Train Sim World Review
Sony PlayStation 4Also available on PC and Microsoft Xbox One
Ask most gamers why they play games, and the majority won’t say because they like to pretend they’re working. And yet, the simulator genre continues to grow in popularity. Maybe it’s the sheer attention to detail that these titles offer, or perhaps it’s because simulators allow us to combine hobbies such as gaming and plane/train spotting. Whatever the appeal is that makes these titles so intriguing and popular with their fanbase, Train Sim World certainly has it in abundance.
Created by British developers Dovetail games, Train Sim World has been painstakingly crafted by a team with over ten year's worth of experience making train simulators. It’s not surprising then that Train Sim World is uncompromisingly accurate, even down to the smallest details, and offers a perfect representation of what it’s like to operate a railway locomotive. This level of detail may not be too surprising to hardened PC players, who know exactly what to expect, but for console players, where the simulator genre is still relatively fresh, it may be a little too overpowering.
Train Sim World gives you the ability to take control of a selection of famous and powerful locomotives across three “iconic” rail routes. These routes include the Great Western Express between London Paddington and Reading, the Mitteldeutschland S-Bahn through Leipzing, and the Northeast Corridor in New York. Across these three routes you’ll be able to take control of a range of engines, including both passenger and freight models. These include the BR Class 42, Class 166 commuter, Class 66-hauled freight, DB BR 1442 ‘Talent 2’, Amtrak ACS-64, and the CSX GP38-2 freight. While Train Sim World does a great job of accurately recreating these routes in digital form, I was disappointed that additional routes weren’t included. It would have been a joy to sit in the driving seat of the Bullet Train between Tokyo and Kyoto, or hauling freight between Los Angeles and New York. Simulators often naturally lend themselves to future DLC, so hopefully Dovetail games will look to increase the number of routes and engines on offer over the coming months.
Within these three routes, you’re tasked with completing a number of unique scenarios you’d expect to face as a train driver. For example, driving from point a to point b and stopping at all the designated stops along the way, or taking control of a commuter train after another driver fails to turn up. However, before you can embark on your new career, you’ll need to spend a few hours learning the basics of each train model, and we’re not kidding when we say hours, it is a simulator after all. Thankfully, the tutorials cover the basic elements of turning the engine on, charging brakes, accelerating, braking, turning lights on, opening and closing passenger doors, and stopping, but, unless you’re already familiar with how to control a train, you’ll probably need to make notes as the sheer number of buttons, levels and switches can be unnerving - there’s no start/stop button here! Controlling one of these beasts isn’t easy, and it gave me newfound respect for real drivers of both freight and passenger engines.
If driving isn’t your thing, and I’d question why you’re buying a train simulator if it wasn’t, you’re able to step out of the driving seat at stations and take a wander. You can even take a seat as a passenger, but both of these experiences are an extreme bore. Train stations are mostly lifeless (not very realistic if you’re catching a British train!), so exploring on foot isn’t fun, while passenger mode is basically just looking out of the window. I understand that the developers wanted to make the game as accurate as possible, but I’d be concerned if you’re only interested in sitting down and taking virtual trips! I couldn’t find any joy in spending 15 minutes waiting at an empty station to get onto an empty train (again, not very accurate in Britain), only to sit down and spend your time staring into the virtual abyss.
Fans of trains and simulators will of course get the most out of Train Sim World, and the most hardened of fans will take pleasure is ensuring that every element of their journey is completed with meticulous accuracy, be that arriving at stops on time, stopping for red signals, or making sure speed limits aren’t breached. If you’re more of a casual or new simulator player, there’s still joy in completing scenarios knowing that you’ve learned the complicated basics and taken your engine from point a to b without incident!
Train Sim World may do a wonderful job recreating the experience of driving a train in meticulous detail, but it’s let down by poor visuals and numerous bugs. The trains themselves look stunning thanks to the power of Unreal Engine 4, but the scenery is bland and empty. Buildings pop-up constantly on the horizon, character model would look more at home in early PS3 titles, and textures are often fuzzy when up close. The title is also let down by a number of bugs; I fell off the platform at one station and couldn’t move, train doors were often left stuck open, preventing access to the panels behind them, while occasionally, some buttons didn’t react after being pressed. The only fix for these issues was to simply restart the scenario, which may seem like a small price to pay, but loading screens are also unacceptably long.
It’s important to remember that Train Sim World is a train simulator at the end of the day, and that means journey times are as long in the virtual world as they are in real life. If you’re not prepared to spend hours learning the way each locomotive works, or don’t want to experience the day-to-day responsibilities of a train driver, you’re not going to find much joy here. Yes, the visuals aren’t particularly great, and yes, the game has a couple of glitches here and there, but in terms of recreating the feeling of driving a train, Train Sim World hits the nail on the head and will certainly appeal to its core fanbase.