The idea of driving around in a 1:1 recreation of a real city in a game is something I’ve thought about fairly often. It’d truly take virtual tourism to the next level. Unfortunately, it’s a feat that’s easier said than done, as believably and realistically mapping out such massive places with that level of accuracy is a tall order. The Bus, a bus-driving simulator that enters Early Access this week, promises to let players do that with certain streets in Berlin. Alongside typical navigation and fare collection, the game holds a fair amount of promise. But the question stands: is it worth it?
When you start The Bus simulator for the first time, you’re greeted with a truly paltry list of modes. Although this is an Early Access release, all it has is a freeplay mode. Players can choose between options for the weather, which route to take, what time of day the shift begins, and how the bus handles. As this is a sim, I naturally selected the realistic option. You’re not just glued behind the wheel of a bus, either. You can walk around the entire map in first or third-person if you so desire. Once you get on the bus, you’ll let passengers on, turn on the air conditioning, remove the parking brake, and then set off on your route.
Along the way, you’ll pick up more passengers at bus stops. While playing an earlier build, some passengers would occasionally come up to me and purchase a ticket, which meant I had to put in the ticket info, collect their legal tender, and give them correct change. After the update, however, not only did no one buy any tickets, no one would even get on the bus. Still, the graphics in The Bus are high resolution and sharp. Well, as long as you don’t look at any of the garish, strange character models, the main character included.
Need a lift?
I tried The Bus with both mouse and keyboard controls and a gamepad. There are a great many actions to choose from that go a long way towards making you feel like you’re actually driving public transportation. The driving is fine, except for the fact that gamepad doesn’t appear to support acceleration via the triggers. I had to hold forward, which wasn’t quite what I wanted. I may be missing something, but I couldn’t find a way to reverse either. At one point, I got stuck on a railing and couldn’t get free. You can see that in this article’s featured image.
Although the game’s Steam page mentions being 1:1 scale with Berlin, this is certainly only true with specific routes, which is understandable. As of now, though, there just isn’t anything to do in the game other than mess around in the available space. The Bus truly feels like an alpha and that includes the unsurprisingly poor performance, as the game routinely dipped below 30fps for me.
I’m curious to see how the game’s career mode pans out, but there’s just not enough to do aside from driving around on the available roads. I’m not sure why the developers are releasing the game into Steam Early Access at this point, as this is more of a proof of concept right now than anything else. As such, no, it’s not worth it just yet. Maybe with time, but getting in on the ground floor of The Bus is only for diehard of the simulator genre at this juncture. Also, it has Denuvo for some reason already. They’re very serious about bus security, I guess.