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Review: LNER A4 Pacific for RailWorks
Publisher: Just Trains
Reviewed By Matthew Peddlesden
Date: 11 April 2010


Note: In these screenshots you will see various variations of the JustTrains LNER A4 Pacific loco from the pack, you will also see the Digital Traction Mark 1 coach pack being used behind them. These coaches are not included in the pack and I use them because I just can't face the default ones after using these!

I think everyone looks for something slightly different out of this Railway Enthusiasm that we all have. For me it's always been the general impression of sheer power and elegance, a steam engine that is capable of pulling such heavy loads at such high speeds taking on the role traditionally thought of as the burly farm hand - yet doing so with the elegance and beauty of the farmers wife. There are two steam locomotives that have always really captured my imagination because for me they represent the extreme (at least from the UK perspective!) of those two aspects of a steam engine. The first is the BR Standard Class 9F heavy freight locomotive - but i'll save the emotive drivel about that one for a future review. The second is the stunningly beautiful (in my opinion at any rate!) streamlined LNER Class A4 Pacific designed by Sir Nigel Gresley for the London North Eastern Railway (LNER) in 1935.

The A4 is a bit of an enigma in terms of the actual shape of the main body much like the Intercity 125. Over the history of train simulation there have been numerous attempts to capture the shape and while most did an admirable job very few you could look at and not feel something out of place (even if you couldn't see quite what). When I heard that JustTrains were going to be producing one, and further that it was Matt Ivey (who has released a number of outstanding freeware items of stock as well) that would be doing it I was quietly confident we would have a winner on our hands.

The download will set you back about 210mb so you can immediately appreciate that this is no small loco pack. While the pack does not contribute anything to your library other than the A4 locomotives, it certainly does so in a way that will give most A4 fans the loco, shape or variant that they like. Whether you want the BR Green, BR Blue, LNER Blue or LNER Silver liveries, red or grey wheels or whether you like it with or without the side-skirts (valances) - there's probably a combination in there that you'll appreciate. In addition you also get some other variants with or without head boards, and a couple of variations of the Mallard herself.

I must say at this point that I have not yet had the opportunity to run the scenarios, i've only run the loco's themselves in free roam.

There is a nice custom cab for the A4's as well as a rather nice sound set. I also noted that the author has done some work to improve the particle effects so that it feels much more in line with the recent "Tornado" release from rs.com rather than the poorer default locos. What this means is that you get the exhaust visible when you open the cylinder cocks, you get an extra effect when you blow the whistle and a different particle effect is used for the main steam exhaust when you're stationary so that you don't get that horrible "ball of smoke" effect on top of the engine. The one thing that they didn't seem to rectify was that when you shut the regulator, while the engine sounds stop chuffing - the smoke particles still chuff. This is a pretty minor thing though and overall it looks and sounds superb.

The graphic detail of the locomotives is outstanding, as you can see from some of the closer up screenshots there is a ton of 3D detail in there and the detail of the texturing is such that there are things to see even when you zoom right up close to them, such as the builder plates and other plaques. I even noted that the "rivet counters" will be kept happy with the presence of many screws holding the Sir Nigel Gresley nameplate on! Though, perhaps once all the rivets are able to be counted correctly, one must then consider rivet composition and style :) - but let's not go there!

JustTrains have switched the DRM copy protection mechanism in this release to a newer approach that seems somewhat less clunky than the old system and while their old system refused completely to work on my Windows 7 machine, I am happy to report that the new system seemed to work much better. Unfortunately unlike Steam DLC where you can have copies of the DLC where-ever you have RailWorks, this is not the case with the JustTrains files that can only be installed once. This should not present a problem for most people however.

Update

I've spoken with JustTrains today about the copy protection limitations mentioned in the review above and am delighted to report that I had simply misunderstood them, in addition the "for review" copy actually has different restrictions than the normal consumer copy which explains why my experience was less than the normal consumer would expect.

JustTrains have clarified that their system does permit more use than one time - to explain it more simply, they split the process in to two separate parts.

Unlock - This is where you enable the add-on for installation on to your machine. You can UNLOCK on to up to three different installations of Windows, that is either three different machines OR three different re-installations of the same machine. If you need to exceed that then you need to get in contact with JustTrains for further advice. It is not possible to "lock" it on to a machine again to free that lock, once it's used it's gone.

Install - Separately from unlocking, you can install the add-on as many times as you lock on any Windows installation that it has been unlocked on.

Overall I have to say that this loco is a personal favourite, beautifully represented.



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