Trainz Railroad Simulator 2004

Snap46It’s tough being the little guy.

Trainz Railroad Simulator 2004 — the sequel to the first Trainz — is more model-railroad simulator than real-world train sim. With a few exceptions, most of its 15 bundled track layouts are circular in nature, with no trans-continental lines hauling freight or passengers over long distances. Trainz isn’t so much a game as a collection of maps, locomotives, rolling stock, and editing tools with which to develop your own Union Pacific and Flying Scotsman clones.

Surveyor mode is the game’s snazzy built-in terrain and track-editing tool for crafting your own railroad layouts and trains. As powerful and intuitive as this editor is, however, a deficiency of bundled scenarios forces you to use it to supplement the meager offerings provided by the developer. Only nine pre-scripted assignments are available in Trainz 2004’s Scenarios menu — not counting the new tutorials — and that’s just not enough to keep any railroader’s boiler stoked.

Driver mode offers an additional 12 “sessions†where you can assume hands-on control of individual locomotives, but there are no real missions or goals here apart from hustling trains around at your leisure and filling work orders when the map’s local industries demand it.

Snap43The Railyard menu lets you select from over 50 locomotives and hundreds of pieces of rolling stock; unfortunately, it also sports a faulty download “helper†that makes new-content retrieval from Auran’s popular Download Station website more of a challenge than it needs to be. An upcoming patch will purportedly fix this issue, but it’s a significant hiccup given the sim’s lack of multiplayer modes and limited single-player options. Some patching is also required for the game’s poorly implemented steam engine controls and physics, as well as for the dim-witted new AI engineers.

Graphicswise, Trainz 2004 fares better: most locomotives feature accurately rendered 3D cabs and smoke and steam particle effects. The terrain modeling, reflective water, and resonant audio are similarly impressive. Some pop-up, clipping, and collision-detection issues occasionally appear, but not often enough to be deal-breakers. In the end, there’s not enough content here to justify switching from MSTS. Much like the first game, there’s little actual content to keep drivers busy.

System Requirements: Pentium III 1 GHz, 256 MB RAM, WinXP

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