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Buy it Now!
cover
19.99 From Amazon.co.uk
Review: High Speed Trains
Developer: Aerosoft, Publisher: Contact Sales
Reviewed By Matthew Peddlesden
Date: 1 April 2002



BR103 'Touristique'

BR216

BR218

BR103

High Speed Trains is a German package that traces the route from Kassel-Wilhelmshone to Fulda, specially constructed for the delpoyment of ICE High Speed Trains and is itself part of the complete route from Hannover to Wurzburg.

Before going much further I should stress that I am not particularly familiar with the German Railways - my experience with them is limited to a couple of trips, both times from Frankfurt to Bonn and back for a Star Trek convention :)

The package comes with the route mentioned, a number of loco's plus rolling stock and a few activities - this meets one of my personal desires out of any commercial package. Whether good or bad, it is at least complete and an effort has been made to spend more than 5 minutes on the Activities, so extra points there.


BR103

BR103 Cab

BR103 'Lufthansa Express'

BR103 'TEE'

Manual

The manual is quite nice, walking you through each of the loco's that you will be driving and introducing their real world characteristics, their cab views and some background information on them.

Next it goes in fairly good detail in to the German Signalling system, what they all mean and how you will see them visualised in your cab.

Another couple of pages then describe the route to you, we'll cover that ourselves in more detail later on.

Finally a good number of pages are dedicated to describing each activity to you in good detail.

The screenshots in the manual are taken from the German version of MSTS though this shouldn't cause anyone a problem :)


Departing Fulda

ICE-1

ICE-1

ICE-1 Amtrak

Stock

The package includes 8 different class of locomotives in multiple liveries, and where specific rolling stock is used this has also been included. The loco's included are:

  • ICE-1
  • ICE-1 Amtrak
  • ICE-2
  • DB ICE-3
  • NS ICE-3
  • BR103 IR (InterRegio)
  • BR103 LE (Lufthansa Express)
  • BR103 NR (Neu Rot)
  • BR103 TEE
  • BR103 TR (Touristique)
  • P-10 Steam Engine
  • TrackZeppelin
  • BR216
  • BR218

ICE-1 Cab

ICE-1 out of Fulda

ICE-3

ICE-3 Cab

A fairly comprehensive list and as I mentioned previously there are custom coaches to go behind some of them such as the Lufthansa Express and the Touristique.

All of the loco's except the 216/218 have their own custom Cab Views. The 216/218 use the Dash9 Cab View via Aliasing.

All of the rolling stock also has passenger views, with the passenger view from the ICE-3 looking particularly nice just behind the drivers seat.

Other than the 216/218, it's also all Electric stock.

Overall I felt the quality of the stock was quite high, the 216/218 do let it down as they look fairly rushed. The Zeppelin was a novel inclusion, but I'm not sure how much use you're going to get out of it.


ICE-3 Passenger View

Lufthansa Express Coaches

Neu Rot Coaches

P-10

The paint schemes on the 103's are generally very good, especially the Touristique livery which has a rather 'loud' livery.

Almost all of the stock has transparent windows with visible interiors, though the ICE-1 and ICE-2 do not. I also could not see much difference at all between the ICE-1 and ICE-2, though that could easily be down to my unfamiliarity with German Stock - I'm sure if I showed my wife a Class 45 and a Class 37 she'd think they were quite similar! :)

The Steam engine was a nice inclusion, it is textured well and it animates smoothly. It also has its own period coaches, which add to the authenticity.

For those that aren't aware, when Amtrak were looking around for what we now know as the Acela, they approached the German Railways and an ICE-1 was taken to the North East Corridor for trials as one of the options. This special model has been included and has different pantograph heights so that it can run properly on the North East Corridor route that is included with MSTS.

The Cab Views included on the more modern loco's are quite nice indeed, with working digital LCD displays for the various gauges. There is even a Cab View for the TrackZeppelin (which is just a special kind of coach propelled along with a propellor at the back believe it or not :) ).

Overall I was quite happy with the stock, though it doesn't stand out as being anything to jump out and bite you either. The interior visibility on the ICE-3 makes it look very fetching as you rotate your view around - converseley, the lack of interior on the ICE-1 makes it look very poor.


P-10

P-10

P-10

Route Shot

Route

As I have said, the route represents a high speed express line between Kassel and Fulda. Whenever I try out a new route there are a number of things that I look for. What is the main focus of the route - ie. what is it trying to represent and how well does it do that? This route is a fairly unusual one due to the extensive number of tunnels and bridges in it - 24 Tunnels and 18 Bridges to be exact. The longest tunnel is over 5 km in length. When you consider the route supplied is 91 km in length, I began to get concerned.

The Bridge and Tunnels are very well made indeed, they give a good feeling of where you are - there are even the name boards in front of the tunnel entrances so that you know which tunnel you are going in to and how long it is (though if you're in the ICE you're probably going a bit too fast to be able to read them!).


Route Shot

Route Shot

Route Shot

Route Shot

Either end of the route you have the two main stations, both are very well detailed with plenty of surrounding buildings. They have gotten around the framerate problem of lots of houses by using long single polygons that have a display of houses on them, the same way that some people have done forest models in MSTS. While this does do the job, and it certainly eases up framerates, I can't help but think it actually ends up detracting from the effect because you lose some of the feeling of depth when the houses don't have multiple viewpoints, they just become almost infinitely thin :)

There are a number of 'Overtaking Stations' on the route, I was initially very disappointed that they had included stations but put absolutely no effort in to platforms and so forth - until I re-read the manual and found out that these aren't really stations in the normal meaning of the word, there are no passenger embarkations or departures at an Overtaking station, it's simply used so that an ICE train can overtake a slower Freight train on the route.

Where can you go with this route?

You can go from Kassel to Fulda, and you can go from Fulda to Kassel - and that's about it. There are branches off the main line but they go in to the distance and then get buffered off. I found this to be one of the biggest disappointments with the route, and the fact that some of the default paths end up sending you in to these buffers just didn't seem very well tested to me.


An 'Overtaking' Station

Route Shot

Route Shot

An 'Overtaking' Station

What scope is there for your own activities?

I consider this one quite important because exploring the route won't show you all there is to see on a route and more often than not you'll get bored with it and move on to something else. In order to have scope for activities there should be stations to stop at, branches to do something different and so forth. The Kassel-Fulda route is seriously lacking in any features that might allow many more activities besides the default ones, they pretty much cover all that you can do with the route out of the box, but more about the activities later on.

Are there any track faults?

I saw the odd jiggle in the track where it does a slight side-jog to one side, but apart from 1 or 2 instances of this the track was very well put down, I didn't get a single broken coupler on several runs up and down the route.

How populated is the scenery?

It varies from being not bad at all, to very sparse. The stations are quite complex though they appear to mostly be quite simple shapes with quite complex textures on them - though the effect is achieved and the stations do look quite authentic. I haven't been to either station but I still got the impression that on leaving the station it just seemed too empty, there didn't seem to be enough on the ground. As you progress through the route you will go through many tunnels and over many bridges and in these areas the scenery is quite nicely detailed, but their main effort is in just those areas. I found that going over a bridge you'd perhaps get a road underneath it, you could see a village in the distance (unfortunately also constructed using the single polygon housing 'photos' so for the most part they didn't look all that great) and occasionally a river.

Don't get me wrong, it's quite possible that this is exactly how the route looks in real life, it is after all a very modern route designed for high speed trains. You aren't going to get "classic character" from such a route - my concern is whether or not this route was a particularly good choice for a commercial product.

I like to spend my time outside of the cab when I'm on the long haul, unless I have specific need to keep my eye peeled to the gauges I would much rather enjoy the external view. Due to the tunnels on this route, you're going to spend quite a lot of time in the cab view staring at dark tunnels necessarily. The bridges also mean that view mode '4' doesn't work particularly well as all you see for a lot of the time is the train shooting under you.


Route Shot

Route Shot 'Kassel'

Route Shot 'Kassel'

TrackZeppelin

Activities

There are a few activities supplied that cover a few operations:

  • Introductory Journey
    Unfortunately this one is still in its German name on the UK Release.
    It is a simple passenger run from Kassel to Fulda in the ICE-1.
  • Kassel-Fulda
    This is another simple journey from Kassel to Fulda but this time in different weather conditions and in the ICE-3 instead.
  • Fulda-Kassel
    Going back the other way, in the ICE-2 this time.
  • Frost Damage
    It's a cold winter day and you are taking an ICE-1 from Fulda to Kassel, there are speed restrictions in place and a point has been damaged.
  • Freight Transport Part 1
    This is a two parter, the first one see's you moving some wagons around Fulda so you can later take some necessary parts and equipment to Licherode. Unfortunately you're shunting around some BNSF wagons.
  • Freight Transport Part 2
    Now it's time to take the freight train to Licherode.
  • Old and New
    It's time to take the P-10 Steam Engine out for a commemorative run from Kircheim to Kassel.
Overall the activities aren't bad, they do exercise pretty much all of the opportunities for activities that are present in the route due to limitations on the route itself.

There are some spelling and grammatical errors in the briefings but I put that down to the translation process - they are not serious errors and you will be able to clearly understand what you are doing.

Summary

Overall I have to say that I was a bit disappointed with this product. They have put some good effort in to the route but I feel that for my money, they didn't pick a particularly clever route - blasting up and down an express line is only fun the first couple of times and I expect more replayability than that out of a commercial product.

The locomotives have come out very well, with the exception of the ICE-1 lacking transparent windows/interior and the 216/218 which just looks very blocky. The inclusion of cab views, passenger views and sounds also boosts the value of this product as you're at least not going to be stuck looking at the Dash 9 cab having paid 25 pounds for the product (well, with the exception of the 216/218 that is).

We found at least a couple of spots where changing a point manually would cause the entire system to completely freeze, requiring a cold restart to get the PC working again. This was verified on two different machines and two points.

If you are interested in German Railways or you enjoy the high speed express line trains then this product will be of interest to you - but that's about all there is to it. There are no passenger stations besides the ones at either end (Kassel and Fulda) and there are no freight opportunities or branch lines besides doing some activities like the two-parter that is already included.

For everyone else, I'm sorry to say that this probably wouldn't hold your interest for more than maybe a couple of hours.

Our final score for this product:

54%



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