Simulation games are all the rage now, from farming to trains to fishing and now bus driving. Yes, Bus Simulator 18 puts you in the shoes of a bus driver who also doubles up as the owner of their own bus company.
A long running series of games, this latest iteration was originally released on PC last year but has now made its way to consoles too.
The concept of the game is likely to only really appeal to a niche market of gamers. Those who enjoy the realistic aspect of running a bus company and driving buses. However, those who decide to dip their toe in will find an enjoyable and sometimes relaxing experience, albeit an extremely flawed one.
Unfortunately, Bus Simulator feels as though it wasn’t quite ready for release and could have done with some fine-tuning and ironing out of the bugs.
The aim of the game is to turn your fledgling bus company into a behemoth. Running routes throughout city and being the number one transport choice for the civilian population. Money is earned by creating new routes and either driving them yourself or assigning hired drivers to take them on. Of course, drivers have to be paid and buses need to be bought so it’s a gradual build up of the company. From one bus serving a small localised route to a fleet of buses driving all over the city, growing the company is fun.
Those early days though, every penny counts and before a driver can start earning you money, you have to drive the route first. Step into the cab, start the engine and off you go.
Driving well is very important as you’ll be rewarded for doing so. Indicate correctly, stay within the speed limit, and stop at traffic lights…it all goes towards your overall ranking at the end of the route. As does any mistakes you make such as hitting a curb, getting a speeding ticket or crashing. These will also affect how much you earn for the route as money is deducted from the total at the end.
Bus driving is pretty well done and the bus does feel solid and controls well. This is the strongest aspect of the game. The nuances of the bus are initially over-whelming but as you get to gripes with it, you’ll find almost every aspect of the controls responsive.
However, as relaxing as the experience can be, driving around a city picking up passengers and dropping them off. Bus Simulator has some fundamental problems that cause unnecessary frustrations.
The game is buggy. It has some horrendously long load times, especially at the main menu and suffers a variety of technical issues throughout. Massive frame-rate drops and lag, particularly when moving at faster speeds are the most notable. During the early stages of the game, these issues are downright off-putting and will see many a player check out almost immediately.
Should you get past the tutorial stage of the game, it does ease up a bit but there are plenty of other issues to contend with. Some amusing, such as having a bus load of identical people. Some not so amusing, such as the horrendous AI drivers of other vehicles.
It’s the AI that causes the most frustration throughout the game turning what is often a relaxing drive in a hair-pulling, horn-honking experience. It’s kind of funny that other road users in Bus Simulator 18 will give you road rage!
The game has a timer that counts down as you drive from bus stop to bus stop. Once out of time, it will start to count up in the negative. Basically, you’re late which makes total sense as reliability of transport services is a big deal. It’s actually a fun idea except late running affects profits and scores and the AI is braindead.
Making it from bus stop to bus stop in time consistently is near impossible. Vehicles will sit at junctions for ages not moving, other times they will cut across you causing accidents and pedestrians will stroll across a walkway, sometimes stopping mid-point (or float across which is always funny). While all of this sounds like realism, it occurs far too much to be so and just results in annoyance as you waste minutes sitting behind a car that refuses to move.
If you can look past these issues, a big ask, Bus Simulator 18 can be a fun and enjoyable experience. It nails the driving mechanics and the building up of a conquering bus company. It has depth and replay value thanks to a variety of missions, unlocking of buses and levelling up the company and bus stops to get more passengers.
Add that to the fact you can change a large number of driving conditions, use simplified version of the controls and play co-op multiplayer and Bus Simulator has plenty of bang for your buck.
Does that excuse the issues? Not completely but it does make them more palatable.
Bus Simulator 18
The Final Score - 5/10