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It is very unusual for any of my family to buy or even consider buying computer software as we spend quite a lot of time online when not at work or school.
In fact I had thought about train simulators in the past and always dismissed them as I didn't want to hear the "boys and their toys" from family members especially as I do own quite a few Hornby models etc that have found the way to our loft since we moved home back in May 2012.
I have always like watching trains (and no I'm not one of those "anoraks" you see at the end of station platforms) - diesels and electric ones mainly especially the engines that you no longer see up and down the tracks like the type 47 and 50's. Many years ago I would take my oldest son and daughter to watch them at our local station to get my son used to the noise and movement in readiness for a 5 hour train journey which I knew would be difficult for him with his autism. After the trip this just continued for years and we'd quite often spend the odd hour or so on a Saturday watching the odd train or 2 and hopefully be in time for one of the express services as they zoomed through the platform and into the distance.
I would in all fairness love to be able to drive an express - either a HST or one of the 225's that I'd seen around the country, but being colour blind that would never happen.
We were in our local Comet and Currys stores earlier in the year looking for a new washing machine to replace one we'd had for nearly four years and as the stores were next door to each other we went back and forth a number of times until we'd arrived at a decision and in so doing walked past Comet's range of PC software several times which on more than one occasion saw me pick up a number of train simulator DVD roms. In fact, I kept putting them back because I couldn't really justify the expense as they range from around £15 up to £25 and we were really looking for a washing machine!
Sue (my wife) eventually just looked at me and told me to stop messing around and just go and buy it - so I did. With a few hmms and arghs I bought Railworks 2 Train Simulator with a First Great Western HST pictured on the front for £17.50.
On arriving home from our shopping exploits I turned on the lappy and in popped the DVD. As it loaded and began installation it required a steam account to be set up which allows you to buy add-ons etc from an online site and additionally as I was to find out later allows your saved games to be stored in the "cloud". You can also install the game on additional pcs or laptops although before you can use a new computer an e-mail is sent to you asking confirmation that this was a genuine attempt at accessing your account.
What impressed me most about this game is that once it installed it updated itself to the newer Railworks 3 without any payment request which I found extremely odd as the newer version was on sale at around £5 more than the one I had chosen.
The game comes with a number of scenarios, trains, routes and buildings. Trains include steam, diesel and electric including HSTs, pandolinas and 225s. I am still very much a novice at this game and so far limited myself mainly to HSTs using varying scenarios on the Paddington to Oxford line and odd journeys between Newcastle and Darlington. I've also tried driving a steam train and missions using type 47 engines pulling freight and I've tried several times the test tracks learning how to drive!
For anyone interested in simulators this is one that is ever expanding, and in fact there were around 90 add-ons that could be purchased directly through your steam account which could be downloaded or posted to you. In my case I have bought another 5 add-ons that although half price still cost around another £15 in total and have also had 4 free download scenarios. I now have additional missions and new engines to try. You can also purchase add-ons from a range of other websites that include new engines, routes, missions and extra buildings that can be used to create your own routes. Two of those that I'm interested in buying are routes from Bristol to Avonmouth, and Bristol to Exeter which are routes I know quite well, but at £25 each were a little too highly priced.
When driving your train you can have a number of views either through the front cab window, or through both side windows which can be zoomed in or out, and there's also trackside or overhead views as well as a view that allows you to view other trains on the route or on some scenarios allows you to manually change points.
If you're interested in this kind of game there is plenty to do and plenty of add-ons to keep you occupied. Scenery is quite realistic but passengers at the various stations are a little samey or put another way - have you ever seen 300 men, woman and children that look identical?!
There are several ways of controlling trains - either using keyboard or mouse, although my most frustrating issue is that the view doesn't change when the train is in reverse.
This is a game I enjoy but, simulators are not for everyone so you'll either love it or loathe it! It is currently available for £12.99 + shipping from Amazon or from the likes of Comet, Currys or PC World.