If there's one subgenre of simulator that garners fans worldwide its the Bus Simulator, however surprisingly there's only a few developers that bother with the quaint public transportation. One of those is TML Studios, and their simulators have flourished into some of the modern benchmarks for vehicular simulators, however everyone had to start somewhere, and City Bus Simulator New York was their first foray into the wonderful world of buses.
The simulation aspect of City Bus Simulator New York is pretty straightforward, you won't be required to keep to timetables, and you won't be digging around for spare change to give to your passengers. Standard procedure is pull up to a bus stop -these can be signposted with markers in the options. Open your doors and let passengers with bus cards through and give tickets to those that only have cash, if you wish, like all good bus simulators, you can greet your passengers in a manner of ways, and you won't be able to carry out a bus route unless you've changed your destination board. Unfortunately as you may notice the buses do not have dynamic wing mirrors, so you have to use keyboard commands to view traffic to your sides. Gameplay-wise City Bus Simulator New York is lacking compared to its modern day contenders, but it does what it needs to, and in a very simplistic way, making it a lot more fun like the great Bus Driver, and pretty much accessible for anyone.
Its interesting to note that City Bus Simulator New York was released way before TML Studios cemented their place as the best bus simulator developer with the likes of Bus and Cable Car San Francisco and the intricate European Bus Simulator, and yet, City Bus Simulator New York is very unlike the two aforementioned games, with a most extraordinary feature; Story Mode.
I kid you not, City Bus Simulator New York comes with a campaign mode complete with a 9 different chapters telling the story of Carlos the recently hired bus driver who just so happens to be at the wrong place, at the wrong time. We really aren't joking, and in fact the story of Carlos, and his colleagues Jack, Lewis and Luke gets pretty sinister. Story points are interspersed with shifts driving around New York, and it's a surprisingly enjoyable story for all the cheesy points, which is unfortunate because the dialogue is very badly recorded. It goes without saying that TML Studios should be given an accolade for basing a story around the everyday life of a bus driver.
Story Mode aside, what'll take many simulator fans aback with City Bus Simulator New York is its tutorial, we aren't talking your average 'here's-all-of-the-controls-knock-yourself-out' sort of affair, nor were we given a test track with the ability to try everything out. The game includes a fully comprehensive tutorial training mode, allowing you to get to grips with the basics of bus driving with one of your colleagues from the depot instructing you. As small a feature as it plays, the tutorial is somewhat of a landmark for simulators that don't usually help in easing players into the complex machinations of vehicular controls.
As glorious as the tutorial is, we did struggle with it somewhat, so don't be surprised if you run into a few hiccups, so we're going to let you in on a few things of importance, the wheelchair lift controls are used manually, you'll have to walk to the back of the bus, only play the game as an administrator, or your save data will not be written, and most important of all, bare in mind that this game may crash. We wouldn't say it lessened our experience of the game, but it may happen, alright that's all you need to know to be on your merry way.
As you might guess from the title, City Bus Simulator is set in New York, but not just any part of New York; the game is centred around a recreation of 42nd street in Manhattan, one of the most famous streets in New York City that runs between the Hudson and East River. Along 42nd Street you'll find Times Square among Madame Tussauds, the Chrysler Building, Grand Central Station and countless other landmarks, it's a brilliant recreation even if it doesn't have the best graphics ever, no matter because you'll spend most of your time with your eyes on the traffic lights.
You're in New York, so you will find yourself stuck in the occasional traffic jam, however like most city based simulators the traffic is pretty disappointing, you'll often find yourself driving through an almost empty Times Square even with traffic set to very high, and it doesn't help to capture the buzz of New York City when every pedestrian is stuck on the spot unmoving, in fact it helps make the game feel a bit too lifeless when you come to a stop in a densely populated area, only to find that no one is actually on the move.
City Bus Simulator features dynamic weather, so whether you're playing through the campaign or cruising around in free drive you can enjoy 42nd street at any time of the day, rain, wind or shine, it's weather simulation may not be quite up to speed with Euro Truck Simulator 2, or Bus and Cable Car San Francisco, but it's not going to take a beast of a PC to enjoy it!
For a game that's just over 3 years old, the graphics aren't half bad as simulators go, and unlike TML's latest games, this one actually has a chance to run well on your PC, just be sure to set the graphics settings to high, or you might feel like you've been transported a few more years into the past.
City Bus Simulator New York is a fantastic, if simplistic simulator for one of the more traditional forms of public transport, if you're interested in buses it's a great introduction to the subgenre. It has its downsides but with an enjoyable story, missions and freeride across a great stretch of Manhattan it's one brilliant little simulator.
City Bus Simulator New York is available now as part of Excalibur Publishing's Extra Play range, and for £10 its a right steal!