Monday, 12 November 2012

Train Simulator 2013: Newcastle to York: Part Three

Disappointed and with little to do but reach York, I just push the throttle to full and wait until the alarm goes off. It’s not as if I’m in charge of this thing, is it?

But then:

Alright, it’s on a different track but it’s going the same way. It shall be overtaken!

I set throttle to…er, what it was. I double check there’s there’s no curves in the track that may derail me (of course there isn’t) and I just watch through the window.


York itself is probably the most exciting part of the entire journey. I have to slow down (!) and ease the train in slowly. I can take my time as, well, I’m ten minutes early and I can imagine I’ve probably buggered up a lot of my passengers taxi plans.

On the bright side I see David Tennant dressed as the Doctor.

The train is halted, the passengers leave and I get a message congratulating me and telling me another driver will take over me and I should “take a well earnt break.” I suspect management are taking the piss.

Conclusion: This is dull. Incredibly dull. There’s no liking it ironically, there’s no liking it as a good game. I can’t even imagine liking it from the viewpoint of someone who enjoys model trainsets. It’s a rail-shooter without the shooting, and a simulation of pretty scenery without providing the prettiness. Go forwards. Or backwards. If you’re doing wrong then the game will stop you.

Train Simulator 2013: Newcastle to York: Part Two

With a shudder, the train lurches forward a little faster than it did before.

We’re doing 90 in a 60mph zone, and we have a nasty turn ahead. At least I assume it’s nasty - it’s the closest to a 90 degree angle we have to take in this journey, and there’s hardly any sense of speed in this game. I slow a little for the main turns, but throttle it for any other time. I am determined to catch up to this other train that is on my line.

We pass other trains. They toot their horn to warn me I might be going a bit too fast but I don’t care. I toot my own horn back. They don’t hear me, of course, I’m going far too fast. My passengers put up with it as best they can.

    Brave hearts.

We get close to Darlington. This is where we will catch up to the train that is on my track. I urge the engine to go a bit faster, to maybe surprise the enemy before we reach the station. And then something happens.

The master alarm goes off.

I assume it’s the master alarm. It’s bloody loud and it wont shut up until I press it. I’m not entirely sure what it signifies - we’re still on the rails and going only slightly above the speed limit, so nothing is wrong on my end.

And then suddenly the train stops. Brakes to full, engine off. The MAN has overridden my train and taken control. I am forced to a halt outside Darlington just to let this bastard on my line park properly.

I am later granted control of my own engine and allowed to crawl through Darlington. I pass the train I was chasing. I’m sure I catch a glimpse of the driver chuckling at me.

I am granted one pleasure though. I notice a passing train has its lights on and I decide I shall activate my own. I am apparently allowed to choose between standard lighting and red lamps. Naturally I choose the latter.

We’re coming for you, York.

Sunday, 11 November 2012

Train Simulator 2013: Newcastle to York: Part One

We depart Newcastle.

Beautiful. Really takes me back. To about 1998 graphics. I realise there’s a lot to do model-wise, but I am literally on a rail! You don’t have to worry about the player derailing the train and using it to travel to the west coast. Make things look pretty!

Given the dull, blocky greyness of it all, I’m more surprised than ever Aberdeen isn’t in it. I put on some music for the passengers, even though that doesn't happen on trains. It's my bloody train!

I have the throttle at full and we’re charging through the countryside at 55 miles per hour! I’m so excited I stick my head out the window!

From now on I keep my limbs firmly inside the vehicle and wonder why on earth that camera angle is featured in the game.

For a while I enjoy the countryside as best as I can before getting bored. I check my objectives (reach York) and wonder when it is when I’m supposed to get there. My ETA says 18:43 (about an hour away) but I know I’m running late. I’m in a 55 mph zone, but then who could regulate me? I’m the only driver in this beast, I have no copilot. I could…I could push the throttle a bit further forward, couldn’t I.

I put it to 100%. When this baby hits 88 miles per hour you’re gonna see some…

And then I hit a zone where the limit is 125 mph. It’s like they knew I was going to do this : (

And then I enter the set of Coronation Street.

I’m dreadfully bored, and I’m only twenty minutes into this ninety-minute adventure. The trees are bland, the scenery very English. There are some nice bridges, I suppose. I pass a couple stations - I really hope I wasn’t supposed to stop at any of them.

I check the route map, and it’s there I notice something. There is another train on the track. Many, many miles ahead of me, but it’s on the same track and heading south.

I don’t know how, I’m not sure if I can, but by heavens I am catching up to that train and overtaking it. On a rail or not!

Train Simulator 2013: Newcastle to York: Introduction

For about a decade I mocked this game.

Frankly, I believe deservedly so. Other simulators give you a degree of freedom: even Microsoft Flight Simulator, which could be pretty unforgiving, allowed you to laugh maniacally as you decided, mid-flight, to take your London-destined passengers on a trip to Paris. You monster. Here, however, you are in a train. You are literally on a rail. There is no changing course: at worst you can annoy your passengers by stopping the train. At least until you remember this is the rail service and your passengers expect this to happen at least once per journey.

But I shall mock no more! Not until have experienced the ‘game’ itself in-person. My dream was always to recreate the eight-hour Aberdeen-London journey in real-time. Apparently that was too much for this simulator, so for now I have to take charge of a small part of the route - Newcastle to York - in a train already delayed. So it’s got that part of the UK rail service simulated.

This is my train. There are many others like it but this one is mine.

I’m just outside Newcastle station. The light is red but I’m ready to go. I’d like to think this is just what it’s like to be a jockey atop the fastest race-horse just before the gates open. The train is alive. I can almost feel the vibration of the engines, the touch of the control panel, the smell of the sandwich the last driver left behind…

The light turns to yellow. I’m ready for this. Just turn green and I will blast this engine into the heart of Newcastle. I will pick up those passengers and deliver them to York in record time!

The light turns green.

How the devil do I get this thing moving?

I realise I probably should have played the tutorial. I have no idea what any of these buttons do. I start pushing buttons and thrusting knobs. I have the red one at 100%. I toot the horn (I enjoy this so much I do it twice). I go through all the camera options. I open and close the doors. The train remains immobile.

Eventually I discover that while it’s great to have the engines at full, it’s not so great if the brakes are also on. I release them, and the train moves forward at a remarkably gentle pace.

Despite this mess of railway tracks, the game knows where to take me. I love it when making choices is taken away from me in video games. I can still hit the brake, game (really, I know which one that is now) and ruin this whole experience.

But I can’t, for when I pull up to the station and open the doors (I also know that button now) I get a message.

Make up the time? Gentlemen, you clearly don’t realise the driver you’ve hired. Set throttle to full (I know that one too!)