I can’t see out of my windscreen as it’s lashing down with rain. There’s a alpha-male German voice issuing a warning on repeat, and I think it has something to do with my brakes. I’m already ten minutes late on my route, and to make it worse all the passengers in my sleek German fast ICE train can see my every move through a clear screen. I can just tell that they are judging. Train Sim World 2 has put me in this position – recruiting me as a train driver once more, still unaware that the last time I took on such a role I was proven to be completely incompetent. But it’s okay because there is always the London Underground job to fall back on, although the passengers on the Bakerloo line should be very scared indeed.
It is safe to say that the first Train Sim World was proven to be a bit of a hit, catering for the avid railway fan with its attention to detail and recreations of the trains themselves and some very popular journeys across the world. With more and more content appearing over time through the arrival of numerous DLC packs, the game has provided a platform for over a million players, with those embarking on a journey having driven the equivalent of six thousand times around the world.
So with Train Sim World 2, what’s new in the depot? Well, for starters there are three new routes and trains thrown in. Each of these routes are so very different from each other, with each featuring some training exercises and then a multitude of scenarios to complete. The first route on show sees the CSX huge haulage train driving along the Sand Patch Grade – a line which is about 100km long and has access to the mountains of Pennsylvania and Maryland in the USA.
You’re first introduced to these lumbering machines by being thrown in at the deep end, chucked onto a seat and called an engineer, rather than a driver. Taking pride of place in this seat sees you faced with enough buttons to sink a small ship, and more levers than a 1960’s rocket heading for the Moon. But you’ll not want to worry because there is the rather soothing voice and guidance of the train instructor, happily guiding you through every maneuver. Of course, if you feel that you’re experienced enough or know these trains like the back of your hand then you can switch those options off and try to wing it, but for the majority of players you’ll need as much help as you can possibly get. You see, here in these trains things are quite hands-on: you have to go out and fuel the engine, uncouple certain cars and even manually switch the signals. It’s a different experience than that which has previously been delivered via the Train Sim World franchise, and it certainly takes some getting used to, but on the whole time here is enjoyable.
The next trains and routes you take in are much more high-tech. Heading to Germany, it is here where you get to experience the wild speed thrills of the famous DB ICE 3M with speeds of up to 300km per hour, exploring the route from beautiful Koln to Achen. It’s a whole different set up from the haulage trains and much more relaxing, to be honest. It really is a case of sitting back and taking in the German-designed controls and beautifully rendered cockpits; they are like being in a spa compared to the others. And yet it is also here where you get to experience the pure speed and energy of a fast commuter railway – something which is utterly thrilling.
The last new addition to the Train Sim World 2 list is the one that has had everyone excited in the build up to Dovetail’s latest. It’s the London Underground, and more specifically the Bakerloo line running from Elephant and Castle through to Harrow in the outside world. This 14-mile track ensures you’ll get to take in the experience of driving a 1972 piece of famous LU stock – it doesn’t get any more exciting than that. It’s a paired-down experience compared to the other two inclusions, especially in terms of controls, and the sights aren’t quite as exciting – expect a lot of tunnels and blackness, which is of course exactly how the Underground is.
Whichever route you decide to run, the gameplay provided across all of these tracks and routes is attempting to cater for the beginner, and Dovetail have been kind enough to walk you through the process of driving, step by step. For the more experienced you can turn all the help off and just drive using your own skills and some kind of train magic, but I’m pretty sure that the vast majority of players will be thankful for the extra tuition allowed. But even then, should you so wish to design your own scenarios, dictating your own tracks with a specified number of stops and routes determined by you, then you can so wish. Hell, there’s even a madness mode that lets you put a huge train on the underground if you want to. Why you would feel the need is beyond me.
The gameplay of Train Sim World 2 pretty much revolves around working out how you modify your acceleration and braking, especially in regards to the signal and speed limits. You need to run to a timetable as well, and when I first started out I would spend so much time just trying to get into the platform without overshooting or undershooting, that any train I was in the cockpit of was certain to be late. However, when it all starts to click that is when the game really starts to get interesting, as you get the opportunity to settle down into things and go with the train flow. Some might find that whole idea pretty dull, as in reality you could be driving for an hour or more, constantly stopping, letting on passengers and then driving to the next station, but that’s also where the joy of Train Sim World 2 comes in. If you want to experience what it is like to be a driver, this game really does nail it.
The visual aspects have had an upgrade from the last game too, with things powered by a new engine. The trains look great and the visual knowledge of recreating the stock, interiors, and cockpits is superb; it will keep every train fan as happy as a duck in water. The exteriors are good as well with some nice new skies, brilliant weather systems, and some great attention to detail. I loved seeing the recreation of the tiles in certain stations on the London Underground, and Baker Street station with its drawings of Sherlock Holmes. It’s great to be able to switch the camera instantly between the cockpit to the outside world too, watching things rush on by. The one thing that does let it down for me though is in terms of the passengers, who seem to be cut and pasted from the last game. There just aren’t enough of them to make things feel real – especially when it comes to the London Underground – and they come across as far too generic, with the world seemingly populated by twins and clones.
Audio-wise and we find that Train Sim World 2 does a great job of recreating the sounds and effects of the train, pretty much with every push of a button. The beep of a door, or the safety announcements that will warn you of disaster, are welcoming, and I just enjoyed hearing the rain on one journey as I traveled at speed through the German countryside – something which lulled me into a nice hypnotic state. The instructional voice-overs are good as well, with decent accents and voices used for each region. It’s worth noting that you also have a livery design editor in place, letting you design your own trains from a number of presets with shapes and colours, whilst for those looking for more away from the tracks, there are collectibles to be found around the stations; posters on the Underground or first aid kits in Germany.
So, is Train Sim World 2 on Xbox One any good? Well, on the whole I’ve enjoyed my time with this latest offering from Dovetail Games, and I’ve appreciated the chance to take in the visual upgrades and the three new routes on offer, with each bringing completely different driving experiences to try. There is a host of content to get involved in, and the chance to bring in your content from the first game is welcome. Once again, train sim fans and those who love the railways will absolutely adore this, and so if you fancy having a go at being a train driver there isn’t a better place to achieve your dream than with Train Sim World 2.