Train Simulator 2013 – Preview
If I told you that Train Simulator 2013 was my favourite game of Gamescom, you’d probably laugh in my face and remind me of all the big-name, action-packed titles available to me that must have been better. Hell, even my fellow writers have scoffed at the idea. But you know what? I’m sticking to it. Not one other game from Gamescom had me genuinely excited to check it out, and nothing else put a smile on my face after I walked out of the booth. Train Simulator 2013 is my game of show; now let me tell you why.
First off, the menus have had a total facelift, and are now far easier to work your way through than in the earlier games. This mainly comes down to the other major additions; new game modes Quick Drive and Multiplayer (more on these later) have necessitated a cleaner, more streamlined menu system that looks great and is simple to navigate. Even choosing your locomotive looks better, as this time around each train is separated into different categories and given a picture to help give you an idea of what you’re driving if you’ve got no idea what a Class 117 is, and also helps the serious players keep track of their DLC, which I’m told was becoming a real problem for them.
The tidier menus come in handy for Quick Drive, which isn’t a new mode per se, more a faster way to access the game’s Free Roam mode. In Quick Drive you choose your locomotive, which is incredibly easy, as previously discussed, the route you want to drive it on, and, for the first time in the series, you can choose the time of day, weather, and season. And if you don’t want to bother with any of that, you can hit random and just jump straight into any train on any track. It’s a great little system that allows anyone to do what they like and just get straight into driving trains.
Speaking of driving trains, another new feature to go with the plethora of others is the ability to use an Xbox 360 controller to control the train, which my guide through the game did for the entire presentation, and I have to say, it looked exceptionally smooth. I didn’t manage to pick up on the exact controls, and there were a lot of them, but there’s a controller layout you can access at any time in the start menu, should you require it. The controller can control pretty much everything, from driving the train with the throttle, brake and reverser, to moving the camera around, and can even handle the trickier stuff like doing and undoing the couplings on the train. The D-Pad is also associated with a lot of the more minor activities, such as turning the lights and the wipers on, so you’re not limited by the controller set up, and in some ways it makes the train easier to handle thanks to the precision of the controller over the sometimes clumsiness of a mouse.
Next on the agenda was the new multiplayer mode, a complete first for the Train Simulator. I was told that, while other train sims had attempted multiplayer modes, these were often brought quite literally to a crashing halt when one player derailed and the whole game ended. To combat this, Train Simulator 2013 will have an asynchronous multiplayer game using relays. Basically, the first driver will choose the route and locomotive, drive the first section of the route, and then be greeted with the option to send an invite to their friend to drive the next section. These invites can be passed on to anyone, so your route may get completed by a friend of a friend of a friend, which could lead to some interesting moments when suddenly a person you’ve never met is finishing off a route that you started. You can also start the same route multiple times, or multiple routes once each, and send out invites to each one to your friends, making sure they all get in on the action. While it may not sound as exciting as a sandbox multiplayer with everyone playing at once, it actually makes a lot of sense, and as was pointed out to me, adds to the realism of the game
Realism is something that the Train Simulator has always strived towards, and while it’s obvious in the way the trains are driven, there are also the trains and routes themselves. For Train Simulator 2013, the developers have created three new routes: Munich to Augsburg, Sherman Hill, a route in the US, and London to Brighton, all of which will be included as part of the game. The ICE 3 will also be included, and the level of detail on that particular locomotive and the others is wonderful, and it’s clear there’s been a lot of effort into crafting the trains so they look just like their real-life counterparts. The environments still haven’t received the same level of detail as the trains, which is a shame because with just a little bit more of a lift they could bring some extra life to the game, but the routes themselves are crafted realistically in terms of actual twists and turns and so on, and we’re really here just for the trains and the driving thereof.
Of course, if you don’t like the real-life routes on offer, you can always adjust them any way you like, or go ahead and create your own. The World Editor is still there, along with the Scenario Editor for putting together your own missions. This time around, however, Train Simulator 2013 is getting Steam Workshop integration, so you can share your created content with people across the world. The developers hope this will be an easy and exciting way to get people to share their content with everyone who plays the game, and even get an insight into what players from all over the world would like to see in the game that the developers don’t already accommodate. The developers will continue to support the game with their own scenarios, so there’ll always be something to download and try out.
So with a veritable feast of huge new features, along with some smaller tweaks like being able to adjust the opacity of the HUD and change how much you see of it, Train Simulator 2013 is shaping up to be the finest addition to the series yet. And the best part? If you already own the game, you’ll get all these new features as part of a free update, just like last time, and all your purchased DLC is still compatible. New users can still pick it up and Steam and in stores, but it’s nice to know that current owners are still being looked after. The game is set to release on the 20th of September, and I would highly, highly recommend you take note of it.
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