ETO Software brought us the very useful 'Activity Analysis' application, you can find a review for that one on the
site elsewhere so I won't go in to detail about it - suffice to say that when Ernst (the author) told me they were
working on a route I immediately told him to put me on his notification list for when it was available!
German Railroads Volume One focuses on the DB in the 1970's covering two primary lines (Finnentrop-Olpe-Betzdorf and
Ople-Diering-hausen). This route isn't a high speed main line but a more local line with some stretches at single track
winding around tight bends, over bridges and so forth. Consequently you can expect fairly dense scenery and loads to
keep your eye out for as you drive - but we'll get to some of that as we go through the review.
Looking at the technical aspects first, in the box you'll find a ton of information about the route in PDF format ready to
print out (there's a manual that has some of it too but the PDF's is much more detailed including gradient information
and so forth). Once installed you'll have about 100 km of route, 6 driveable locos, 2 driveable railcars, a massive 48
freight cars, 9 passenger cars and approximately 49 activities to keep you busy.
Locomotives and Rolling Stock
I found the locomotives were all completed to a very high standard, the detail of the interiors on all locomotives was
much higher than i've seen on most other loco's. The textures are all clean and crisp, inclding the larger container
wagons which often are the victim of some blurring as textures are stretched a little.
All the loco's have custom cab views which are very good (optimised for 1024x768 I think) and the custom sounds with all
of the stock are definitely a good addition - winding the railcar up the gears sounds awesome :)
I found that the brakes on the little BR323 shunter were less than useful - going around 20 km/h approaching a red
signal I gave myself 2km to stop, after 1km I had barely slowed down so I put it on 'Continuous Service' and was still doing
10 as I came within visual of the signal - some forward drive was needed to finally bring it to a halt just in time,
and no, I was running light - no wagons!
Note from the developer:|
The Köf without waggons have to be braked by the loco-brake and not the train-brake. Than it works fine. You can read it in the README after the installation.
While we're on the subject of the 323, I found this a cute little loco. The cab view is different to most as the normal
"front" view is actually left facing and then looking forward or backward requires you to look right or left appropriately and
then affords you a fairly clear view of the track in either direction so you can see what you're doing.
I was very impressed to see that, for the first time in a commercial product (or at least the first time i've
noticed it) we have a loco that has Specular Lighting enabled (the BR217). It's something that people have been doing for
a while now in the Freeware world but it's definitely good to see this feature being used in commercial products, as you
can see from the screenshots of the 217 it looks particularly good with the light reflecting off it.
Passenger cars don't really have passenger views as such - they've cheated a little with those as the passenger view is
more "head out of the window". It's certainly not due to lack of effort, there is an awesomely detailed interior to all of
the coaches so I guess they just wanted to go for the head-out effect on some of them. Other coaches do have a good
interior view to look around, including of course the DMU's.
The 48 freight cars are quite impressive not only in their sheer volume but also in the variety. I was quite amused to
see a train of brand new tractors and excavator shovels (screenshot is included in the review! :) ). There's the usual
staple of containers, tankers and flats etc with varieties of loads on them too. All of the cars that I looked at were
again very high quality with very fine detailed textures on them.
Driving the rail cars can be quite a lot of fun, they are all geared so there's more to worry about than just forwards
Up until I saw this pack I have to say that I thought Pro Train 2 was going to be a hard act for anyone to beat but it hasn't
taken long at all. It's a different route in a different time period so whether it "beats" it or not is perhaps irrelevant
but I will definitely say that the route is top notch. The detail of the scenery is very high with a vast number of custom
objects that have been made for it. The attention to detail goes down to the level of a real enthusiast and other than
Pro Train I have only seen this kind of care and attention on freeware routes in the past. As you can tell, I am
very much impressed.
Whether the route is anything like the real one that it represents I have no idea, the manual claims that it is a pretty
accurate copy within the confines and limitations of Train Simulator and adds that they have decided to put in a few extra
industries to bolster up the potential for activities.
You'll find a vast number of detailed stations along the route and an equally large number of industries and yards, so the
scope for people to write activities is very good indeed. I see that with some third party support in the freeware
community that this route/pack could well have a very long life indeed.
There are even a few very nice surprises along the route - I've included a couple of screenshots of them in the selection
on this review. I was coming out of Olpe with the 217 and as I noticed the specular lighting effect I saw something at the
top of the screen - I stopped the train and checked - sure enough, that's a Cessna up there flying an advertising banner, and
yes it's animated and flying! Later on I spotted a couple of yachts having a race on Bigge Lake, also animated and going
around their course. Very good indeed and only serving to add to the view that these people really have put some effort
in to this add-on.
Given that it is a more country route than a main line route you won't see cities, you'll see towns and villages and stations
of varying sizes from medium to pretty small. You'll be next to lakes, along the sides of large hills and much more, there's
so much to look at as you drive this route you're likely to suffer the same problem I had with Pro Train 2 - too much looking
at the scenery and not enough at the speed limits and signals :)
All of the signalling is new with a pretty complete implementation of the German Semaphore signalling system. Don't worry
if you have never seen it before either, there's a lot of detailed information included in the pack to help you learn it and
an Activity supplied specifically teaches you all the signals as you drive down a short part of the route. Well worth doing,
you'll learn that there are some road crossings that are un-barriered and you'll need to blow your horn as you get to them
or the activity you're in will immediately end. You'll learn that there are signs telling you about upcoming speed limits and
then other signs signify the start of the new limit - in fact i'm fairly sure that with all the signs and signalling they have
provided, the alert cab driver should be able to drive the route perfectly comfortably without ever having the Track Monitor
There are no default objects (at least none that I could see), just loads upon loads of new custom objects so you can look
forward to lots of new things to see.
I did think some of the winter textures were a little odd but they weren't "oh yuck" odd, they are perfectly acceptable.
The 49 activities supplied are extremely wide ranging both in the amount of time they take, the type of activity and the
difficulty. You'll be doing some shunting, some freight work, some passenger hauling and so forth, there's something in
there for everybody regardless of which aspect of the railways you particularly like. I ran half a dozen or so of the
activities and had a great time with them.
As you can tell, I'm impressed with this one. Just as with Pro Train I have been trying to find some things wrong with
the pack and about the best I can come up with are the few points mentioned already and the fact that some of their
custom cars seem almost cartoonish (mostly due to their very clean and lined nature more than anything, dirt is something
often forgotten in computer games!).
It's extremely good value for money - SimWare have it available for just £15.82, click the link at the top of this page to
order it from them now.
Who is going to enjoy this pack? I'd say anyone can enjoy this one, but if you are in to German Railways or just don't mind where they
are as long as they're railways then this pack is definitely one for the collection, plenty to do out of the box and plenty of
scope for future activities to be developed. The authors also mention that it is their hope to make additions to the pack available
such as more loco's.
I'm going to rate this pack one of our highest ratings: