There have been many chances to sample the simple life of a bus driver in the past, with such obscure titles as Tokyo Bus Guide, or the arcade style Bus Driver you've actually got a lot more choice than one would, or the extremely popular sandbox Bus and Cable Car Simulator - San Francisco, however stepping up to the mark is European Bus Simulator, the simulator to rival all previous titles.
From the very get go you are tasked with creating your bus driver persona, complete with name, date of birth and gender you come as close as possible to being a real bus driver when you are given your unique driver number and pass code necessary for logging into the on board computers and cash registers; a rather foreign concept in a simulator but one that proves that steps are truly being taken to creating a more authentic experience - but wait there's more to come!
One very important fact that must be taken into consideration before confronting the game is it is not Bus and Cable Car Simulator - Germany, and so it is best not to compare the two games in too much detail; one is an incredibly open world simulator, and the other is on the verge of true hardcore simulation, the question is, what game are you looking for?
Much like a very involved rail simulator, European Bus Simulator can be very difficult at times, and whether you are a young fan of buses or a seasoned traveller then you will appreciate the two different operating modes of the game; Beginner which acts as a tutorial to ease you into the complexities of bus navigation, and Expert which tasks you with taking into consideration properly logging into and out of every bus with your unique driver card, and understanding that every single mistake that you make will be noticed.
With only two types of bus you aren't exactly spoilt for choice, and without the addition of coaches, double deckers, or even school buses you've only the option of a standard or articulated 'bendy' bus which you can switch to at any point, but without any unlocks at hand those that prefer to play simulators to goals rather than sandboxes may have a hard time swallowing European Bus Simulator.
Now we previously mentioned that this is a truly hardcore simulator experience which gets practically as authentic as possible, now this fact really shines in the Expert Mode, this mode is for those that find keeping an adequate air flow, managing a bus full of passengers and getting to your stops on time far too easy.
After TML Studios last hit bus simulator BCCS, European Bus Simulator is understandably a very demanding game, with a dynamic weather system, beautifully rendered environments, not to mention fantastically detailed buses with working mirrors and switches; things can get a little busy onscreen so the game comes with two shortcuts allowing you to run the game with its highest settings or a basic setup to allow maximum enjoyment whilst still playing a simulator that is easy on the eyes. The basic setup will run well on your mid-spec PCs and may have a few hiccups here and there as you drive through a nasty storm with condensation filling your windscreen, but generally the game runs very nicely.
So after a little trial and error you've got your bus up and running? Now is the time to start your first route, unfortunately the game makes every route available to you on the scheduler despite some of them only operating at certain hours, this means that when you attempt to run a graveyard shift route in the middle of the day, and arrive at the first stop you'll be penalised for being 500 minutes late, and despite it being the wrong time of the day you are still able to carry out the route.
Carrying out routes in a busy city will see a lot of passengers cross your threshold, and whilst you can't greet them with a friendly hello, the cockney lot of them are very happy to see you, as usual the odd one will need to pay for their fare and European Bus Simulator goes that extra mile by asking you to take your customers money, work out their change on the cash register and dispense the correct amount back. If you're particularly eager and run a few routes in your shift you may find that you run out of change, so you'll need to head back to the depot in order to replenish it, it's these little touches that make European Bus Simulator a definite purchase for those that love the little extra simulated points to their games.
Anyone that has worked in contact with the general public will know that the key to success in the world is customer service and satisfaction, and, driving a bus is no different, if you're driving a little fast or your passengers are too cold they won't be afraid to grumble, so on those cold windy and wet days it is essential to looking after your passengers by keeping an eye on the temperature inside and outside your bus and how it may affect those inside it, a great touch to a genre that usually cares more about the vehicles than that carried within them.
A feature previously unseen in a simulator before is the addition of seasons, this is attained via the in-game monthy calendar that allows you to choose to work a shift during any month of the year. So working in June or December will be very different, with dynamic weather patterns and temperature affected by the seasons, you'll even be able to notice the telltale signs of winter, autumn and spring on the trees, European Bus Simulator is almost a little self contained world.
The only real let down of the game is the very insular feeling that the game evokes, with only two choices of bus available to you practically every previous bus simulator can offer a lot more variety, and with only one bus depot in the city, it feels as though you are the only true bus driver, the driver passcodes and cards are a brilliant touch to the game, but when you are never really switching buses at depots the authentic feature suddenly goes to waste.
With a modest selection of routes taking place around the city you'll have more than enough to play around with, however if you do have a bit of a creative spark the route wizard returns, and like a lot of simulators, European Bus Simulator opens its arms to the modding community with the opportunity to create vehicle models, routes and more.
Whilst European Bus Simulator is not the Bus and Cable Car Simulator 2.0 that a lot of European fans were hoping for, what it does provide is an authentic and realistic bussing experience with beautiful graphics and truly intricate features that only the real enthusiast can appreciate, amidst a thriving city 4/5.
European Bus Simulator is available now in all good online and retail stores for the RRP of £24.99, being a bus driver has never been so close, and if you are a fan of the rather humble position, best try this game out for size.