Train Sim World: CSX Heavy Haul Review (PC)
Train Simulator put Dovetail Games on the map. A strong franchise spanning several years of updates and additional content, with a massive community behind it. It is no surprise though that as the company grows they have tried to branch out. We’ve seen this over the last couple of years with the release of Euro Fishing and, after acquiring the license to Microsoft’s Flight Simulator, Flight School. The big shift in both these titles though has been the move to using the Unreal Engine, opening up the console market to the developer. So how does a developer move a long-standing platform from a proprietary engine to a third-party one? That’s what Dovetail Games have attempted with Train Sim World: CSX Heavy Haul.
If you are a regular of Glitch Free Gaming you may have noticed our interview with Dovetail Games the other week about this. According to Matt Peddlesden, Senior Producer at Dovetail Games, Train Sim World: CSX Heavy Haul is not here to completely replace the Train Simulator franchise. The two should live is coexistence. However, because they are obviously developed using different pipelines, there won’t be any direct cross over.
The unfortunate draw back there is that the near endless amount of DLC content for Train Simulator is not compatible with Train Sim World. CSX Heavy Haul is essentially the first pack of content for this new franchise. But is there enough content in there to invest yourself now?
If you are a new player to the genre then yes. CSX Heavy Haul features the Sand Patch Grade route that includes Rockwood Mine, Sand Patch Summit and Cumberland Yard. While this is just a single location, there is plenty to do along the route. The Service Mode allows you to select any time of the year and the weather, and from there will provide you with a full 24 hour time-table for you to work on. Duties can range from filling up coal hoppers up at the mine to constructing the days trains down at Cumberland Yard.
The key difference between Train Sim World and Train Simulator is that in Train Sim World you are playing as a character, allowing you to walk around in first person. This has allowed Dovetail Games to make a much more interactive and detailed Simulator than before. You may have to walk around your locomotive and perform the various tasks in getting it primed and the engine started, before rolling it forward onto a turntable. Then you’ll need to climb down and into the turntable control box to set you up onto the right track before moving this locomotive to join the back of a 1 mile long train. Once it’s set, you’ll need to be sure to leave it set up as a tail train, before walking the length of the train up to the lead locomotive and moving out.
The drawback of allowing the player this degree of freedom, for Dovetail Games, is that they have had to develop a much more detailed environment, both in terms of the scenery and the three locomotives in CSX Heavy Haul.
The result is a massive drop in frame rates. Even on the most powerful of PCs the game struggles to maintain 30fps. In our interview we asked Dovetail Games if they had plans for adding VR support. I think it is safe to say that we are a long way away from seeing any useable VR experience in Train Sim World.
I’ve had to redact the above statement, but left it in here for clarity. Dovetail Games have, since the game released, patched CSX Heavy Haul and fixed much of the frame rate issues.
Now I’d be willing to forgive the frame rate, if there weren’t so many other issues in here too. Let’s start with the Simulator not actually penalizing you for messing up. In Train Simulator you are scored on your timeliness, but you also lose score for all the minor things like slightly going over the speed limit, allowing the wheels to slip when setting off, or even for braking too sharply. Pass a red light and it’s game over.
Train Sim World on the other hand just doesn’t give a fuck. You can throw the train into full throttle, defy the laws of physics as you tear around the Sand Patch Summit at 120 mph, fly past several red lights, and only seem to derail if you make it to the end of the track. You also don’t even get to see the train derail, a message just comes up on-screen. I know this shouldn’t be the player’s goal, to derail the train, but if you have built a Simulator that is supposed to be defined by all these rules, then I would expect to see the consequences of when those rules are broken. Even Dave the second-man sitting in the train with you doesn’t care. What is the point of Dave, other than to eat another few FPS?
The final gripe I have with CSX Heavy Haul is the fact that Dovetail Games insist on you logging into their Dovetail Live account. Again this wouldn’t normally be a problem, but for two reasons it is. Firstly, there is no save username/password option on the menu, so you have to remember and type the details every time. Secondly, there is no in-game benefit to logging in. In particular, your game details are NOT synced between devices. In the age of Cloud saves and online accounts, this would be the very minimum that I would expect. Even if I can’t resume a game or scenario, the profile you create and all the experience you gain should be available on any machine when you log in with your Dovetail Live account.
I said above that if you are new to the genre then Train Sim World: CSX Heavy Haul has enough content for you. The flip side is that if you are used to a wide variety of locomotives and scenarios available to you, then it has not. If your interests lay in Electric or Steam engines, or indeed in passenger transit as opposed to haulage, then CSX Heavy Haul is unlikely for you. Fortunately it is just the first release, and we should expect a wider variety in later games in the Train Sim World franchise. However, Dovetail Games have a lot of work to do on their current product before they should be thinking about what comes next. If they do then they will have a quality first person simulation experience. As of now, it is a good experience. And one you should check out if your interests do lay in the freight lines of America.
7 derails out of 10