With Train Sim World: Founder's Edition having recently tested the simulation waters on the Xbox One, developers Dovetail Games have decided the time is right to jump in with both feet, with the release of a game that's simply titled Train Sim World. A bundle of not one, not two, but three very different Train Sim World packages, Train Sim World brings a whole host of trains, tracks and, er, ticket barriers, to PS4, Xbox One and PC when the game launches on 24th July. Be sure to check the bottom of this article for information on the pre-order bonuses!
What is Train Sim World?
Train Sim World is a first person, Unreal Engine 4 powered, authentic simulation of the life of a train driver. Played from a first person perspective, this is a sim that stands out from the rest, as it doesn't actually tie you to the cab of your train - instead, you're free to jump out at any time, and hop onto the tracks to connect your train to another; wander the platforms hunting for collectibles; or take a stroll through the carriages to keep an eye on your passengers (even if we are a bit disappointed there's not an option to slap any louts with their feet on the chairs).
When it comes to actually driving the trains themselves, plonking yourself down in the cab presents you with a completely authentic, driver's eye view of the train in question- and almost every last one of the hundred or so buttons works as it would in real life.
Thankfully, the game comes complete with a steady, step-by-step tutorial to help take novices through the basics of running each of the trains, making Train Sim World a lot easier to get into than you might expect. Even better, the team have put a lot of work into making sure the game's complex controls distil down almost perfectly onto a controller, so everyone can find their footing with ease:
"It's definitely [a] challenge with consoles to not have access to a keyboard and mouse. We had already spent considerable time designing the PC game to be fully compatible with the game controller, but we still identified a few areas where we were relying on keyboard controls without necessarily realising it, and had to spend a little time carefully reviewing the game and how people play it on the console. We're very happy with the final result, and many of the developers now use controllers when playing in their free time."
In terms of what there is of substance to do in the game, along with a number of challenging "scenarios" for you to try your hand at (effectively a list of missions), which see you having to deal with broken down trains, maintenance work on the lines, and increasingly challenging timetables, there's also a full 24 hour "day-in-the-life" mode, which provides a whole day of timetabled trains for you to try your hand at running.
What's included in Train Sim World?
This may take a little bit of explaining. On the PC, you may remember that Train Sim World began with Train Sim World: CSX Heavy Haul, a game based around shunting goods trains along the Sand Patch Grade through the Allegheny Mountains in Pennsylvania and Maryland. As the first game in the series, CSX Heavy Haul then became a kind of "base game", with Dovetail Games releasing several expansions over the coming months, each of which required Heavy Haul to work.
Now, however, things are about to change. This release of Train Sim World - which will be available both digitally through the Playstation Store, Xbox Live and Steam, or on a disc for those who prefer to keep their games physical - is a collection of three of the aforementioned expansions: Great Western Express, Rapid Transit, and Northeast Corridor New York, which offer a huge variety of gameplay, as the developers told us: "For example, Rapid Transit is all about the high pressure commuter driver who needs to meet tough timetables, [while] for those who want the full experience they can even activate the German train safety system called PZB for a really challenging experience."
So, let's take a closer look at each of the expansions.
What's in Train Sim World: Great Western Express?
Taking place on the GWR London Paddington - Reading route, Train Sim World: Great Western Railway is the pack that was released on the Xbox One under the "Founder's Edition" subtitle. Offering three very different trains to get to grips with, each doing a very different type of job, Great Western Express packs plenty of variety into just the one pack.
The InterCity 125, which earnt its name from being able to hit a top speed of 125mph, is the classic intercity train, taking express passengers between Paddington and Reading. As Dovetail games point out, it's speed means it provides a very different kind of train driving experience, as "you need to think that much further ahead to be able to stop the train in the right place or deal with different signal aspects to keep everyone safe". Trains going at 125mph don't stop on a dime.
The Class 166 (on the right) is a standard commuter style train, shuttling passengers between the smaller stops - which in turn offers a very different set of challenges. Stopping quickly and getting off as quick as you can are key to sticking to your timetable here.
Finally, Great Western Express also comes bundled with a Class 66 - a freight/heavy haulage train which sees you doing everything from towing vast goods trains around, to rescuing broken down trains. With a lot of power under the bonnet, this is one of the trickier trains to drive...
What's in Train Sim World: Rapid Transit?
Rapid Transit is an expansion that takes place on the Mitteldeutschland S-Bahn (or Stadtschnellbahn - "city rapid railroad") in the industrial city of Leipzig. Although this pack only includes the one train - the DB BR 1442 'Talent 2' (pictured below) - it also includes the full S2 line of the S-Bahn (all 70km of it), from Dessau HBF (or "central train station") to Markkleeberg-Gaschwitz.
To up the challenge for new drivers, this route also includes an authentic take on Deustchebahn's "unique" (read: complex) signalling system, which you'll have to decipher if you want to get your passengers to their destinations on time.
What's in Train Sim World: Northeast Corridor New York?
So good they didn't name it twice, Northeast Corridor New York takes Train Sim World to the Big Apple, with a route that runs from near the Newark Liberty International Airport to New Rochelle, New York, and takes in the Pennsylvania Station - the largest intercity station in New York City, with over 10 million passengers served each year - and the Hell Gate bridge.
Along with the requisite load of scenarios and routes to have a go at, Northeast Corridor New York also comes with two new trains:
Packing 8,600 horsepower, the Amtrak City Sprinter ACS-64 is a passenger train capable of hitting speeds up to 125mph. Before you go for a ride in one of these, be sure to check out the plush business class - and the buffet car!
The CSX GP38-2, meanwhile, is responsible for the much less glamorous jobs - like dragging "trash trains" out of the city.
Will future expansions be released on console too?
Happily, the answer is yes, with the upcoming release is just the beginning of your journey with Train Sim World. Though CSX Heavy Haul and the recently released West Somerset Railway expansions aren't currently on consoles, the game's developers assured us that they, and every future expansion, will be hitting console too - with West Somerset Railway, particularly, set to be hitting the Xbox One and PS4 very soon:
"Our aim is to bring the same content to all platforms - though as we're more experienced on PC at the moment, releases will continue to appear there first for a while. West Somerset Railway will definitely be coming to consoles in the not-too-distant future, but we're not able to give a release date yet."
Has Train Sim World been optimised for consoles?
Those who played the Founder's Edition may remember that, while the game certainly looked impressive, there were a few initial issues with v-sync and a bit of a juddery frame rate, which the team at Dovetail have worked hard to correct. Taking a complex (and visually impressive) simulator from PC to consoles has undoubtedly been a challenge - but with the Founder's Edition on Xbox One having helped test the waters, the team are confident the console version can stand up with the PC one for players: "Most of the normal challenges with porting to a console are eliminated, or at least helped in a large way, because of our use of the Unreal Engine 4 platform - however, [only] having access to a smaller processor, less memory and graphics processing capability as compared to a PC several times the price of a console does mean that the game has to go through a fairly intensive stage of optimisation to fit those new parameters. This includes making 3D models and graphics more efficient, carefully reviewing all the code to work out where efficiencies can be gained, and really understanding the strengths of the platform to know what kinds of things will have a greater or lesser impact on the frame rate. One of our main goals moving to console was to give people who don't have top of the line PCs a simulation that was optimised for the powerful new generation of consoles, to give a truly beautiful and smooth experience. We're delighted with the playability of the game on [consoles], as it offers a great experience with a smooth framerate."
What's the difference between the standard and digital deluxe editions?
Train Sim World is going to come in two different flavours - the standard edition, and the digital deluxe edition. While they both contain the same basic package - the three Train Sim World bundles, Great Western Express, Rapid Transit and Northeast Passage New York, the digital deluxe edition also bundles a bonus train - the CSX GP40-2, pictured below. As such, the digital deluxe edition will set you back an extra £5 - not bad, considering the train on its own sets you back £12 on PC.
You can find the all important pre-order links below:
For those who bought the Founder's Edition on Xbox One, you'll be able to upgrade to the full Train Sim World package for a discounted price as an in-game upgrade nearer launch.