Car Mechanic Simulator Review (PS4)
I’m a sucker for mindless simulator games. And when Car Mechanic Simulator came out on PC back in 2014 I couldn’t say no. And now the latest installment has come to PS4.
Red Dot Games have come a long way since that initial PC version. And they’ve had a lot of practise with various versions of the game up until Car Mechanic Simulator 2018. It’s this version that the PS4 game is a port of.
The concept of the game is straight forward:
- Accept Orders
- Repair cars
And the tools that Red Dot Games provide the player to complete these tasks are also very simple to use. The game is played in first person mode with the addition of a reticle that is controlled by the Right Stick. By hovering over any part of the car you can start interacting with it. The default mode will be the deconstruct mode, allowing you to take parts off the car. Once you have got to the part you need to replace you can open up a menu to switch modes and start to put everything back together again.
In normal mode the game does a great job of visually showing you what order parts need to be taken off. For example, if you attempt to take the fan belt off, the belt tensioner will highlight in red showing you it needs to come off first. It will only show the parts directly blocking you, so if there is a chain of parts that need to be followed, you have to go up it a step at a time to find what needs to come off first.
You can also visually inspect the condition of the cars. Parts with wear will show up with rust, but sometimes that’s only an indication of what might need repaired. A lot of the cars in Car Mechanic Simulator are classic American muscle style cars, and their owners will be happy enough to have them running, not necessarily fully restored! Flipping into inspection mode will highlight every part of the car in either green – good condition, orange – worn but OK for the current contract, or red – needs replaced*. But you first have to detect the condition of these parts, otherwise they just show up as grey.
*Disclaimer: I’m colourblind.
Some parts can be visually inspected, and all parts will be inspected if you remove them from the car. But that’s a lengthy process. As you level up in the game you will gain upgrade points to spend in your toolbox. Among other things there are a lot of testing tools available to unlock, along with the test path upgrade to the garage. Here you can test the cars breaks and suspension. Further testing can be done by taking the car out on to the test track.
Not only does a spin around the test track tell you what some of the problems are with the car, but you can actually feel them too. The driving physics aren’t exactly on par with something like Forza Horizon (there is also a race track in the game), but they are realistic enough that you can tell when something is wrong.
I mention Forza Horizon for a reason. Car Mechanic Simulator does borrow two concepts from the racing game. Yes, I’m talking about Loot Boxes. But at least it’s not in the form of Wheelspins! Occasionally after a contract you’ll receive a case which will contain a random selection of upgraded parts to keep in your warehouse.
Sometimes they will also contain a barn map. Barn finds aren’t just a car reward, like in Forza Horizons. You get to have a root around for some junk parts, as well as having the opportunity to buy up to three abandoned wrecks.
And if you do buy a bunch of wrecks, you’ll need some space for them. Thankfully there is a progression track for your garage. Every time you remove or replace a part you get an experience point, along with a bunch when you complete a contract. Every time you level up you can spend a point upgrading some part of your garage, eventually unlocking additional car lifters, the test path, repair bench, dyno test and paint shop. The fully upgraded garage is quite impressive.
Once you have upgraded the garage to three car lifts though, it can seem like a waste of space. There is no real reason for you to work on more than one car at a time. There’s no need to wait when you order parts, and you have to manually perform all the tests etc. yourself, so there is little to no down time when working on a car. Perhaps if Red Dot Games were to introduce delivery times to your part orders, or the option to play multiplayer so that multiple cars could be worked on at once, it would give more purpose to the extra space.
Ironically I had to take my own car to the garage during my time reviewing Car Mechanic Simulator. It was a good opportunity for a comparison. And I have to say, Red Dot games have done an excellent job at recreating my local garage! As I walked in I instantly recognised all the tools and the set up of the garage based on the game. And to be honest, after repairing about 50 odd cars in the game now, I think I know my way around a cars engine far better than I used to.
My only small qualm about Car Mechanic Simulator is its lack of variety in vehicles. Mazda and Jeep are the only licensed vehicles in the PS4 version, though this will likely be extended by DLC as with the PC version.
The rest are very much imitations of recognisable vehicles. And a large portion are American Muscle cars. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it can start to become a little repetitive. The contracts are always a good mix, but once you have enough of a bank balance and garage upgrades, the real value from Car Mechanic Simulator can be found in hunting through the junkyard and barns for wrecks to restore.
And if you don’t want to play through the grind (which is no hardship and very much worth it), then you can play Car Mechanic Simulator in Sandbox mode, with infinite money and enough level up points to fully spec your garage. It’s a great place to just do what you like, or check out what can be possible in the game once you’ve worked your way up from your lowly beginnings.
But for a real challenge there is also the Hard mode. All those nice indicators of what part needed to be pulled off first, and all those hover state tips? They are all turned off in hard mode. In fact, most of the UI is. You can see the lack of UI in the “totally not an Audi” shot above. Strangely, even the indication that you need to “press X to confirm” on dialogue boxes is gone. Some of those bits might have been a bit too far, especially if someone jumped straight into Hard mode. But otherwise it is a nice step up in challenge as you need to know what your doing to navigate around and fix cars effectively in this mode.
I’ve had a lot of fun in Car Mechanic Simulator. Not only that, but I feel like I’ve learned a lot too. Fixing cars is obviously a lot harder than holding down a button. But just getting more familiar with how everything works is no bad thing. And that’s testament to how well Red Dot Games have recreated the cars and garage, and how well they have presented the mechanics of the game. At just £25, Car Mechanic Simulator is well worth a spin.
8 cars fully restored out of 10