The Train Sim franchise has been chugging around Xbox consoles like a trusty diesel engine for quite a few years now, with Train Sim World 2020 first appearing in 2019, TSW2 in 2020 and TSW3 arriving on September 2022, I thought we’d settled into a 2-year cycle for a new release, but here we are with Trains Sim world 4.
For anyone unfamiliar with the franchise, Train Sim World does exactly what it says on the tin, you’ll get chance to jump on various authentically reproduced locomotives around real world locations mostly covering British, German and American tracks, with the odd route around Europe such as the Swiss Arosaline, and a new Austrian line here in TSW4, but the core game is just a bite-size snack compared to the extravagant buffet on offer when you’ve picked up a few more routes.
I’ve poured dozens, actually probably hundreds of hours into the franchise across over 30 routes, so it’s time to dive into TSW4 and see what new features it brings to the table alongside the bundled routes.
The most noteworthy additions are (according to developers Dovetail games) – “PC Editor, Free Roam, Scenario Planner 2.0, Livery Designer 2.0, Formation Designer, Photo Mode, New Scoring, Ease-of-access improvements, Haptics, Volumetric fog, Audio and source trips, and Music.”
Thats quite a lot to work through, and definitely sounds worthy of the progression to TSW4…
Many areas expand on what’s been out in place over the last year with TSW3, new volumetric fog really helps the lighting adjustments to make atmosphere around the station feel even more realistic, and improvements to user interface, accessibility options and sound are all welcomed, the new haptic system which sends my controller off like a pneumatic drill took some getting used to, but if you find things are rumbling a little too often, there’s options to dial things back a notch.
The full editor offering unreal Engine development tools is sadly PC only and we won’t be seeing PC Editor creations on console anytime soon, so we won’t cover that here, meanwhile there’s still plenty of customisations with updates to the Scenario Planner and Livery designer, both giving a user far more flexibility when customising their routes and engines.
There’s also a new scoring system which will work on all new routes, giving a much greater level of detail to let users know what they got right and wrong and rewarding the best drivers for correct safety systems, and smaller details such as making sure your wipers are used when it’s raining.
One major new addition is through free roam, we’ve long been able to choose a route and jump on in real-time and ride as a passenger, or drive any train on any route, but now Free Roam offers a sandbox with a much greater level of customisation that’s sure to please fans of the franchise.
There’s a little confusion as heading into the labelled “free roam” will just put you at a station of choice, ou can spawn trains, but without the freedom to go anywhere, but when you step into one of those hundreds and hundreds of timetabled routes we see with every single route add-on, that’s when the fun really begins.
Hitting left on the D-pad brings up a simple prompt, allowing you to spawn any train you own, and with more locomotives on the track, you’ll be relying on the game AI to juggle things around so you can still get to your desired location on time.
It’s still worth heading into the standard free roam to explore stations and search for collectibles or if you’re looking for a photograph, so if you fancy a faceoff between the mighty HST, beside the Flying Scotsman, Azuma and Javelin, it’s only a few clicks away.
As you’ll see from the screenshots (all without the user interface (HUD) were taken using the new photo mode) there’s a few more options when taking those railfan shots, it’s not quite as deep as some photo modes, but scene control such as rotation, depth of field and field of view, with adjustments to exposure, saturation and vignette allow far more professional shots than anything we’ve had prior, there’s definitely a few improvements to be made, because I’m pretty sure the desired bokeh (aesthetic blur) isn’t working or looking as good as I’d hoped most of the time.
Graphically there’s also a new system in place for overhead lines, making them slightly wider as you zoom out, they don’t actually look bigger, this discreet change makes all the difference as there’s no more flickering lines to break immersion.
While the game definitely looks better, mostly due to the combination of the TSW3 lighting changes and the TSW4 volumetric fog, Locomotives are sharp and detailed giving a great overall look, sadly there’s the stiff animations of passengers and the dreaded pop-in that Train Sim World has suffered with since day one, it’s not quite as noticeable, and from the standard cab-view while driving a train, it’s barely noticeable at all, but it’s far from perfect, and on some routes, there’s still the short distance shadows we found in TSW3 and a little too many distant objects popping into view making it look quite a similar performance.
While touching on presentation, there’s quite a few improvements to sound, with an orchestral score accompanying the main menu, and further improvements to passengers and the sound of a busy station, it’s not always positive as there’s still a few too many quiet patches, even when there’s a dozen passengers stood nearby, maybe the odd cough or sniffle, newspapers rustling or distant environmental sounds like cars and wind would give what we hear as much authenticity as what we see.
There’s little doubt that there’s plenty of improvements and adjustments and I feel the customisable options such as the free roam sandbox and scenario designer improvements more than warrant the jump to a new game, but it’s a little annoying when a day before launch, most of my old routes didn’t show in TSW4, giving me only the four from the deluxe edition.
However, returning to the game on launch day, I found another 26 routes added to my download list, it’s a big chunk of storage, with TSW4 routes mostly falling between 8 and 10gb each, so if you want to have dozens installed like me, you can expect to be giving up well over 100gb, but for purists wanting the whole package, if you’ve picked up any content prior, you’re more than likely going to have even more to enjoy within Train Sim 4.
Time to concentrate on what’s included without any extra additions, so while I’ve been playing the Deluxe edition with the additional Nahvekehr: Dresden – Riesa route, for this review, were concentrating on the core content available with the (£31.99/£39.99) standard edition.
These routes are…
East Coast Mainline: Peterborough – Doncaster.
Metrolink Antelope Valley: Los Angeles – Lancaster
S-Bahn Vorarlberg: Lindau – Blundez
Usually, an additional route Costa around £25, so getting three bundled with the £40 game is already great value, but let’s take a closer look at each.
Starting off, I opted for the East Coast Mainline, I’ve spent the last 16 years in East Notts/South Lincs, so I’m more than familiar with Newark North-Gate and Grantham stations.
As is usually the case, these stations are incredibly well represented, even down to the awkward stair positioning on Platform 2 and the Coffee kiosk in Grantham, although I would have liked to see the actual entrance, rather than a wall replacing what’s usually an open lobby.
Bringing the fantastic LNER 801 locomotive it’s quite a high – route, with longer periods between stations, so it’s not the most engaging route available, while I really enjoy driving the 801 Azuma, it’s pretty dull travelling 15 miles between stations, with nothing more than the odd rumble of the new haptics system to let you know you’ve gone over a join in the tracks.
Sadly it’s nowhere near the full route which typically spreads all the way from London to Edinburgh and beyond, instead we have the section stretching from Peterborough, up past Grantham, Newark and Retford ending at Doncaster, only 5 stations are disappointing no matter how you look at it, but at least I’ve finally got a route more local to me than over an hour away.
Alongside the LNER 801 Azuma, there’s also the EWS Class 66, but the route only offers a single scenario for the diesel, with Free Roam and scenario planner, you can always introduce other locomotives, but when the Class 66 is similar to what has been seen on so many other previous routes and the Azuma has a very similar feel to the Javelin which is another locomotive from the Hitachi AT300 (A-Train) family, both locomotives, while very impressive, don’t quote carry the same weight as when I first got to ride the Class 395 Javelin.
There’s also the Flying Scotsman which comes with the deluxe edition, which is a classic steam locomotive built in Doncaster which was the first steam engine to hit 100mph (on this same stretch of track, between Grantham and Peterborough), the often touted “most popular train in the world” also adds another 4 scenarios giving you 9 in total, most impressive of all is over 450 timetable routes, which I dare say 99.9% of people would never be able to get through all of them, but that’s sadly locked to the Deluxe edition.
It’s a nice scenic route, and seems very accurate from what I’ve travelled of it, and that pop-in wasn’t too bad at all, even when travelling at 125mph.
As with all Train Sim routes, there’s a selection of collectibles, placing newspapers, water bottles, first aid kits and route maps scattered around each stop, but due to the low station count, it’s pretty easy to collect all of these in less than an hour.
While not a terrible route, East coast Mainline: Doncaster – Peterborough up just feels a little too familiar to routes line Southeaster High Speed to be considered the best, so let’s move on and take a look at Metrolink Antelope Valley.
Covering the 76-mile stretch from Los Angeles to Lancaster, there’s 13 stops in total, starting at L.A Union station and working north through Burbank, Santa Clarita and Palmdale and onto Lancaster.
It’s quite a varied route through the county of Los Angeles ending on the edge of the Mojave desert giving a range of scenery from twisting mountain tracks to the bustle of busy city. The two locomotives are the gigantic bi-level Rotem cab-car Metrolink and the equally large EMD F125 Metrolink, both of which feel quite a bit more complex than the 5 difficulty rating every train currently in TSW4 receives and took me a little more getting used to and while they’re relatively similar to each other, they’re drastically different to the locomotives found on the East coast Mainline, making them a valuable addition.
with Route maps, banners, food trucks and hats to find the range of collectibles will definitely take more time to discover than many routes, one downside is only 91 timetables routes, but at least that’s a figure that users might have a chance of competing with enough time and dedication, I did have one small issue with the train becoming unresponsive on a scenario, but using the in-game reset from the main menu, got me up and running again in no time.
The final route included in the Train Sim World 4 standard edition is the S-Bahn Vorarlberg: between Lindau & Blundez which is the first Austrian route in Train Sim World, it’s obviously a route I never have (and likely never will) be near in real-life, but as with many of the German routes, it’s another great middle ground.
There are an impressive 340 timetabled routers, and expanding on the normal 5, there’s 6 scenarios in total (7 of you have the BR 193 from the Deluxe edition) But standard edition users will find the fairly similar BR 185.2 alongside the main locomotive for this pack, the impressive “talent” OB4024.
Being more of a fan of modern-day trains that are a little simpler to control, the OB4024 was a welcome addition, especially when I’ve played more British routes than German in the past.
With an impressive 29 stops in total, it’ll take a while to visit all locations, let alone locate the often tough to spot collectibles. while I generally prefer British routes, I do feel S-Bahn vorarlberg might just be the best of the bunch from the standard edition, except for one scenario where the 4024 seemed to drop it’s own pentagraph without any sort of warning, which took me half an hour of clicking buttons and trying to work out what had gone wrong, before I could get it moving again.
But the value is in the overall bundle, at £32 (current price) or £39.99 (RRP), it’s already less than most full priced games, and while they might not be the strongest routes in the franchise none of these feel out of place and will offer a great variety to newcomers, especially when you consider the overall package, you’re paying less than 2 routes would usually cost, as well as all the new additions, improvements and changes that comes with TSW4 I feel it’s a great entry point for newcomers and well worth it for fans of the franchise.
Overall it’s a little disappointing, that many of these features feel like an evolution of what’s come before, rather than anything really new and unique, even the (fantastic) free roam sandbox, could have been delivered as an update,
but when you consider the bundles routes and the sheer amount of gameplay on offer, especially with those new features and the promised additions and compatible routes, TSW4 isn’t just the best Train Sim game to date, it could well set a standard of what depth and content we expect from future simulation games.
Train Sim world 4 – Review
TSW4 isn’t just the best Train Sim game to date, it could well set a standard of what depth and content we expect from future simulation games.