Before we begin to talk about Metro Simulator I feel that we need some bits and bobs about the Moscow Metro, if only because it’s pretty interesting. It is known as the most beautiful subway in the world with 44 of its 200 stations listed as cultural heritage sites. But it gets better and on the circle line, male voices announce any upcoming station when going in a clockwise direction, with a female voice announcing whenever the train is going in an anti-clockwise direction. There’s more of interest and intrigue though and some of the stations are so deep underground that the air pressure changes. It’s with this small handful of facts that the developers of Metro Simulator have managed to create a faithful simulation of this beloved underground subway. After a while in early access on PC with some favourable reviews, it comes to console for us Xbox players to discover the ins and outs of the Moscow Metro.
Underground simulators are a fairly new thing on console, but Metro Simulator isn’t the only option we have, with Dovetail Games’ Train Sim World 2 tackling a similar avenue with the London Underground.
Whatever game you play though, you’ll find yourself in the role of the train driver and much like in Train Sim World, the first thing to tackle here in Metro Simulator is the tutorial. Here you will learn in detail about how the trains work and what you need to know in order to operate your scheduled journeys and, of course, be safe and on time.
The tutorial is very detailed and quite complex. The developers obviously know their trains and the Moscow Metro system very well. It’s in here where you’ll learn how to move the train forward, how to slow it down and brake, and how to ensure you are always within the speed limits. You will also learn how to deliver the much-needed announcements for the stations you are coming into, all by using the systems that are on board. Further to that is the opportunity to change driver position from front to back and how to move through the carriage in free roam. Oh, and yep, if you’re an enthusiast, changing signals manually and getting involved in all manner of other details are things that many will adore.
This must come alongside a word of advice to the non-train folk though – it’s all very intense so make sure you jot down plenty of notes. You see, because when you start the scenarios section you’re going to have to use all the info you just learned and then some.
Aside from those tutorials, there are two main modes to play with – Scenario mode and Free mode. Firstly the scenario section will give you multiple scenes to play out, letting you get accustomed to how the whole systems of Metro Simulator work. For example, there is one set-up which deals with a tragic accident on the line and it’s up to you to follow the instructions of the line control team to cope with the route changes. Another one has you coping with the pressures of the morning rush hour. Whatever you are involving yourself in, you get awarded points for fine driving and being on time. Of course, points are deducted for lateness and speeding. It’s hard to grasp straight away and if you’re not paying attention to everything that is going on, you will find yourself accumulating a load of fees.
In free mode, you are allowed to just head into the driver’s seat and work your way through the underground, all without restrictions. It’s a great way to experience any of the routes included in the game, allowing you to investigate in your own time. You can also customise the routes, amending the time, locations and journeys. And if all the madness of being in charge gets too much, Metro Simulator will also let you become a passenger, exploring the stations and riding the trains.
It’s hard to not admire the development team’s love of the Moscow Metro and for train fans, there is a lot to discover and love about this simulation. Gameplay-wise though, Metro Simulator can be a bit rough around the edges and there have been a few issues that have cropped up during my time with it; mostly centering on being thrown back to the dashboard after each tutorial mission. There are other bugs and glitches too – at times I’ve been unable to open the driver’s doors in free mode, requiring a full reload of the game. It’s not particularly user-friendly either, coming across as pretty hardcore and lacking the refinement or handholding you might have gathered from the Train Sim World franchise. But you have to give credit where it is due and the team behind this have managed to create a love letter to the Moscow Metro, delivering a gaming experience that lets the world experience this iconic underground.
In terms of the visuals and they happily show off the underground Moscow world in all its glory; as long as you don’t look too closely as then things begin to blur – this isn’t delivered in the highest of resolutions. However, the passengers look a lot better than in games that this is going up against, and there certainly seems to be a wide variety of different people present on these trains, which is a world away from the clones many may have got used to. The sound is alright too, with realistic train noises and all the proper voice announcements.
You have to admire the dedication and attention to detail of those behind Metro Simulator; a team who obviously love the Moscow Metro. It’s a game which will appeal to train sim fans, alongside those looking to take in all the stations, trains, and route planning that comes with that. For newcomers to the genre though, this might be too tough to take at times, particularly as Metro Simulator feels extremely hardcore and a bit rough around the edges.
Take in the most beautiful subway stations in Metro Simulator on Xbox Series X|S and Xbox One