Unfortunately a title like Farming Simulator is ripe for a good mocking, and the most infamous video of all pretty much sums up the thoughts of the 'average gamers' opinion of such a concept, however there's no denying that a generation of gamers are growing out of the games being developed with a younger audience in mind, with all the violence and story driven games out in the wild, there will always be a place for tired old gamers to congregate, to chill out relax and take on a seemingly mindless past time.
Even if you’re new to the world of Farming Simulator, you shan’t have to worry, not only does Farming Simulator come with a fantastic array of tutorials to get you into the swing of ploughing, sowing, harvesting and even planting potatoes, as if that wasn’t enough, the European town of Hagenstedt gives you an all-important 'tour' of farming sim, covering a lot of the basics, where to sell your crops and a good overview, whilst it doesn’t explain everything, handy hint markers are dotted around the world explaining anything and everything, it’s not particularly note-worthy, but is a true necessity when you realise just how scope the world of Farming Simulator is.
If you're looking for a Harvest Moon alternative we might advise you to look elsewhere, as Farming Simulator is all about the business, and as somewhat of a sandbox simulation you won't find yourself getting married extending your house and giving gifts to your friends. There's just you, your farm, and all of the time in the world. The game itself is practically no frills, however it has a hypnotic quality that enraptures you into its monotonous actions, and a simple task such as harvesting a field of corn becomes a sudden compulsion that you simply must finish, I'm not kidding, this game will sucker you in!
If you're unaware traditionally Farming Simulator is a game kept solely to the PC where it has sold millions of copies throughout its life, however this is not simply a port of the PC game, what makes Farming Simulator different to its PC counterpart, is the all-American vibe! Traditionally a very European game, the developers at GIANTS software have branched the game into two different settings, the traditional European Hagenstedt, and the rural American setting of Westbridge Hills, complete with baseball field, open-air cinema, diners, you name it, more importantly it features a selection of US machinery, including a massive rig to haul around your trailers with!
It's not just huge machinery you'll find yourself driving, Farming Simulator lives by the rhetoric that Everything is Bigger in America, which means ridiculously huge fields abound in Westbridge Hills, despite only starting out with what appears to be a pretty small field from the game's built in map, you'd be wrong there, take your Harvester to it, and you'll quickly find just how big they like to do things in America! Then compare it to the size of the tens of other fields in sleepy Westbridge Hills and you may well find that you spend a lot of time tending to your fields.
However unlike Harvest Moon, you're never limited by what you do in Farming Simulator, you won't fall over from fatigue after a long days work, and thanks to the wonder of time compression you can take your sweet time tending your farm with the option of real time speed, now this isn't to say that turning it up to 11 will see you zipping about your farm at super speeds, it simply means when you've finished sowing your seeds you needn't wait forever for them to flourish, it's a great device to ensure that you finish all your work for a day, and get the most out of the machinery available to you.
The machinery isn't perfect however, and despite each recreation looking perfectly accurate, you'll find that the game is riddled with what you can only describe as 'bumper car physics'; knock a tree at the wrong angle, bump into another car or just look at something the wrong way and you'll find your extremely heavy vehicle, flips, flops and generally jumps around. It's a little off-putting and something that simulators have just never managed to pin down, the key is, don't play Farming Simulator like GTA!
However, if you get up-close and personal with anything outside of the machinery in farming simulator you may find things start to get a little ugly; crops, trees and buildings are not particularly pleasing to the eye, and it's unfortunate that none of them have been improved for the game's console debut. But, bad textures aside, you just can't get away from the relaxing vistas that Farming Simulator exudes, this is particularly so for Westbridge Hills, where almost every view looks like it's been lifted right off of a postcard, with breathtaking sunsets over cornfields, and dusky evenings at the baseball field, it doesn't always look as pretty as you'd want, but it sure is darn picturesque.
The great beastly farming equipment isn't the only focus of your farm, and Farming Simulator comes with a host of other sources of income to keep your farm in the black; your plot of land features a set amount of blocks that can be filled with green houses, beehives, solar panels, even wind turbines to bring in a tidy profit at the cost of a single placement, or perhaps husbandry is your game, Farming Simulator allows you to keep Cows, Sheep and even Chickens. Whatever you decide to concentrate your efforts on, with your clever little PDA you can keep track of all your incomings, outgoings and how much you've got kept in your silos, you name it, and Farming Simulator probably has a rudimentary system for it, it's pretty impressive.
Unfortunately, those familiar with the Farming Simulator series will find two very important aspects missing from the game, namely the series' open modding community which for a console game can be forgiven, unlike the lack of cooperative farming; for the past two iterations of the series the game has allowed up to 10 players to tend their farms together, this made for both some hilarious antics, but also a really good chilled out experience, which makes it all the more disappointing that Farming Simulator for console does not include any online features, so for those looking forward to farming with your friends over Xbox Live, we wanted to make you aware that it is not a possibility.
Farming Simulator may be missing some of the best selling features of the PC version, however console gamers are given an extremely good port of the simulator, the new scenery and machinery will undoubtedly attract enthusiasts to the game, and those that are looking for a change of pace in their games may well fall in love with the very different experience on offer.
Farming Simulator is available now for the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 for the SRP of £29.99 from all good retailers.