Train Sim World 4 Review

Train Sim World 4 header

Train Sim World 4 is, you’ll be surprised to hear, a train simulator game. With that revelation out of the way, you’ll likely know already whether or not you are interested at all, and if you’re okay with putting up with some awkwardness in favour of a faithful train simulation. If that’s the case, then Train Sim World 4 is for you, provided you’ve got plenty of cash to set aside for train simulators.

We’ll start with the trains, which are incredibly detailed not only visually, but also mechanically. If you’ve ever wanted to get into a train and play with all the buttons, you can do that here, and they work as well – if you choose to, you can drive your train by looking at all the relevant buttons and interacting with them directly. You’ll probably end up using the actual buttons on your gamepad, though, because aiming at tiny buttons with an analog stick is a pain at the best of times and is even worse when you’ve accidentally gone full steam ahead. There will still be some buttons to use in the more complex (i.e. outdated) trains, but accelerating, braking, and so on with the controller means there’s much less fiddliness involved.

Until you get to a steam train. Lovingly recreated, but old as hell and likely fiddly enough to manage in real life, looking at the two different brakes may as well be flipping a coin as you could end up with either one of them. That’s not great when you’re hurtling towards a stop. The more modern trains can almost entirely be run with the controller – in fact it’s almost relaxing when you get back in one after tangling with the steam-powered monstrosities.

Train Sim World 4 steam loco

Thankfully there are tutorials to tell you exactly how to work everything. There’s at least one tutorial for everything you could possibly need to know, and then some. You’ll need to run through them to get certifications for the trains anyway, and they’re very clear, if a bit long-winded. Some of them, particularly the certification ones, even give some background on the train you’re currently learning about, which is a nice touch and surprisingly interesting for someone that’s not really a train buff. After going through them, not only am I able to drive a steam train (in the game, obviously), but I even of enjoy it and have to begrudgingly accept that they are as interesting as they are outdated.

That’s the thing about games like this, there is a strange, hard to quantify attraction to just running routes, transporting passengers, not speeding, and being on time. Maybe it’s years of being brainwashed by games that a good rating is incredibly satisfying, but it is. I’m not even into trains. TSW4 thankfully lets you do this until your heart’s content, though for some reason the button for running routes is in the trains menu, not the routes menu. Odd.

What isn’t hard to quantify are the game’s problems. Graphically speaking, the trains look great, but everything else feels a generation behind the curve. The textures are blurry and seem like they’re on rough shapes sometimes, for example the gravelly areas around the track have obvious corners that the texture clearly wraps around. Shadows appear right next to the track twelve feet in front of the train literally all the time, which is a real immersion killer and a constant reminder that this is a game. That and the aforementioned awkwardness when dealing with buttons that aren’t mapped to the controller really keep pulling you out of the enjoyable experience of being a train driver. Games are weird, aren’t they?

Train Sim World 4 LNER Azuma

Then there’s the cost of all of this. The base game is £40, which isn’t too bad, though it only comes with eight trains and three routes, plus the training centre, while the £53 deluxe edition, which we received for this review, comes in at £53 with one extra route and two more trains. I had a passing interest in trying the Preston-Blackpool line, because I’ve been on it, but it costs £30, which is enough that it’d be cheaper for me to actually get on a train and go there, though I obviously wouldn’t be driving that train. My interest here is in running lots of routes in different places, and it just feels a bit sparse whichever version you buy.

There’s also the fact that this game came out only a year after Train Sim World 3, but comes with only three routes in the base package and a handful of graphical improvements. It sounds more like an expansion pack for TSW3 when you look at it that way, and there is the fact that you can import DLC bought for older games into TSW4. It feels a bit strange to force this as a brand new game.

You can also edit trains designs and make scenarios, so there are tonnes of trains with customised designs available for you to try on the creator’s club, provided you already own the stuff it’s based on. I understand the need for this but it does result in half the things you can see here being of no use to you, practically turning them into ads for DLC.

Whilst Train Sim World 4 does the train sim part quite well, the world part is incredibly lacking - it comes with only three routes in the base game and the others cost significantly more than you might expect. All of those routes are in North America or Europe, even the DLCs, which would make it a much smaller world than the one I live in. If you love trains and have plenty of train sim money, Train Sim World is a good option for running routes. Just be aware that you'll probably be paying more than is reasonable.
  • Faithfully recreated trains
  • Running routes is unexplainably fun
  • Thorough tutorials
  • Tells you about the trains as well
  • Graphically disappointing everywhere but the trains
  • Fiddly button aiming
  • Comes with very little content
  • DLC is expensive