There seems to be a sim for everything these days. Many years ago it was just the old flying experience, but nowadays we've got simulations for fishing, airport workers and even goats. With some of these already making the crossover from PC to console, Dovetail Games has decided to bring its train sim across the great divide.
If you're expecting arcade, hi-octane fun, then you're probably not accustomed to simulations. This is a highly realistic representation of what it's like to be a train driver. Including three different maps, Train Sim World offers many hours of gameplay for the amateur gaming train-spotter.
Taking you to Germany, New York and London, you'll be able to try different trains across a variety of scenarios. Before you can take charge of your own locomotive, you must learn the ropes for each of the different vehicles on offer. These tutorials involve teaching you how to turn on the engine, prime the brakes, and stop and start the hulking machine.
It's a really nice feature that the different trains have unique and realistic button layouts and ways of starting them up. Obviously, that's pretty standard in sims, but the attention to detail here is impressive. For example, in one of the American locos, you have to hold down the primer for a few seconds and head into the engine room to get it going. Then in each country, there are different protocols for setting off from the station, like tooting your horn to leave New York.
The tutorials do set you up for the scenarios, but we found ourselves going back to do them again after having forgotten more than we'd learnt. It did also feel like they forgot to tell us what some of the controls do. There are so many buttons, and the first piece of advice we can give is don't press anything if you don't know what it does. At one point we got a bit curious, pushed the red button only for the train to grind to a halt at Acton Town - it took us seven whole minutes to work out how to get her moving again.
If you're not willing to sit down and study, this probably isn't the game for you. It can take several minutes to get a train started and ready to move. Once you do get on the way there's a sense of satisfaction to be had, even though you spend quite a lot of time just watching the world go by. Don't think for one second that you can sit back and relax though. If you don't keep your hands on the controls you run the risk of exceeding the speed limit, missing the station, or the train slowing down and you messing up the schedule.
Once you've learned the ropes, there is a range of scenarios that will put your skills to the test. These are events that real drivers may face in their line of work. One of these situations saw us having to catch a train from Ealing Broadway to Central London to pick up a train to do the express Paddington to Reading run. You have to leave on time and arrive in 31 minutes.
Work Simulations like this are baffling to some people. Why would a representation of work in a game be so engaging? All we can tell you is that it really does captivate you and keep you entertained. Of course, you have to be a certain type of gamer that enjoys the depth and detail of a simulation rather than something more arcadey, but this game kept us engaged for hours.
You also have the option of simply picking up and running a normal route on the line, or even being a passenger. You can play from a first-person perspective and get off and explore stations or just sit and watch the world roll by. Looking out the window is, and we don't mean this in a sarcastic way, as relaxing as watching an aquarium.
While sitting in the carriages we couldn't help noticing that there was a very limited array of other passenger models. On one journey we counted no less than seven Agent 47 lookalikes all wearing the same black and white tracksuits. Also, we were surprised by just how many people had fake red hair in England. This does break you out of the reality a little bit.
The first-person experience feels pretty good, and on top of that, we thought that the controls made the transition from PC pretty well, although we couldn't help feeling that a mouse might have made life a little easier to click the right buttons in the nice-looking cab. Overall we have to say that Train Sim World looks pretty sharp, but there were a few moments where the visuals weren't brilliant. Pulling out of New York, for example, we noticed some pronounced texture pop-in as a grey block turned into a chain fence as it got closer into view. Maybe a patch or two could fix this, but these instances weren't frequent.
There's a decent range of trains and activities to be had, with freight and passenger services both available to be driven. The only sad thing is that it's all based in the modern age, which tragically means no historical reference points like the age of steam or the introduction of the Intercity 125 to turn around an ailing British Fail.
As with most of its ilk, we wanted more. More trains and more routes to play with, but what's on offer will keep you entertained for many hours. This is obviously how the Sim game franchises work, with DLC appeasing the enthusiast's need for the new. We can only hope that some or all of that makes its way to console (we'd like to visit the Isle of Wight, for example).
In conclusion, Train Sim World is not for the pickup and play gamer. Instead of easy action and adventure, you're getting a rich and compelling experience that will keep you entertained for hours on end, and if you're willing to invest the time and learn, you'll be rewarded. Aside from the lack of diversity in terms of the passengers and the occasional graphical hiccup, this is a very polished outing. There was so much to see and do, and hours of gameplay, but of course it didn't stop us selfishly wanting more. We see the desire for other routes as a positive as we clearly wanted to play it for longer. When we were in Paddington last we just wanted to hop on the Tube, but of course, it's not there, with the main limitation of the game being that it's not quite real life. Tube Sim World, anyone?
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