC gaming memories.

So I was delighted to hear that a new expansion had been released this week by developer SCS Software. Vive la France adds 20,000km of new roads and motorways, 15 new cities, enhanced vegetation, a French tollgate system, and authentic roadside scenery including quaint rural villages and majestic chateaus. The perfect excuse (as if I needed one) to climb back into the driver’s seat of a virtual truck and go for a long, relaxing drive.

One of my favourite features in Euro Truck Simulator 2 is being able to tune into live radio stations from around Europe. For this journey I chose Nostalgie Rock, a French classic rock station that plays absolutely perfect trucking music. Bombing down the road to the sounds of Creedence, The Kinks, Canned Heat, and David Bowie… there’s no feeling quite like it. And the French adverts between songs add an extra layer of immersion.

Euro Truck Simulator 2 is an surprisingly atmospheric game, despite the fairly mundane subject matter. My first experience in the expansion is driving through the countryside at night and seeing the glowing lights of farmhouses in the distance, and the silhouette of a grand chateau towering over them. The sense of place these little details give you is powerful, and in general the updated France map feels a lot more hand-crafted.

Because most of your time in ETS2 is spent on largely featureless roads, the moments when you see something—a plane taking off, a hot air balloon, a chateau, a bridge—are bizarrely exciting. I perk up like a dog having a treat waved in front of its nose. Look! A thing! And then it’s back to the grey road. And I love that. It triggers the same reward response I get from, say, loot spilling out of a boss in Diablo, but in a very different way.

And there’s plenty of that in the France expansion. I saw the cooling towers of a nuclear power plant poking out from behind some trees, which was pretty exciting. And I marvelled as I drove through a dense forest. Anyone who’s ever been on a long road trip will know how important having something to look at through the window is for keeping you sane, and the same applies here. Some jobs in Euro Truck Simulator 2 can take an hour or longer.

The ETS2 map has grown so much. Last year’s Scandinavia update added a huge amount of new country and some of the prettiest scenery in the game. And while Vive la France isn’t quite as dramatic as that, it’s a worthy purchase for anyone invested in the game. Paris feels more like a city, the addition of bespoke road signs, advertisements, and speed traps adds authenticity, and the extra roadside detail helps bring the world to life.

For me, ETS2 is the perfect expression of PC gaming. A weird, niche simulator that no big publisher would ever back, but that found success anyway. A rich modding scene that has added everything from multiplayer to snowy weather. And a passionate dev that’s still supporting the game long after release. If you still think pretending to drive trucks sounds weird, give the demo a shot and you might be surprised by how much you love it.

Andy Kelly

If it’s set in space, Andy will probably write about it. He loves sci-fi, adventure games, taking screenshots, Twin Peaks, weird sims, Alien: Isolation, and anything with a good story.