Train Sim World 2020 review – quietly thrilling, and thrillingly quiet

August 20, 2019
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Coasting through the San Francisco Bay area in a muscular F40PH-2CAT diesel-electric locomotive, there’s 750 long yards to go until you have to come to a stop at a platform. That shouldn’t be too tricky, especially as you’ve had a lengthy stretch with little more to do than take in the view and prepare your thoughts. With the throttle already set to idle, momentum and the train’s sheer weight are all that is propelling you forward. 750 yards might as well be 750 miles. All it takes is a steady movement with a single brake lever, and the giant vehicle you are commanding should glide to a standstill with perfect elegance.

That’s how it should work. That’s what real train drivers do. As passengers we see trains coast to a precise stopping position so frequently we lend no mind to the skill that might be needed, instead focusing our thoughts on lost minutes and the scramble for a table seat.

In your first few hours of Train Sim World 2020, however, you’ll learn a great respect for the starring vehicles’ drives. As 750 yards ticks down, it’s all too easy to lose yourself to a frenzy of lever yanking. Pulling the brake to ‘service’ loads pressure into the system. With the pressure at the right level, shifting the same lever with precise timing to its ‘LAP’ position applies the brake. Then you shudder to a halt near-immediately, 600 yards out from the destination. It’s time to release the brake and dial up the throttle again. An inevitable stuttering cycle of speeding up and slowing down spirals, leading you to overshoot the ideal stopping point just moments after you came short byy five or so yards. There’s enough train on the platform to unlock the doors and welcome new passengers, but you were late, clumsy and left plenty of room for improvement. Heart beating, breathing clipped, it’s time to hit restart. You know you can do it perfectly with that one more go.

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