STAFF REVIEW of Train Sim World (Xbox One)

Tuesday, September 11, 2018.
by Adam Dileva

Train Sim World Box art I’ve ridden a train once in my life. I was a kid going to some summer camp thing, and while I don’t really remember much from the camp itself, I do remember the train ride there and back more vividly. I remember sitting in the window seat, staring out the glass, seeing the world go by with the clicky-clack of the train constantly vibrating the seats. I also had a few train sets as a kid, nothing extravagant, but it was always fun to setup and watch them circle around the track for hours. Yes, I’m showing my age, but that’s what kids did with toys back before the internet and videogames were commonplace.

Regardless if you’re a train enthusiast or simply appreciate trains for what they are, Train Sim World by Dovetail Games will allow you to be a train engineer, allowing you to experience what it would be like to operate a locomotive barreling down the tracks, having to pick up passengers and making stops. The “sim” in Train Sim World’s title is completely accurate as well, as you’ll be sitting in the engineer seat with dozens of levers, knobs, dials and more in front of you, just as you would in real life if you were so lucky.

Don’t let that deter you though, as you’re taught the basics of getting your train moving and stopping, though there’s a lot of in-depth gameplay here should you want to dive in even further. Luckily it’s accessible for people like me that don’t know the real differences between electric and diesel trains, yet deep enough for the enthusiasts that want to experience different trains and railway systems, looking for that niche to be filled on console finally.

While there’s no traditional campaign or story, you simply fill in the role of an engineer, playing scenario to scenario which simply consists of stopping at specific train stations, letting your commuters on and off your train before moving onto the next stop. Rinse and repeat. So while there’s no narrative, the main experience comes from being able to control these massive trains in a realistic setting. You have to adhere to certain pickup schedules though, as commuters have places to be, so get used to those train controls as you don’t want passengers to be late!

Not only will you be operating the train, but you’re able to freely walk around the train, stations or even sit in a passenger seat and enjoy the ride itself. Some trains don’t have all of its operating panels sitting right in front of you either, meaning you’ll need to walk back a cabin or so to sometimes flip a switch or two, adding to the authenticity. While I’ve never been in the engineer’s cabin of a train before, I can only assume that it’s extremely authentic, as there are panels and lights everywhere, a complex system for hauling a few hundred tons of machinery.

As far as I’m aware, I don’t believe there’s been a train sim on console like this before, not this in-depth and realistic, especially played in first person. You’ll be able to try your locomotive skills across three different countries with different types of trains. While they all generally control similarly for movement, they handle, sound and look very distinct in their own ways.

Each train type has its own tutorial that’s easy to follow along, with markers placed exactly on every button and lever that you’ll need to interact with. My only complaint is that once you go into the scenarios, you don’t get any more hints or tips pop up, so if you forget that you need to charge the battery for 5 seconds, or that the parking brake is engaged before moving, and can’t figure out why you aren’t accelerating, there’s no help to be had. The learning curve does take getting used to, and there’s dozens of buttons and switches you CAN press, though I’ve found no need other than using the basics to get moving.

There were numerous times I would accidentally press a button, engaging the emergency brakes, throttling into reverse or some other beginner mistake, causing my train to stop in its tracks, literally. I wasn’t able to figure out how to get the train moving again without a lot of trial and error. Depending on your locomotive, sometimes you need to reset the gears to neutral, or let things recharge before accelerating. Once you’ve run into this problem a handful of times and overcome it, you’ll know exactly how to deal with it; simply part of its tricky learning curve.

Certain routes will allow you to nearly drive seamlessly from point A to point B, though other tracks or stations are much more crowded, requiring much more monitoring on your speeds and stops. While stations may only be a few minutes apart, fully expect each scenario to take about an hour or so to play from start to finish, meaning this isn’t much of a quick play kind of game. This is also a simulator, so don’t expect any calming soundtrack or anything of the matter, as there’s actually no music at all, so make sure to load up Spotify for your own sanity if you’re going to play out some scenarios.

Included are three different countries you’ll get to experience, each with their own trains. Travel in the Amtrak ACS-64 from New York or the GP38-2 YN3, Britain’s crowded railways on the Class 66 DBS, Class 166 GWG or the Class 48 GWG, or rapid transit in Germany with its BR1442-6 Talent 2. Each train is wonderfully detailed and completely unique. Again, I can’t speak for the authenticity, but I would guess it’s extremely accurate from my guesses.

You’re able to choose certain weather effects you want to ride in and can even explore stations as you make your stops, something you’ll want to do if you’re an achievement hunter and want to find all of the hidden collectibles. While the trains are incredibly detailed (some trains even a small first class section), the rest of the world is grossly underpopulated, uninspired and bland. Stations should be bustling with passengers and commotion, but you’re able to count the people in the distance. The same goes for the outside world that you pass by, as you won’t notice any people walking, cars driving and planes in the sky to indicate that the world is actually alive in any way. Even passengers in the train are lifeless and don’t do anything other than sit there.

As for the audio, the narrating voice over for the tutorials is very pleasant, but I do wish there was more, as there’s simply no other audio in the game aside from the train’s sound that it makes from the engine and button presses. The diesel exhaust spewing locomotives sound gritty and heavy as they start up their speed, whereas the electric train hums are much quieter and doesn’t have as much noise pollution.

You’re able to choose from a variety of camera angles, inside and out, giving you a different view when you’re in a for a long 40 minute haul. I have had the camera ‘break’ on more than one occasion though, as I was using the outside angle to watch my train, but as it went into a tunnel it somehow detatched from its default spot and allowed me to maneuver anywhere inside or outside the train, forcing me to change the camera angle again to fix it. There’s also a few performance issues, as running down the cabin while your train is going full speed causes some major laggy framerate issues, depending on where you’re at.

If you’re not a train enthusiast and don’t know the difference between a ACS-64 and a Class 166 GWG, I highly suggest watching some videos or gameplay of Train Sim World before jumping both feet in. While I’m not a big train fan by any means, I can appreciate what Train Sim World is trying to accomplish here with its authenticity, as I wasn’t previously aware the impact a 0.5% grade in upward slope could do for a train’s momentum before playing.

Train Sim World fills a niche for a specific audience, and while that won’t be for everyone, myself included, for the people that’s always wanted to drive a BR1442-6 Talent 2, there’s no better options out there on console currently. Some may find it incredibly boring, as I did in the beginning, but there’s a lot to do and accomplish here if you can learn the intricacies of being a train engineer in this realistic depiction.

Overall: 7.0 / 10
Gameplay: 7.0 / 10
Visuals: 8.0 / 10
Sound: 2.0 / 10


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