Forget Borderlands 3, this is the game that everyone was lining up to play. It’s just that everybody kept quiet about it. Astragon Entertainment tapped into our brilliant minds and published this: Bus Simulator so that we needn’t have asked for it in the first place. Very clever, indeed. However, does the game know the differences between a Mercedes Citaro K and a CNG? I know I do. Now. Also, how much is a fair price? That was a bit of wordplay there, but I think I cocked it up.
Bus Simulator doesn’t project any false expectations – it’s a bus simulator, and that’s it. Picking at the title and assuming the content is for fanboys (or girls) is something anyone can do. I think we all do it. Is it actually any good, and do you have to have images from Bus Hustler Monthly plastered on your wall to get along with this title? Yes and no. Yes, it’s quite good fun, and no, you don’t need any interest in the bus phenomena or subscribe to that (hopefully) made up magazine.
So what’s it all about then, apart from the obvious? You play a nomadic bus driver and set up your own bus company to change the public’s view on public transport in a fictitious urban and rural environment. Your job is to ferry Johnny Public about town, the industrial areas and woods with banjo playing rednecks. The latter isn’t in it – this is Europe, and everyone is terrific here/there. Thanks, Brexit.
Anyways, you transport folk back and forth in the most pleasant way possible (no extras, just driving) and behind the scenes, you configure new routes and assign a driver and bus to take the torch on a designated journey. This all brings in money and experience to take over the world with the ethereal feeling of riding on a bus. Least, that’s what the bus PR in the game wants you to think.
The more passengers you pick up and routes you complete, the more experience you acquire to level up. Levelling brings with it the perks – mainly the choice of a new bus, but other goodies include colours or decals for your bus – even ads that can bring in revenue each week. Eventually, you earn enough dough to be able to bring in new buses and better drivers, thus maintaining your dominance as the method of travel.
The simulation experience isn’t just the driving and planning routes, but the feeling of being on a bus for longer than necessary. Hearing the same dialogue of “Is so-and-so sick?” to the reply of “No, he’s sick again”. Or someone sneezing for the umpteenth time, passengers were leaving their rubbish or loud music playing through oversized headphones. Bus wankers.
Yes, it’s realistic, based on my own experience, but it’s not something I want to re-live at home. The same can be said about the ambience from birds. How is it that I hear them over my engine throughout the city? You can adjust volumes manually, but it’s only the birds that bother me. And no, I’m not being cute with slang.
At the beginning of each run, you have objectives to meet. From planning a route to assigning new drivers to new routes with specific vehicles, there are a lot of ways to progress in the game. You can take a back seat and have drivers, well… drive for you – but that’s not the point. The essential bit of info here is this is a bus simulator, so you need to be driving.
Now, I don’t know about you, but a few times here and there, I stole a bus in Grand Theft Auto and attempted to drive passengers about. It was better than my Taxi Driver stint; picking up hookers and having a ruckus with bad-boy-yardies. You can’t do that in Bus Simulator, but you can pick up people at the bus stop and drop them off. Weirdly, it’s very therapeutic. It’s a game where you don’t have some anthem pumping out the speakers (though you do have a radio, I don’t recommend it unless you like travel agent music).
It’s not a case of flooring it everywhere and drifting around corners. Believe me, I tried. As you progress, you’ll need to avoid potholes, speed bumps and pedestrians. With the latter, you get penalised a lot of money if you hit them. It’s political correctness gone mad, I tell you. On that basis, you start to develop a driving habit that mimics your own in real life. I really thought I’d dick about, but I took it seriously, yet still had a lot of fun.
To progress, you earn experience points and money to buy new gear, but more importantly, stay in business. The money awarded is reasonable, but if you clip the curb, or drive into a car (at a slow speed), you’re docked quite a bit of money. Equally, if you are late, or miss the bus stop by a few inches, passengers will get irritated, and you won’t meet your potential earnings.
As mentioned Bus Simulator is incredibly annoying, as are the ambient sounds of birds tweeting. Constantly. Otherwise, the sound was good and atmospheric. I was satisfied with the graphics, but they don’t wow. If you were to say this was a PS3 title, I wouldn’t be surprised. Though, it’s perfectly adequate. Handling of the bus is excellent, and it takes a little while to account for the length (heh), notably the ultimate bendy buses. The controls for everything that’s not actually driving is fiddly, and while each command has a hotkey, I often pressed the wrong one, resulting in turning off my speed limiter, my lights or whacking on the handbrake.
Before you start each route, you are given your objectives. They’re mostly straightforward, but sometimes a feature isn’t explained. When I first started the game, I had no idea how to put the bus into gear and pull away. Works out that there are buttons you press on your dashboard (when in the first-person view), but if you switch the game mode from simulation over to simplified, you can accelerate and reverse with L2 and R2, without manually changing into drive or reverse. Kind of fundamental to be able to move in the bus world.
As I said, I found Bus Simulator to be therapeutic. I like all the nuances like checking the mirror, indicating and opening and closing the doors. Yes, I sound simple, and I guess you’re right, but the point is, the game is enjoyable. Though it’s not an exciting game in the slightest, I’ve put in a good amount of time into this and enjoy my job moonlighting as a bus driver.
So, it drives well, it’s relatively enjoyable and has a good deal of depth. There is also a multitude of options to customise your playstyle. However, the penalty system and inadequate explanations in some areas of the game are an absolute pig. One of the early objectives was to make a new route and complete a round trip. I spent a good ten minutes planning it, then 30 minutes driving before realising that you can’t manually create a round trip as the route doubles up on itself.
Additionally, there’s no ’round trip’ option on the menu. Through a bit of experimentation (it was college, we all did it) I found that the option to complete a round trip was called ‘ping pong’. And there I was thinking I owned a luxury bus that had an indoor table tennis setup.
Bus Simulator sounded like a stupid title and concept. When I mentioned to my friends, both of them, they had the same reaction. “Bus simulator?” [insert scoff and appropriately raised eyebrow]. I went into this game with a similar view, though am just enough (it’s in the name) to give an honest opinion and at least try it. The bottom line is, I enjoyed the game much more than I could anticipate.
Bus Simulator PS4 Review
Overall - Good - 6/10
Bus Simulator isn’t a game I wouldn’t usually entertain, but found it to be a pleasant experience. The penalty system is irritating, as is the dialogue of passengers with their dead eyes. There’s a lot of trial and error with how to play the game, which isn’t necessarily a good thing. If you generally like driving games, this is good, but don’t expect it to be anything like Crazy Taxi. Unless you want to go bankrupt from all the corpses.
- Genuinely satisfying to drive around town
- Lots of options to get the best experience
- A good element of strategy; routes and assignments
Reviewed using base PS4.