Xbox seems to be the premier destination for simulators, where you can find several aspects of life faithfully recreated as a video game experience. Just in 2021 alone we’ve seen a fair few of these, and with the way the world is right now, they are more than welcome. The most pivotal is the much-anticipated console release of Microsoft Flight Simulator, but there’s more as the Xbox platform has you covered for things like lawn mowing, farming, and even pretending to be a goat.
A couple of years ago we saw Bus Simulator arrive, which we actually enjoyed as a cathartic passenger transit experience; basically the complete opposite of something like Taxi Chaos. Following up on that release, we now have the all new and improved Bus Simulator 21.
New and improved is putting it mildly as Bus Simulator 21 really ups the ante from its predecessor, offering not just the driving simulation side of things, but greatly expanding upon the business side of things, as you slowly create your own public transport empire, this time across both European and North America inspired maps. On top of this is a whole range of new content and several graphical enhancements, everything from new vehicles and even a fully online multiplayer mode.
The core driving experience is what shines about Bus Simulator 21; the driving model is precise and immersive, as it definitely captures the weight and bulkiness of handling one of these public transport contraptions. Although it’s important to keep to the scheduled time, this is no Crazy Taxi, and so when in doubt you’ll want to keep it slow and steady, because there are traffic rules to abide by. Breaking traffic rules, or even running over pedestrians, won’t summon the police cars and helicopters like in Grand Theft Auto V, but they do all add up to pretty hefty fines.
The name of the game is that of running a bus company, and while initially you’ll be more hands-on in driving your first bus around and doing all the routes, eventually you want to build up a fleet of these and have your reach on all the major routes. The management simulation aspect of Bus Simulator 21 runs far deeper than the driving aspect, as there is a budget to manage and other costs to deal with, especially if you make mistakes early on. As you build up your wealth you’ll want to acquire and customise new buses, and make efficient use of your time.
Still, if you’re not into all the management, Bus Simulator 21 still allows you to enjoy the cathartic experience of getting behind the wheel. The driving mechanics are detailed, with the dashboard coming with all sorts of levers and buttons for you to push; everything from the doors to the ticket machine. Still, those wishing to streamline this a little can do so using a handy cycle menu where a press of a button brings up all the shortcuts in a cycle rather than having you rummage around for buttons manually. That’s the neat thing about Bus Simulator 21, it comes with all sorts of assists to help customise the experience to your liking. Enthusiasts can play with all the intricate details and even plug in their steering wheel controller, whereas more casual players can streamline everything and simply focus on the joy of driving a bus around a scenic town.
Bus Simulator is hardly a graphical masterpiece by any stretch (especially those terrifying human avatars!), and the game is a work in progress as the developers tidy up all the messy bits with regular updates and community feedback. But it does no doubt succeed in creating an immersive and detailed setting for players to enjoy. Despite being rough around the edges, graphical details are most certainly there, especially the day/night cycle and the weather effects. There is just something very relaxing about raindrops drizzling down the windshield as you complete an evening bus shift.
The multiplayer experience is surprisingly functional even in the early days of the game’s launch, as players are able to share a server in what is a sandbox style experience. The real point of it is just having a space to share and enjoy, and there’s something especially cathartic about just being a passenger on the bus as you soak up the sights and sounds. It can be something as simple as you checking passengers for tickets while the other player does the driving. And yes, there are a few bus fare evaders!
Bus Simulator 21 on Xbox is a niche within a niche, but even driving fans may discover something interesting here. Being able to customise the experience and accessibility to your liking goes a long way, and the bus driving model is a fascinating one to explore and master. Simulation purists will also enjoy the management side of things, but even if you’re not interested in that aspect, you can always jump into a sandbox and enjoy the slow pace of public transport in a scenic locale. It’s rough around the edges for sure, and it’s not going to be for everyone, but if you’re willing to suspend yourself into its limitations and challenges then you might discover something rewarding with Bus Simulator 2.
Grab the keys to Bus Simulator 2 from the Xbox Store