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Trainz Railway Simulator 2004 PC CD-ROM

Published by Just Trains
Developed by Auran
Released: Out Now
Price: £29.99

Whilst there has always been healthy competition in the flight simulation genre, and Microsoft have been kept on their toes in keeping Flight Simulator at the top of the tree, the same can't be said for the train simulation genre. Previously the only worthwhile product available on the shop shelf has been Microsoft Train Simulator and very good it is too, but not perfect and certainly not up to the caliber of the Flight Simulator series. However that has all changed because on the 7th November 2003 Just Trains released Trainz Railway Simulator 2004, developed by Auran, and suffice to say that Microsoft Train Simulator has been beaten into second place.

Trainz Railway Simulator 2004 is certainly a comprehensive product and out of the box it has far more depth and options than MS Train Simulator (MSTS). There are over 50 different steam, diesel and electric locomotives, some impressive scenarios and an absolute beauty of a layout editor that anyone can use with the minimum of fuss. The game has five main areas. There is the surveyor mode which allows you to design your own tracks/layouts or you can load an existing layout and place a locomotive, and it's consist on the track and save it to drive later in driver mode. The editor works like a dream and allows you endless possibilities. The only limitation with the editor is your imagination. Next you have the driver mode which contains a variety of routes and pre-created rides for you to enjoy. You'll find a range of tutorials here too that will teach you all you need to know to fully enjoy Trainz Railway Simulator 2004.

Scenario mode includes 9 scenarios to fully test your abilities. Some of these scenarios require you to drive a passenger train on a tight schedule in bad weather whilst others ask that you control two trains (don't worry there are virtual drivers to take charge when you're not there) delivering goods. Some are easy whilst some are difficult but all are enjoyable. The railyard section allows you to look at the available locomotives, tenders and coaches. You can even compile your own favourites list if you want to. The BR HST Class 45 (Intercity 125), LNER A3 Flying Scotsman and LNER A4 Mallard are just three of the locomotives on offer. Auran even included a toy wooden steam engine and freight just for fun. Finally there is the Trainz exchange which allows you to connect to the Internet and see what additional components are available to download. You'll need to register the game to be able to download extra routes, locomotives and other material though.

What I find impressive with Trainz Railway Simulator 2004 is that you can enjoy it on two very different levels. If you are a real train enthusiast you can drive the locomotives in cabin mode. Cabin Mode gives you an interactive cabin where you can either use hotkey commands to control the train or you can use your mouse to move levers and press buttons just like you would in MSTS. You'll also experience realistic physics in cabin mode too, so a more cautious approach is required. If you don't want realism though you can choose to drive in DCC mode. DCC mode offers gentler physics and dial controls that make driving the locomotive very easy. In fact all the controls are offered on a side panel and you don't need to interact with the any of the cabin's controls.

One area that Trainz Railway Simulator 2004 really beats MSTS is the quality of its game engine. The graphics looks a bit better than those used in MSTS but most importantly it performs far better too. At a resolution of 1024x768 I didn't experience any slowdown even when all the graphical details were turned up to the maximum. The simulation can either be run in OpenGL or Direct 3D. Personally I don't think there is much difference between the two, although OpenGL does look a little nicer but not by much. The quality of the locomotive cabs is also impressive and while I can't personally guarantee their authenticity they certainly look very good. Whilst in the cab you can move your view and even zoom you view, which is a nice touch.

Trainz Railway Simulator 2004 is absolutely fine for deaf gamers. All of the tutorials, scenario objectives and messages are given in text and you can read the text in your own time too as the text boxes need to be closed and don't just disappear. It's a little disappointing that no captions appear for the horn noises though but I suppose this is something that could be corrected via a future update. The quality of the manual is worth a mention. Trainz Railway Simulator 2004 comes with a 48 page manual that covers the basics of all of the games modes. It even explains how to use the layout editor in a fair amount of detail.

Having been a fan of MSTS for quite a while now and having been looking forward to its sequel, it's very surprising to see that Trainz Railway Simulator 2004 has arrived and shown itself to be better in a whole range of ways. Aside from the lack of noise (horn/bell) captions and the fact that choosing a route and locomotive to drive is easier in MSTS, Trainz Railway Simulator 2004 is better in every respect and has to be regarded as the best train simulator you can currently purchase.

Overall Game Rating: 9.2/10
A superb game engine, an impressive collection of locomotives and first class layout/track editor make this the train simulator of choice for any train enthusiast out there.

Deaf Gamers comment:
No captions for the horns and bell noises but in every other respect Trainz Railway Simulator 2004 is fine for deaf gamers.