Rail Simulator PC DVD
Published by: Electronic Arts
Developed by: Kuju Entertainment
Release Date: Out Now
Given how good Microsoft Train Simulator was it's very surprising that Microsoft took the decision to shelve the series. Indeed, many will view Rail Simulator as the spiritual successor to Microsoft Train Simulator due to the game being developed by Kuju Entertainment who was also responsible for Train Simulator. Needless to say then that quite a lot is expected of Rail Simulator. Whilst the game is good though, it can hardly be classed as a big leap forward.
Rail Simulator offers the chance of travel over 1900km of track most of which is set in the UK. The present day and historic routes on offer include: Oxford to Paddington, Bath Green Park to Templecombe, Newcastle to York and Hagen to Siegen. The game features a variety of steam, diesel and electric trains including the Class 55, Class 47, IC125 HST, Class 166, DB BR 294 and the Standard Black 5 4-6-0- locomotive. The game also has a variety of coaches and freight wagons from both the past and the present. The game allows for both free play and scenario play. There are fifteen scenarios in total and there is an editor that allows you to create your own.
One of the problems with creating a simulator is that there is always the danger of making the game inaccessible to newcomers. Thankfully Kuju have realised this and have included three driving models that range from very simplistic to a full blown simulation experience. This enables anyone who hasn't played a train simulation game before to not be overwhelmed. If I do have one complaint however, it's that a tutorial and some structured challenges should have been included to make the introduction to the game as smooth as possible. The omission of a good tutorial is rather strange when you consider that Train Simulator had tutorials for diesel, electric and steam trains.
Graphically Rail Simulator looks OK but it doesn't look as good as you might expect. A few years have passed since Train Simulator was released and the graphical capabilities of PC graphics cards have moved on leaps and bounds in the interim. Rail Simulator doesn't really reflect this however. Whilst you wouldn't expect the scenery to look magnificent in a simulator there are some aspects that you would have hoped look much better than they do. The cab could have been more detailed, certainly in terms of its textures. Why can't you see the fireman when driving a steam train from the cab view when you can see both the driver and the fireman from an external view? At least you get to see the passengers leave and board the train, although the character models for the passengers are rather basic.
Given that Train Simulator had captions for bells and horns etc. you might think that Rail Simulator would offer the same. However, sadly this isn't the case and there are no captions for the bells and horns. The scenario briefings and objectives are all shown in text and can be recalled at any time during the scenario. The game manual is disappointing and doesn't provide anywhere near enough information for a game of this kind. This is probably due to the limitations of the game being a DVD-style case and not having the space to include a manual that provides all of the information you need. There are two PDF manuals in the game directory that explain each of the games scenarios and how to use the included editor and the game does come with a pullout card that explains the game controls and the signalling and signage.
There can be no denying that Rail Simulator is another enjoyable and quality train simulator from Kuju Entertainment. That said however, Rail Simulator certainly doesn't come across as being a significant improvement upon their earlier Train Simulator game. If train simulations are your thing then you'll definitely enjoy what Rail Simulator has to offer, as long as you don't expect it to be anything that dramatically improves on the train simulations that are already available.