|System: PC||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Kuju Entertainment||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Electronic Arts||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Jan. 16, 2008||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Everyone||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
Unfortunately, there's a steep learning curve when it comes to figuring out exactly how to get things rolling with controlling the trains. A drop-down menu in the game is helpful for remembering which keys do what, but it will likely be daunting for first time players. Minimal details in the instructions also make matters more difficult. Several different control options are available: the beginner control scheme primarily uses the keyboard, while intermediate and expert schemes transfer many of the controls to the display panels in the engine room. After you've become better acquainted with the train mechanics, manually adjusting the dials, levers, and buttons in the engine room is pretty awesome; it's definitely a nice touch.
The level of realism of Rail Simulator is a double edged sword. Everything happens in real-time; if your clock indicator says you've got 30 minutes to your destination then you've literally got 30 minutes to your destination. The game is best enjoyed on a lazy afternoon when there's plenty of time to kill. Still, there are times when it drags along. The realistic gameplay also requires players to take other factors into consideration. It can take quite a long time and distance to bring your train from full-speed down to a dead stop. When dealing with cargo and passengers, it becomes increasingly important to begin braking well ahead of time since precious minutes can be lost to backtracking.
There are few issues that occasionally inhibit some of the enjoyment to be found in Rail Simulator and one that actually increases it in some cases. When goal-based scenarios can take an hour or more to play through, it's incredibly frustrating when you've just spent over 30 minutes drudging along the tracks towards your first goal only to miss your gate switch and blow your objective thereby ending the game. It's equally irritating when you're well into a scenario only to accidentally lose track of your rate of speed in relation to the twisting terrain ahead; derailing earns you a big fat GAME OVER. Saving progress with a quick key press in mid-scenario lets you pick up where you left off in a pinch, which is especially helpful if you end anticipate a potentially sticky situation up-ahead. If you've failed to develop the foresight for such an occurrence, be prepared to start over from scratch. On a side note, pushing your train into extremely unsafe speeds with dangerous curves in the track up ahead is actually rather entertaining. Derailing at high-speeds sends your engine and cars flying every which way.
Despite a number of imperfections, Rail Simulator is a unique and strangely satisfying venture into the realm of railways operation. It can be extremely peaceful or bustling and chaotic depending on how you choose to play. The point is it's very easy to tailor to a player's own personal taste. It's an absolute no-brainer selection for anyone with more than a passing interest in trains, but worthwhile to explore for those who simply wish to dabble. Whether you love the thought of controlling trains or just want to tag along for the ride, Rail Simulator has your ticket.
CCC Staff Contributor