Bus Simulator 18
PC version tested
Review code provided
Never judge a book by its cover while an old metaphorical phrase meant to caution people against prejudgement fell on many deaf ears during the golden age of gaming. Box art littered with images that were either misrepresentation of the actual game or pre-rendered cutscenes chopped up to present a false impression of what was on the little plastic cartridge. Bus Simulator 18, however, is a firm believer in the philosophy of: “Our name says it all”. With that said how does this foray into the white knuckle lifestyle of bus driver fair?
Bus Simulator from a gameplay perspective is everything you’d expect from a game so aptly titled. You as the player are tasked with starting your own Bus Company and driving your way into the history books… I mean memories of your… well you’re in charge of driving the bus. On the surface, this seems simple enough but thanks to a generous supply of unlockable or purchasable buses as well as dynamic weather you will always have something new to experience. Being tasked with not only accelerating and braking but the overall operation of a business on wheels, you will find yourself having to properly man the controls of the systems that govern a working public bus. Controlling the front and back doors as well as the ramp for your handicapped passengers while making sure to collect and disperse the right amount of change becomes a multitasker’s dream.
When you’re not managing the minute to minute operation of your bus you also must make sure you’re adhering to the rules of the road. This is handled by a deduction system that pops up and flags you for excessive speed, failure to stop, etc. Unfortunately, they must have consulted with the local school marm as you will also get deductions for hitting speed bumps to hard or parking too far from the stop. Thankfully the easy to use controls do a good job of minimizing any frustrations you might feel from receiving a pay deduction because you were too carefree for Edna during that last right turn.
The buses handle well and do feel like they have some weight to them. You will slowly gain speed as you accelerate but you won’t get anywhere near the power needed to throw out your back end to slide into the station thanks to the simulator title being tacked on to this one. While an arcade mode would have been welcome what is here to play is fun. Creating your own routes to better utilize your time was mildly addictive as I kept falling just short time-wise until I fully grasped the ability to make these edits.
Visually, Bus Simulator was pretty solid. Tested on a Cyberpower with an AMD Ryzen 5 1400, the game was crisp and had adequate draw distances when compared to the original test on a very underpowered laptop. The character models of the NPCs while generic do serve their purpose as they are not the stars here. Instead, that title belongs to the licensed buses. They are treated with all the respect and care usually afforded to Exotic and Muscle cars. Each unique bus modelled to match their real-life counterparts is wonderfully done. The collection of Mercedes-Benz, Setra, MAN, and more have been rendered in all their glory down to specific length and axle weights. The environments have been well taken of as well. On a clear sunny day, the colours of the vibrant city burst through your 20+ windows as you methodically run your routes. The star here is the night driving in rain. Good care was taken to complete the illusion of being stuck in a rain shower behind slow-moving traffic. The lights reflect off of the wet surfaces properly blinding you if you haven’t kept up with controlling your windshield wipers.
Audio-wise, BS18 is a mixed bag. The atmospheric ambience is solid. Special kudos for the NPC vehicles as some you pull up on the side of maybe blasting their music which comes through as muffled but is there and provides another level to help with the immersion. NPC humans, on the other hand… ouch. The lines have been delivered with about as much personality as fresh roadkill. Everything here is delivered in a monotone style removing any semblance of humanity. The idle conversation between NPCs is just as dull and while almost nonexistent would have been better with it removed altogether. The buses themselves have all the appropriate pneumatic sounds as well as the creaks and friction associated with heavy braking on one of these behemoths.
Value-wise this is a tough one to negotiate. Coming in on Steam at $34.99 seems extremely steep for anyone with little to no idea what they are getting here. Fans of the simulation genre and bus driving will be hard-pressed to find a better title than this one. Between the authentic buses and the level of attention paid to recreating subtle things like adjusting your seat height, there is a full package here (before any DLC).
Bus Simulator 18 is everything the name suggests. Developer Stillalive Studios have done a great job recreating the monotony that must come with running a bus route. The company management aspect of the game is solid but not as robust as the actual management involved with running a route. There is fun to be had here but definitely not for everyone.
TBG Score: 7/10
Platform: Steam, PS4, Xbox One
Release Date: 13/06/2018
No. of Players: 1
Developer: Stillalive Studios
Download link: Steam