The simulation genre can be an acquired taste at times, especially when you think of games like Football Manager, The Sims 4, Farming Simulator, Flight Simulator and more. They’re all linked to specific topics, especially when you think of Football Manager, if you’re not into Football (Soccer for those Americans reading) then it’s more than likely that you’re not going to like that game.
In comes Bus Simulator, a bit open-ended in terms of the clientele it would bring in as in a sense its niche as there’s nothing else that really covers the ‘Bus’ genre in terms of this game.
In Bus Simulator you start up your own public transport company which is set in a fictional town, you have real-world buses at your disposal from Mercedes Benz, Setra, and MAN. Each of these buses has been shown some love as the detail on them is very good when you’re sat in the cockpit and the detail needed when setting up and getting ready for the off is very good.
Bus simulator does give you controls that will suit everyone, especially when using a controller. You can look down at the dashboard and press things manually to get the bus going, but there are short cuts for you to take by pressing various buttons, which does simplify a lot of things as for someone playing this for the first time might be overwhelmed, which was the case for me, so the shorter actions were appreciated.
When driving the bus, you can pick to stay in cockpit view or go to a “third person” view above the bus, either views are quite adequate as the cockpit view will give you the mirrors as well to see down the bus as well as on either side. The third-person view does give you a better view around the bus, and this is the one I preferred to use, and then switch back to cockpit view when I pulled up at a bus stop, which was mainly for letting passengers pay their fare. Which I will admit was a bit of a chore and I wish this could have been automated when in third-person view.
As you build your transport empire you get to create routes, you’ll start to get more buses in your fleet which also means you can hire drivers to complete this these for you.
When it comes to controls, you can tell that the game has been designed with mouse and keyboard in mind firstly. This has made some commands etc a little bit clunky when it comes to using a controller, it nothing too bad, but steering especially with a controller was a little off. There were times I felt like I was over or understeering mainly because of the lack of precision when it came to the control sticks. Nothing major, but something to take into account, and one good thing I found was that there are compatible steering wheels which should help be more precise when driving the bus, unfortunately, I didn’t have one to try out.
I mentioned above about the detail that has gone into the buses and how the insides look, the same really cannot be said about the surrounding world. From the start of the game when you’re creating your character you can see that things look a bit washed out and don’t seem very crisp. For a game in 2019 this isn’t the best and I have to admit that the game wouldn’t look out of place as a last-gen game. The same goes when you get into the world and you’re driving around, you can see how well the buses look and the detail that’s gone into them, but the main world of the game just doesn’t have that same sharpness to it.
The AI cars within the game are decent, one issue I had with them though was the fact that they’re very random in terms of reaction. There are times when I’m pulling out of a stop, I’ve got my indicator on and they will stop to let me out, happy days, however when I’m sat at a junction, you could be there waiting for ages for them to move, and obviously I can’t do my usual trick of smashing them out of the way, so I have to sit and wait patiently and there are times when there is no traffic moving and the car in front of me can move, but it doesn’t move for ages, then by the time I start to go, the other direction is moving so I’m now waiting again. The road rage was real people!
I will admit though that there was fun to be had with the games, creating routes, getting buses going and getting your empire started does feel good, and seeing all your routes growing and getting new ones started just brings a little bit of joy and satisfaction.
Would I recommend it, I probably would, especially if you’re looking for a simulation game that’s a little bit different from the rest, and also does a good job of holding your hand through the opening so you get used to driving the buses as well as all the controls that are available.