Fortunately the Personal Computer allows us to indulge forbidden passions such as wanting to drive trains, or a fetish for women in waders, in the privacy of our sordid homes.?Regrettably I subscribe to the former camp and relish the idea of driving a virtual Class 30 diesel through Luton Parkway while sounding the horn.
That is until I launch the ‘simulator’ and remember how isolating and badly designed the train sim generally is.
Upon loading, RailWorks presents a clunky menu providing a choice of routes (including the exciting Reading to Paddington) and a list of scenarios. If you’re feeling rebellious there is the ‘Free Roam’ option, or for the very courageous, you can create your own scenario. I feel that I’m beginning to mock the spirit of the game now, despite the fact that means I am, by extension, mocking myself.
The basic version comes with 13 locomotives ranging from British electric, steam and diesel trains to American and European engines. If that’s not enough for your train gobbling appetite there is lots and lots of DLC on Steam. It does come at a price; at time of going to press, a Mk1 Coach pack will set you back a whopping ?9.99. However, they have to be applauded for providing these 35+ add-ons; their presence almost counteracts the in-game glitches. They don’t, but almost!
A problem I’ve found time after time with train simulators is the lack of in-game cohesion and support, RailWorks is no different. While there is a lengthy downloadable manual to nurse you through your first drive, the onscreen instructions and directions omit vital points. It is also impossible to retrieve the pop up prompts which tell you just which wagons you’re meant to uncouple in which particular siding, or which station you’re meant to stop at first.
If you feel like you must ignore this and want to jab at the buttons in the driver’s cab and wonder why some work and some don’t regardless, then I insist you buy the following. For only $199.95 you can have your very own Desktop Train Cab Controller, complete with three-digit LED speedometer! Only the foolishness of purchasing one of these behemoths will obscure the fact that you’re anally obeying virtual red signals, even though a part of you is 100% sure it’s never going to turn green.
Support for multi-monitor set ups is a nice touch, but merely playing the game on a single decent sized monitor demands three or four times the optimistic minimum spec. Scenarios seldom break from the monotony of picking up passengers from stations, or solving shunting puzzles. Who’d want to be a train driver? More to the point, who’d want to pay to pretend to be one?
Conclusion:?You’ll need an anorak and flask of weak lemon drink to ignore the faults to enjoy this – all change (that’s the last train pun).
Arbitrary percentage score: 65%
What is it: Probably the best train simulator out there, but there isn’t any real competition.
Predecessors: Trainz Railroad Simulator, Rail Simulator
You could try: OpenBVE, a train set
Minimum spec: 1.7GHz CPU, 512MB RAM, 64MB 3D card
Price: ?29.99 from Steam