Rating: ESRB – Everyone
I must profess, I am the kind of guy who would love to have model trains running on tiny tracks laid all over my house. There would be several stations in my track setup, one in the hall, another in the kitchen, one in my master bedroom and one for my baby girl’s room. I would even throw in a couple of model houses from the Faller and Pola range of model building kits.
You know what, if I did what I wrote in the last paragraph, my wife would never forgive me! So what is a train hobbyist to do? Why – get himself a copy of Trainz Railroad Simulator 2004, of course.
In case you are wondering, I am the proud owner of Trainz – The Complete Collection which comprises the Ultimate Trainz Collection, Trainz Railroad Simulator (TRS) 2004, TRS2006, and four volumes of train routes. I also recently purchased Trainz Simulator 2010 and will be purchasing the latest version (Trainz Simulator 2012) as soon as I get a positive cash flow going in my life again.
I will eventually review all in my collection, but I thought I’d start it off with this older game – Trainz Railroad Simulator 2004. This is a very good simulation software brimming with lots of goodies within. Read on to find out more…
|Choo choo… I know I can|
TRS2004 is a full featured simulator that allows you to drive your own locomotives, design your own track layouts, and more. It’s an improved version of it’s predecessor, known as the Ultimate Trainz Collection. I think the most significant improvements over the previous version are the automation of locomotives (the AI will drive them for you), industries that will demand and supply goods, introduction of steam engines, improved signalling, and a free-roaming camera.
The game comes with various modules:
- Driver – Drive on a particular layout.
- Scenario – Attempt pre-designed scenarios included with the game.
- Railyard – Have a close up view of the trains and consists that are available to you.
- Surveyor – Design your very own routes here.
- Trainz Exchange – Need more trainz content? Head over to the Internet for even more.
|I’ve been working on the railroad|
Before you begin driving, a dialog box pops up asking whether you would like to drive using realistic controls or via a simple DCC system. Digital Command Control (DCC) systems are the standard in operating model railways and usually feature a round knob. Similarly in TRS2004, a simple turn of the knob clockwise (actually a mouse click on the right side of the knob will do) and your locomotive moves forward, while a counterclockwise turn (via another similar mouse click) results in your locomotive moving in the reverse direction.
|The DCC knob is at the upper right in this screenshot|
|It’s truly rewarding when you master the realistic controls|
While operating your trains, you are able to manipulate your camera in four different ways. Just above the DCC knob are four camera icons:
- The first is Cab view, which essentially shows you the inside of the cab.
- The next icon selects the External view. You are treated to a lovely overhead view of your train. You can always pan your view, or even zoom in/out.
- The third is Tracking view. This view is reliant on the designer of the route, he must place static or tracking views while in the surveyor module for this camera view to be of any use.
- Finally, there’s Free Roaming view. Simply click with the right mouse button and you can practically fly to any corner of the map.
Although it’s attractive seeing the world in 3D, I must not forget to introduce to you the Map view. You can have a bird’s eye view of the track layout with the Map view. From here, you will also be able to control all train traffic including the switching of signals and track junctions. All trains present in the game will show up as tiny little icons. The AI drivers assigned to trains can also be accessed from this screen.
|A bird’s eye perspective|
There are 9 scenarios that require you to complete a number of set objectives in each. This may include running a passenger service and traveling from station to station. There may even be a need to perform shunting / switching activities; this means you must be familiar with how to perform coupling / decoupling operations.
You score points for achieving the objectives set before you, but you get penalized for things such as speeding, attempting to couple while moving too fast, inadvertently moving while stopped at a station, and so on.
|1800 points so far in this scenario|
The Railyard module is where you can admire all the engines and rolling stock assets that are available for your use in TRS2004. You can rotate your view, zoom in and out, and even read background information about a selected engine or asset.
The Surveyor module is an equally complex monster when compared with the Driver module. You will be using the Surveyor module to design your very own routes, so let your imagination run free and build something beautiful and unique.
|Admiring the black beauty|
It’s really not too difficult to use the design tools. You start off by shaping your terrain, applying textures, adding lakes and rivers, and even decide on the weather and time of day. The next step is to add in stations, railroads, signals, maintenance facilities, turntables, and so on. Finally, you populate the map with flora, fauna, buildings, roads, and power lines.
If you are up to it, you can also learn the simple scripting language and have a go at building your own scenarios. And if you are not, you could always download scenarios from Auran’s Trainz Exchange website.
|Start off by learning how Auran scripted the tutorials|
This is supposed to showcase the latest content and updates from the developer, but all I got today was an advertisement for Trainz Simulator 2010.
Never mind that, if you purchase any Trainz product, the first thing you must do is to get yourself an account at Auran. After that, you will be able to download thousands of assets from their database. Some things to note though:
- Assets are identified by a KUID (Koolthingz Unique IDentifier). They have the following filename format:.
- Let’s say you download a scenario, the first thing you will realize is that you can’t play it yet unless you have all the KUID assets that the scenario depends on.
- Luckily, you have a Content Manager that tells you all the missing assets you need. Additionally, Auran’s website also tells you the entire list of dependencies you need.
- Downloading these dependencies is however going to take some time, unless you pay for a ticket to improve your download speed from Auran’s website.
- Double-click on every asset you download so that the Content Dispatcher can import it into TRS2004 for you.
|A couple of missing assets left for this scenario|
In my opinion, the graphics looks more prettier when compared to the first version of the game. For example, the water rippling looked lovely and so did the weather effects of snow, mist, and rain. Being a simulation game, 3D realism is very important, but I must say that the locomotives and assets seem to be doing very well. They are all highly detailed with that metallic sheen added to the textures. These guys are the star of TRS2004, and fortunately Auran has not skimped in this department.
I did notice a few minor problems and I’m sure there are more around.
- Spotted graphical seams while travelling through some tunnels in the Outbacks.
- Also noticed it was raining in a tunnel at one point for a scenario I was playing.
- Automobiles still look horrible in TRS2004. Take a close look at the wheels to see what I mean.
|It’s raining cats and dogs in here|
The sounds of the locomotive are pretty authentic – love the engine sounds, the way the tracks go clickety-clack, and the bell warning sounds of the level crossings. Unfortunately, if you are in Tracking View and viewing the train from some static point, I ask that you sound the horn. Notice, you didn’t get any doppler effect. Sigh… maybe the next version.
- TRS2004 is a very good simulation of trains. It probably fulfills all your childhood dreams of spending lots of cash to install your own model railway in your home.
- Lots of routes to explore.
- Simple to play, and if you really want to – realistic cab controls is there for you to try out.
- You can now fulfil orders from factories and other buildings. I love to see coal being filled to the brim in my rolling stocks, or the way they disappear when I unload them at the destination.
- Tons of PDF manuals to plow through – there’s the Content Creator’s Guide, Engineer’s Handbook, Expanded Manual, Signaling Guide, Technical Manual, User Activity Creation Guide, World Builder’s Guide, and UTC Scenario Walkthroughs. Is that good or bad? You decide.
|Dumbstruck by the awesome beauty of TRS2004|
- Realistic cab controls may be too challenging for some.
- Not much to do really, especially for those looking for more action in the scenarios.
- Some minor graphical and audio glitches that shatter the realism.
- It’s a chore getting Internet downloads because of multi-layered dependencies that must be downloaded to complete the entire picture.
|Fill ‘er up, please!|
As you can judge by the positive tone of my review for Trainz Railroad Simulator 2004, it truly has been worth all my time in the world playing with this rich simulation game. Although UTC was originally my first purchase, I also love the improvements added in this new iteration. If you have never tried you hand at driving locomotives, I think it’s about time that you start now. I feel that the Trainz franchise has built more steam (pun intended) as it pulls away from all it’s competitors (not that there are many).
I suggest you get yourself a copy of a Trainz game (but I don’t recommend buying the online version though… that’s another story meant for my review of TS2010). You will definitely not be starting off on the wrong foot with Trainz Railroad Simulator 2004.
|To everything turn, turn, turn…|