Rail Simulator Review
Last year around this time, I picked up and reviewed a casual title by PopCap. Said casual title went on to become something fairly big among even the most hardcore of gamers. the game was known as Peggle and is, more than likely, Popcap's biggest success with the sector of the market that normally picks up the Quakes and Unreal Tournaments. They may not like the basic casual gamess Popcap puts out, but there was something about Peggle that just screamed at people to play it. so, when I was trying to find something to write about, I figured it was time to take a look off of the beaten path most gamers travel and pick something interesting up that could be fun for even the hardcore crowd. My choice? Rail Simulator.
Now, before I start this review, I want to apologize to train enthusiasts. I know little to nothing about locomotives. I know the basics from science classes in school, sure, but I've never ridden on one personally. This review comes solely from the perspective of a gamer.
Admittedly, this game looks rather boring sitting there on the shelf. A game called "Rail Simulator" with nothing more than a picture of a game doesn't quite scream out "exciting, innovative gaming experience" like most other boxes. First jumping into the game feels fairly easy -- pick a game mode, click it, and go. You have Scenario mode and Free play. Scenario mode gives you certain scenarios to tangle with that might involve unloading and loading cargo or picking up passengers. This'll take up some time of yours, sure, but the other mode is where Rail Simulator becomes something of interest to those that refer to themselves as hardcore.
Free Play mode is just what it says -- pick a route and do whatever you damn well please. If you want to see how fast you can get a train go go, you can. If you want to ride along a route and ignore everything but the scenery, you are free to. Setting your train to go and kicking back on an easy route really is oddly relaxing. The first time I booted up the game, I actually spent an hour just driving along and looking at the scenery as it passed by. This is where I feel the game really sets itself apart -- the world is fairly pretty and actually enjoyable to watch go by as opposed to being ugly and only serving as a backdrop to the actual game.
The controls are where you're going to be stumped at first. Being my normal self, I jumped into the game without reading up at all on the controls. I figured I'd catch on eventually. Oh no, I didn't. Before I actually got going, I managed to start my windshield wipers up and set the train into reverse. So, once I started moving, I was going backwards. And, realistically enough, the train took forever to bring to a complete halt. After that experience, I checked the little insert that came with the game and found the beginner's controls. No, folks, the game is not intuitive whatsoever, even at the early levels. This is one game where even the most hardcore of hardcore gamers should grab the little card and read it so they can understand what they're doing. I'm not even going anywhere near the advanced controls, I think I'd wreck the train before I moved a mile.
This game's biggest boon comes in with the ridiculous amounts of modability offered. I did some research on the series and found that previous games in the series had people developing hundreds of new tracks and trains for the game, giving the most hardcore train nut something he or she could identify with. Be you a fan of steam locomotives, modern passenger trains or some of the ultra-futuristic trains I've only seen videos of, you can find something through a mod in this game, I'm sure. What's nice is that you can even stop the game in mid-session and mod the train tracks to go through a totally different route if you so desire. Say that you see something way off in the distance. Well, pop into editor mode, re route the track that way, and boom!
Overall, I really did enjoy my experience with train simulator. While I can understand that this definitely is not for everybody, I think the game really deserves a chance from the non-enthusiast crowd. Sure, you're not going to take everything away from it that a train buff will, but if you give the game a chance, you'll find a surprisingly relaxing experience and a style of game that really is unmatched in any other simulation. Just, by god, read the instructions first. You don't want to be driving backwards with your windshield wipers on, do you?
Really, though -- you do not need to be a train enthusiast to get something out of this package -- you just have to have an open mind and be willing to try out something new.