Okay, hands up those amongst you that expected the announcement of Train Sim World 4 back in August, a little over a year since Train Sim World 3 was announced. No one? I thought as much. But yet, here it is, Dovetail Games’ latest foray into the world of simulated train driving. After reviewing — and very much enjoying — last year's game, I was left a little puzzled as to why the developer has gone down the path of yearly sports title releases and thought there couldn’t be too many meaningful changes… could there?
If you’ve never played a Train Sim World game before, there’s no better place to start. The Training Centre from TSW3 makes a return, talking players through an interactive step-by-step tutorial on how to operate each of the locomotives on offer. When you add in the DLC trains as well, that’s quite a robust training experience, especially since each one can differ greatly in how it operates! Speaking of downloadable content, any trains or routes you’ve purchased from previous games (including any found in the base version of these games) are available here as free DLC packs, so you can pick up right where you left off should you opt to transfer your progress. With the sheer amount of routes to choose (even my local train station features in one add-on!) then Train Sim World 4 could last hundreds of hours for anyone who wants to complete every timetable objective. Thomas & Friends DLC when?
Virtual trains have never looked and sounded better, as each one features an insane level of detail. It’s clear that Dovetail Games is passionate about all things locomotive and it shows with how true to life these trains can be. Hopping onto the same train I take to work each day and seeing the carriages laid out exactly how they are in the real world alongside hearing the same mechanical whirls and clicks as I do when my headphones have died was quite a surreal moment, but a very cool one nonetheless. I’m also fairly confident I could drive said train to work by myself now; I just need to figure out how to get around those pesky train conductors!
Aside from impressive models, the game also features a much-improved lighting system as well as antialiasing. Even the weather effects on the new routes are noticeably better, with volumetric fog and high-detail rain creating a much more immersive experience. Now, this will vary depending on your screen, but for the PlayStation 5 version on a 4K television, things did look a lot crisper and smoother than the previous entry.
Performance wise, Train Sim World 4 seems to run a lot smoother than its predecessor from my time with it so far. Whilst TSW3 has the occasional split-second freeze or slow down, I’m yet to encounter any of the same issues, even when using the DLC from past games.
Players have got various options when deciding what to do in Train Sim World 4. You could start by selecting a route’s timetable and setting off from A to B whilst trying to arrive at your destination on time. For more tailored experiences, the Scenarios option will give players specific goals to achieve in what feels like a “mission mode” that you find in other games. Rail Journeys combine both of these options into nice little guided experiences to truly get a feel of how each line operates in the real world.
A new mode for the series makes its debut: Free Roam. Here you’ll start from whichever station you please, spawn in any train that can realistically run on that track (electric powered engines won’t run on track with no overhead wires, for example) and explore to your heart's content! Plot out any journey that takes your fancy, with no restrictions like having to stop to pick up passengers or unloading the wagons. It’s not a feature I really got into; the structured nature of timetables and scenarios was much more interesting for me, but if you’re an avid train enthusiast, I can see how it may appeal to you.
But what of the new routes included in this latest entry? Well, for starters, we have the USA’s Antelope Valley Line: a sprawling track that takes you from the bustling heart of Los Angeles, through the rocky canyons of California, and into the deserts of the neighbouring Lancaster. Next up is England’s East Coast Main Line. This 80-mile trip takes players from Peterborough to Doncaster, with a generous helping of beautiful English countryside situated between both cities. Finally, the S-Bahn Vorarlberg debuts Austria and its stunning alpine environment for the first time in the series. These are three very different routes, from the locals (obviously) to how each train operates and the journeys you’ll embark on with each one.
Creators Club makes a welcome return, allowing players to not only design their own liveries and scenarios but also share them online with other players. This is great for someone like me who doesn’t have a creative bone in their body, although with the amount of content already in the game, this pushes the playtime into potentially unlimited numbers!
As it turns out, though, there isn’t a whole lot of difference between Train Sim World 4 and its predecessor. Now, that’s fairly understandable, as realistically, how much can be changed when navigating a hulking metal tube down a linear track? For newcomers to the series who want a taste of a rather relaxing simulator, you can’t go wrong with starting with Train Sim World 4. Anyone who is still toiling away in Train Sim World 3 may not find enough new content here to take the journey. Whilst the new features may not justify purchasing the game, the additional tracks and locomotives included in the base edition — at least for any train enthusiasts — are certainly worth the asking price.
Train Sim World 4 (Reviewed on PlayStation 5)
This game is good, with a few negatives.
Whilst not having as much additional content as a full sequel perhaps should have, Train Sim World 4 is still undoubtedly the king of the rails. The almost inexhaustible amount of content on offer is enough to get any train fan to hop on board.