Simulations games are, by their very nature, not for everyone. Since they try to be as realistic as possible, they are complex affairs that can quickly overwhelm someone just looking for a few minutes of mindless, relaxing entertainment. A true simulation is anything but mindless, so while The Sims may be an outlier in that anyone can enjoy watching the antics of a virtual person ruining his or her own life, things get truly intimidating with something like the old Microsoft Flight Simulator series. That’s the same territory that Train Simulator 2015 sits in, and, just in case you really still don’t know what this game is about, and whether it’s for you, it’s a simulation about trains. Driving them. Stopping them and picking up passengers. Driving them again. You should know by now whether this is for you or not.
Forwards & Backwards
Well, there’s no story and no mystery to game called Train Simulator 2015, the name says it all. It’s difficult to imagine that anyone would look at that title and somehow think they were about to enter an engaging first person shooter world filled with conspiracy and political commentary. This is about learning to drive a train, then learning to do it professionally, then learning to do it in a world of your own devising if you want to take it that far.
TS2015, being a PC game, will look as good as your rig will allow, but even with all cylinders firing, it’s a simulation game, so don’t go expecting the tresses of individual strands of hair to realistically wave in the wind the way Lara Croft’s does in the latest Tomb Raider game. Also don’t expect stunning, sun soaked clouds in the sky dripping with rich light from a dying day, or stunning vistas of the English countryside. You’ll see buildings, pastures, vegetation and, of course, miles and miles of track, but none of this is going to be making the tech team at Epic worried about their own graphical prowess. Sound is convincingly done, perhaps almost too well done as the clack and clatter of a train rattling along the tracks can be hypnotic and sleep inducing under the right circumstances. Still, the presentation of Train Simulator is functional, but it’s not going to push a graphics card to the upper limits of its performance.
On the gameplay side, this is where things quickly separate the train men from the non-train boys. TS2015 is a simulator, and that means it’s trying to render the operation of trains in as realistic a manner as possible. If the player chooses, TS2015 goes through its own academy, teaching players the exact operating systems for everything from older steam engines to modern electrically powered trains. And when I say operate, I mean operate, with full blown courses on the reversers, direction of amperage and application of brakes that actual operators need to know. On top of that, the actual campaign consists of scenarios that take players through a typical day on the British railways, stopping at stations, loading and unloading passengers and continuing on through the end of the route. The game carefully monitors your progress, docking points for everything from speeding to not arriving at a station on time, and knowing when to apply the brakes and slow down for station arrival is absolutely paramount to having a good run. If you’re more of the creative type and get tired of running across the British countryside, there’s also a construction mode that will allow you to build your own stations and environments to take your trains through.
All of which is to say that just by looking at the name Train Simulator, you should know whether this game is for you. If you’ve ever had any curiosity about riding the rails, get this game. If you’ve had a burning ambition to be a locomotive engineer but somehow missed your career calling, get this game. If you have no interest in trains, then a game about driving one down the tracks and coupling together cars is not for you. For those the game is aimed at, it’s a competently packaged game that will scratch a very specific itch, but it does so without frills or top tier polish.