Kuju/EA Rail Simulator: Now There Are Three
By Alfred Barten
Two Union Pacific diesels (ES44AC and SD40-2) are included in the box.
Since 2001 there have been two heavyweight, full-featured, three-dimensional train simulators on the market: Microsoft Train Simulator (MSTS) and Auran Trainz. Now there are three. Rail Simulator (RS), released in the US in January 2008 by Electronic Arts (EA), is both heir apparent to the original (and only) MSTS and a completely new simulator that draws on features pioneered by Auran through five evolutionary releases.
Kuju, the company that developed Train Simulator for Microsoft (the publisher of MSTS), is now the developer of Rail Simulator for EA, the publisher of RS. Thus there are similarities between MSTS and RS in such things as keyboard controls and some features of the user interface. Kuju has also learned a few things from Auran by including a World Editor that is far more user-friendly when it comes to building routes than was the original World Editor in MSTS. Time and experience will tell if this new World Editor compares favorably with Auran’s Surveyor, which is legendary in its ease of use. The two simply work differently, so it may come down to what you are experienced with or which approach is more to your liking. RS also adds interactive trackside features; similar to what Auran calls dynamic industries, and multiple train control. RS does not appear to have anything like Trainz’s portals, which serve as virtual fiddle yards for receiving and emitting trains, nor does it have Trainz’s driver commands, which let you give a set of instructions on the fly to a driver.
Enhanced trackwork detail at switches.
Another area of family resemblance with MSTS is the graphic rendition, which is hard, sharp-edged and slightly cool as compared to Trainz, which is smooth, not so hard-edged (unless you have a very high resolution display, such as 1900x1200 pixels or better) and warm. Both styles have their advocates and detractors, so it is largely a matter of preference. The included rolling stock is beautifully rendered and the routes supplied are notable in their excellent detail in the foliage, which exceeds anything we have seen to date. The detail in the track points (switches) is also a big step up over the others. The packaged routes and trains include drivers in the cabs and people on the platforms. This is nothing new to the Trainz world, but something that was noticeably absent in MSTS. Of course, third-party creators did manage to create people for MSTS, so the point is somewhat moot.
Outstanding foliage detail.
The subject of third-party creators is an important one at this point, though in the long run things should even out. At the moment, MSTS and Trainz benefit from tens of thousands of freely available add-ons in the form of routes, rolling stock, buildings and scenery items created by hobbyists and posted to the Internet. As might be expected in so young a hobby, interchangeability between platforms is nonexistent, so RS users will have to wait for the third-party add-ons to begin appearing. Meanwhile, EA has made available a special downloadable add-on package for those who register their copy of RS.
RS comes with four built in routes: 1 US, 2 British and 1 German. All routes are prototypical and are accompanied by challenges (scenarios), 11 in all, ranging from easy to hard and taking from 21 to 180 minutes to complete. US rolling stock includes 2 Union Pacific diesels (ES44AC and SD40-2) with modern day freight cars. British rolling stock includes 2 steam locos (Black Five 4-6-0 and JR 7F 2-8-0), a high-speed diesel loco (IC125 HST), a Class 166 DMU and a Class 47 passenger-freight diesel along with appropriate freight cars (old and modern) and modern coaches. German rolling stock includes a BR101 electric loco and a BR294 diesel switcher along with modern day freight cars.
German BR294 diesel switcher. I was unable to zoom out from this view.
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Article and screen shots (C)2008 Alfred Barten. All rights
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