Train Sim World: CSX Heavy Haul review

Train Sim World is a completely new simulator from Dovetail Games, not a new name for Train Simulator, reviewed. That game is still going (currently on version TS:2017) and launched way back in 2009.

CSX Heavy Haul is the first release in what will be a series for Train Sim World.

Train Sim World: CSX Heavy Haul - Price and availability

You can buy TSW: CSX Heavy Haul from Steam for £24.99.

Currently there is no DLC available, just the content available within the main game itself.

Train Sim World: CSX Heavy Haul – All-new engine

Why create a new simulator when Train Simulator is so well established? One of the main reasons is that the game engine in the older game is limited compared to the Unreal Engine 4 used in Train Sim World (TSW).

The aim of the new game is to take the level of detail and realism to a “new level”. The switch also allows much more interactivity, not just with the controls in the locomotives, but the ability to leave the cab and roam around the railway at will, much like a first-person shooter.

TSW: CSX Heavy Haul review

That means you can do more than driving trains in TSW. You can switch points, operate turntables, refuel locos and more.

Unlike in Train Simulator, virtually everything in the cab and around the locomotives is interactive. You can (and must) flip switches and use the digital screens to drive the train, which is much more realistic.

Although you’ll have an advantage if you’re coming to TSW from Train Simulator or another rail sim, there are half a dozen tutorials which do a good job of introducing the controls, keyboard shortcuts and the game mechanics.

There are certain similarities to Train Simulator – the shortcuts for one. But the HUD is different and is arguably easier to understand. Advanced users can disable it altogether and just use shortcuts.

When you’re not in the engineer’s seat, you control movement as you would in an FPS with the WASD keys and the mouse. You don’t see your arms, however, and you can’t jump, shoot, crouch or lie prone!

When in a scenario, you can’t look ahead at the list of tasks: you must complete one, such as reaching a certain point on the line to find out what to do next.

TSW: CSX Heavy Haul review

At the end of a scenario, you’re not penalised like in Train Simulator for driving too fast. But it will end if you derail your train or pass a red signal at danger (though you can disable the latter).

The other major change is a new physics engine developed by Dovetail and called SimuGraph. This deals with vehicle dynamics and aims to make the way trains respond to inputs and the environment even more realistic.

Train Sim World: CSX Heavy Haul – Content

It’s easy to criticise the lack of content because there’s just one route – Sand Patch Grade – and three locos, which are frankly hard to tell apart.

 You can play six scenarios, plus the new ‘Service Mode’ which lets you experience a full day on the railroad. Here you can choose which train to drive and which other tasks to complete from the 24-hour timetable.

TSW: CSX Heavy Haul review

If you’re unfamiliar with Sand Patch Grade, it’s 60 miles of USA railroad that winds its way through Pennsylvania and Maryland.

It’s one of the steepest railroad grades on the East Coast and features a horseshoe curve.

Train Sim World: CSX Heavy Haul – Graphics and sound

To answer one of the biggest questions, yes: the graphics are better than Train Simulator’s. There’s a greater level of detail and – importantly – the weather effects are right up to date and much more realistic.

TSW: CSX Heavy Haul review

If you have a powerful enough PC to run at the highest quality in 4K then the game does look stunning. Early builds were unoptimised and even a GTX 1080 Ti couldn’t reach 30fps in 1080p. Part of the issue was that faraway and unseen objects were being rendered, but this has been sorted and Simugraph will now take advantage of all CPU cores.

Indeed, build #52 appears to have fixed the issues and the game ran smoothly at 60fps on our test rig (with a GTX 1080 Ti) dipping to around 45fps in 1080p when you zoom out and there’s a lot more landscape in the scene.

I was always impressed with the sound in Train Simulator (except for the annoying phasing from time to time) and there’s not a hugely noticeable improvement in TSW. With either good speakers or headphones, you’ll really feel like you’re commanding a 3000 horsepower locomotive.

Train Sim World: CSX Heavy Haul – The bad stuff

Many players are heavily invested in Train Simulator, but because TSW is built on a new platform your DLC isn’t compatible with the new game.

And there isn’t any DLC to buy for TSW yet. Really, you have to look at it as the foundation onto which will be added not just new content but also new features and improvements.

But this does make it tricky to sell. Right now, this new world feels rather empty. Beyond a few AI trains, there’s nothing else going on. Just static scenery. There are no cars waiting at crossroads, no birds flying in the sky – or cows on the line.

TSW: CSX Heavy Haul review

There’s no multiplayer, though this is one promised feature in the “months after the launch”.

There isn’t even a way to create your own scenarios, let alone a route editor. Overall it feels like a beta than a game ready for full release.

The plan for the near future is to create ‘passenger experiences’ and new signalling systems and train types as well as new game modes.

Given the amount of money that players tend to spend on DLC, TSW will either appeal to newcomers or those who don’t mind spending £25 to see what all the fuss is about.

But there’s so little content at the moment that you’ll quickly tire of the route and long for the variety available in other train sims.

This will no doubt change over the next year or two, but right now the game needs that variety and features such as multiplayer to tempt people in.

The choice to go with an American route to start with shows that this British company isn’t putting its UK audience first, so let’s hope a UK passenger route is on the way.

Train Sim World: Specs

  • Recommended PC specifications: Intel Core i7-4790 @ 3.6 GHz or AMD Ryzen 7 1700X @ 3.8 GHz
  • Memory: 8 GB RAM
  • Graphics: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 970 or AMD Radeon RX 480 with 4 GB VRAM or more
  • DirectX: Version 10
  • Network: Broadband Internet connection
  • Storage: 20 GB available space
  • Sound Card: DirectX Compatible
  • Requires mouse and keyboard or Xbox Controller
  • Recommended PC specifications: Intel Core i7-4790 @ 3.6 GHz or AMD Ryzen 7 1700X @ 3.8 GHz
  • Memory: 8 GB RAM
  • Graphics: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 970 or AMD Radeon RX 480 with 4 GB VRAM or more
  • DirectX: Version 10
  • Network: Broadband Internet connection
  • Storage: 20 GB available space
  • Sound Card: DirectX Compatible
  • Requires mouse and keyboard or Xbox Controller

OUR VERDICT

Train Sim World is a great start to what will surely become one of the best train sims around. However, the game as it stands has just one US route and is relying on the promise of the coming multiplayer mode and extra content to draw players in. You’ll also need a really powerful PC to see the game at its best.