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publisher: Strategy First
PII-400, 128MB RAM, 800MB HDD, 16MB video card
|ESRB rating: E
release date: Feb 10, 02 (released)
|» All About Trainz on ActionTrip|
Branislav "Bane" Babovic
There are a lot of games out there which are trying to bring the atmosphere or gameplay of a board-game, or a hobby onto our computer screens. The entire CRPG genre was born this way, being an electronic adaptation of various Pen&Paper RPG systems, so you shouldn't blame the developers for trying to make some money by making computer renditions of all possible non-computer-based games. Now, hobby games are a bit rarer, but then again, making a simulation of building scale-models, does seem a bit pointless... there was a game like this a couple of years ago: Airfix Dogfighter let you build your own planes and fly them around shooting down other model planes in arcade action. This game was a market flop. Unlike this game, Auran's Trainz really has something to offer to true fans of (train) models, and even to those who are less familiar with this hobby.
I guess I need to make this crystal clear. Trainz is a simulation of model trains, rather than of real trains. This makes the entire game substantially different from the recently published Microsoft Train Simulator, which also means that Trainz has no direct competition in its field. The developers are obviously taking the subject seriously as they are well-known for their work on unofficial add-ons for the MS Train Simulator, too.
Trainz has been conceived as a modular product, which will let you constantly download new engines and cars from its website. The most important thing that appeared on the site recently was the Service Pack 1 which removes several bugs, and introduces DirectX support, as the basic Jet 3D Engine used to work only with OpenGL.
Trainz contains three modes which can be accessed from the main menu. My Collection is the collection of engines with detailed data on when it had been used, weather it is still in use, in which countries and who owns it. This section is highly detailed and it lets you rotate the camera around the engine zoom in on the details.
Surveyor is the universal map editor... or board editor, to be more precise, as it is used for shaping the terrain on which the trains move. This editor is also very detailed, but the simple and intuitive controls will let you create any terrain you can think of with greatest of ease, by placing the elements on the map in real-time. The right side of the editor contains control tabs. If you want to lay railroad, you simply click one of the three available types of railroad on the control tab, and click on the map where you want it to be. You can manipulate railroad elements even after you have placed them on the map and the same goes for the houses, bridges and other structures, too. Terrain elevation is also easily tempered with, so that you won't have to spend more than a few mouse-clicks on building mountains and valleys. Once you shaped the terrain, you can paint it, by applying textures to it by the use of your airbrush tool. You can save the map you are working on at any rime and try it out.
The Driver mode is the most important part of the Trainz as it gives you the chance to build trains and place the engine. You can even put several engines in a train, but this increases the risk of the entire train falling out of the tracks. Then, you can select one of the three given maps (Britain, America or Australia) or a map you made, and have the train run on it.
The controls are exceedingly simple and function pretty much the same with any camera. The external camera gives you the control of a little wheel which determines engine (and hence train) speed. You can zoom in on the next junction lever, or survey the tracks. The internal camera gives you a view of all the complex train controls, only some of which will be at your disposal (meaning that the controls do basically come down to the same thing as in the external view, the only big difference being that you can honk the siren). Of course, there is also a break in case a train comes from the opposite direction.
The thing that makes Trainz so special is its visual engine, which leaves an impression of a high-quality simulation. You will be able to change weather conditions during a ride; all from a sunny day to a heavy rain and snow storms. Watching the little trains in any of these conditions is a real treat, especially if you bear in mind that the entire game takes place on a detailed map with numerous junctions, cars and settlements.
8.0 Very Good
An interesting hobby simulation, great 3D engine;
Bugs, no steam-engines or older models.
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