When we first took a look at Microsoft Train Simulator we were pleasantly surprised at the game’s playabilty and appeal. Just how exciting can driving a train be? Microsoft and UK developer Kuju proved there was more to driving trains than just hitting the ‘go’ switch and hurtling along miles of track applying the breaks occasionally to pick up a few Sunday shoppers.Most gamers will recognise the name Auran from their other train title Trainz which is currently in development and will also be available from Strategy First in the not too distant future. Trainz is very much in a similar vein to MS Train Sim providing a virtual railroad experience to the masses. Drawing on their research and experience you can rest a*ured these guys know what they’re talking about.So you’ve toyed with all the locomotives in the original release and what now? Just released from Auran and Strategy First is the Microsoft Train Simulator USA and Canada regional add-on pack which adds new trains to the already extensive selection included in the original game. There are a whopping 20 new trains in this expansion pack including the EMD GP38-2 (hi hood) – Southern Railroad, EMD GP38-2 (hi hood) – Norfolk Southern, GE Dash9 44CW – Atchison, Topeka & San and the ALCo FA2 – New York Central to name but a few. While these probably won’t mean anything to the average gamer, the more discerning train buff should recognise a few of these little beauties.To accompany the new locomotives Auran have also created a new look cab, all their own design, which certainly has a different feel to the cabs in the original game. Hopping back in the cab after a short break was harder than I expected so to get back into the swing of things a trip back into the training was called for. Train Sim, once you get the hang of it, is essentially pretty easy but it does take practice. After a bit of a recap it was time to tackle the new Auran trains and the new cab which was a bit of a puzzle at first.The new cab reacts the same way as the MS Train Sim cabs, all the levers can be pulled about using the mouse but it really helps to know the hotkeys, it just makes life so much easier. The layout in Auran’s cab is slightly different from, what you may be used to in MS Train Sim and seems a little more complex at first, but essentially the fundamentals are the same. All the new trains feature this same cab design which is probably the only drawback with these new additions, a couple of extra cabs would have been nice to give a different feel to each new locomotive. No doubt Auran are saving up all their design ideas for their own product so treat this as a taster.20 new locomotives means 20 new models and designs. I have to say Auran have done a great job, the trains do look fantastic which is helped by the solid game engine of the original game. Whether you’re into trains or not, you can’t but help marvel at the attention to detail on the models and the colour schemes.Because of the way MS Train sim has been constructed you can only select the ‘Explore’ mode to access the new trains which also come with specific ‘consists’, or load-outs if you prefer. These Consists determine what train you will star with and what you’re pulling behind the train on any specific route. The explore mode allows you to take any type of train on any route when in fact this would not be possible in real life. This is reflected in the ‘Activity’ (missions) selection where certain activities take place on certain routes which are used be specific train types. After all, you cant have an electric train running of there’s no power lines to keep it moving.We like to do things properly here at Loadedinc, so get the most out of the add-we fired up the the MS Train Sim editor, specifically the Activity Editor, and started creating our own train combos and scenarios. This sounds like a daunting task but Auran have provided a basic step-by-step tutorial on their web site which is well written and easy to follow. This tutorial will see you on your way to putting these new locomotives into their own situations.So what do you get for your money? This MS Train Sim add-on is a great way to get easy instant access to new trains without messing about. The install procedure just adds everything and all the new locomotives are available on the locomotive listings along side the standard Train Sim locomotives. For serious Train Sim fans this is a great addition, it offers a good variety of new and interesting trains and of course don’t forget the Auran custom designed cab. If you‘ve been playing a lot of Train Sim you’ll no doubt be familiar with the editor so you’ll be able to let your creative juices flow.If you‘ve just dabbled with MS Train Sim then you may not find enough in here to warrant the purchase and using the editor to realise the add-on’s full potential may seem too daunting a task. On the other hand, if trains are a passion then you’ll be pleased to know Auran have done great job with the new additions and the USA Canada Regional Add-on pack is certainly worth the $19.99 (around £14.00).
Founder and Editor of PC Invasion. Veteran PC gamer of over 22 years.