As more simulation games come to market, more inevitably make their way to consoles. The genre is now huge, filled with classics like Euro Truck Simulator 2 and Surgeon Simulator to more niche offerings such as PC Building Simulator and House Flipper. They come in weird and wonderful forms, and Bus Simulator is next to pull up and allow Xbox passengers on board.
Bus Simulator falls in line with Euro Truck Simulator 2 in focusing on transporting things around large European areas. This time around, cargo is replaced with human passengers who bring their own bit of flair to proceedings. Sadly, they don’t do too much to make Bus Simulator compelling, but they do bring some laughs along the way. Bus Sim exists for the most dedicated of public transport enthusiasts, but is easy enough to pick up and play for others who are simply curious.
Getting accustomed to your bus
The gameplay options are your usual affair when it comes to driving games. There are a few perspective choices to pick from including cockpit and chase cam before setting off. The driving physics feel weighty and there is a definite sense of heft from your vehicle, whichever bus you choose. There are a lot of manual options in the cockpit which can be finicky to press but definitely serve to immerse the driver. You can mess around with almost anything in your vehicle including accessibility ramps, lights, radios and so on. There is a realistic driving option aimed at the more experienced, but this mode does little beyond adding more manual switches into the mix before setting off. Overall, the driving experience is the best bit about Bus Simulator.
After getting equipped with your test drive, you’re met with some objectives. This forms the basis of the career mode, which tasks you with carrying out any number of missions. You may be required to pass by certain stops, create routes or expand your business. The game tries its best to mix these up, but ultimately they come down to a similar gameplay experience. The main differences on each run will be traffic levels and whether roadworks have altered your route, forcing some last minute changes.
Adding some personality
The way that Bus Simulator could have set itself apart would be player interactions with your passengers. A lot of simulation games are focused around the player and the activity, but Bus Sim naturally brings customers into the mix. However, the way that the passengers are voiced and acted is laughable. Not only do they struggle to walk straight whilst getting on the bus, the voice acting is subpar. Passengers sound unnatural and almost robotic in tone, and the nearest game example I could think of was Test Drive Unlimited 2. I appreciate the developers adding voicing, but more time spent on this area could have made Bus Sim stand out. Oh and one more thing, what passenger gives 20 Euros cash for a 2 Euro fare?!
There are some neat customisation options for your bus which in all honesty, I wasn’t expecting. You can add cool paint jobs and decals to your ride, which give it some personality. Yes, you’ll still be driving a Mercedes bus, but it’s instantly cooler with a UFO sticker on it right? You can purchase other buses, but there are only a limited number in the store. It also takes some driving to unlock the higher level options. These choices are welcome, but they almost contradict the sterile nature of the game’s visuals. Grey is the order of the day and the fidelity feels very last-gen in execution. The game weighs in at a measly 3GB for an open world style title, which says a lot about the detail on offer. It’s serviceable, but looks dated for 2019. There are some performance issues too, with major texture pop-in and FPS drops, even on Xbox One X.
Getting around and multiplayer
One other bone of contention is the User interface. It’s busy, and doesn’t do the best job of explaining things. Not only that, but sometimes button presses don’t work and UI elements overlapped. I appreciate there are a lot of options to cram in with simulation games, but more time could have certainly been spent on usability. One option tucked away on the main menu is multiplayer, which offers a few options. There’s a convoy mission where you can invite players to each control a bus, along with an option for someone to ride shotgun. When I was testing ahead of launch there were no public servers but the system worked fine when inviting a friend. This mode was definitely a laugh with a friend; we’re just not sure if it’s for the right reasons…
Overall, I can only really recommend Bus Simulator for the most hardcore enthusiast. If you’re really into Bus travel there is fun to be had transporting passengers around. Messing around with the customization options along with the solid driving mechanics will serve you well. However, if you’re a sim fan or a gamer looking for something new there are a lot more polished and feature complete simulators out there on the market.