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Review: Maglev 2005
Developer: Abacus Publishing, Publisher: Contact Sales
Reviewed By Matthew Peddlesden
Date: 31 December 2002


When I first heard about this product I was not confident of a fun product, unfortunately now that I have finished looking at it I have to say that even though some decent effort has been put in to the package, my initial concerns have still proven correct.

Leaving Barstow, California bound for Vegas The open desert, get used to this view! More desert The cab view is quite good with the working LCD screen

I have based this review on the latest version of Maglev 2005, which you can see my looking on your original CD. If it has 'V2' on the right hand side underneath where it says 'Abacus Publishing' then you have this version, I am told that the original version had some serious issues so I would chase up with Abacus about how to get hold of Version 2 if you want to have the latest version of the product.

Maglev 2005 represents a currently fictional (but apparently planned) Maglev route to go from Barstow to Las Vegas. For those that don't know the area very well - it's across the desert.

Maglev trains are different from the normal variety in Train Simulator due to their very different way of working - magnetic levitation. This means all new track as well as the route, the rolling stock and the activities.

Going over a bridge Unfortunately, because the trains are raised above ground level they always appear at the top of your screen Desert behind you too, but lots more to come Some static scenery of a 'Maglev 2' train, though it hasn't been placed too accurately and looks a bit wonky

The track that is included is nicely modelled and puts your train high above the ground. Unfortunately this leads to a couple of side effects that are minor but niggles never the less. All of the mile markers and speed posts appear in their normal form way down below you and most certainly out of sight when you're in cab view. The second niggle is that the trains themselves have obviously had to have their heights adjusted in their 3D models rather than MSTS automatically playing them correctly on the top of the track - this an MSTS flaw for these purposes but it still means that your train will spend all its time at the top of the screen when you're in external views, and don't even consider using the 'trackside' view (4) as there's not much to see standing on the ground close to the track as your train speeds past above you :)

There is only one actual maglev train included though it has been repainted in to numerous bright and colourful liveries that are used in the activities. They look pretty good and include transparent windows - though due to the nature of the maglev train there are no moving parts to be found anywhere.

The ground textures do change periodically but there is no effort to hide the stark change line Primm station Going over an attractive valley A look back at Barstow from a little way out

The route is the biggest problem area in the package but before I go on I feel I must clarify that by saying that the overall build quality of the route is actually very good. I found this route to be much like the Aerosoft High Speed Trains produc in that it has been executed very well but the actual choice of a route for a commercial product was (in my opinion at least) very poor. There are very few points on the route and indeed for the most part you're going to find yourself staring at long straight pieces of track for a few minutes (and at 300mph that's a lot of track), every now and again it'll swoop to the left or right and then return to straight track again. There are odd bridges - though they all look the same - and tunnels dotted around the route which does at least add something to break the route up. The stations don't seem quite right, it's like they are made entirely of glass without any kind of support structures in place and even in the near future I don't think they'll be making buildings like that.

One area that shines as an example of the superb execution of the route is in built up areas such as Las Vegas itself, they have outdone themselves with creating a wonderful feel of Vegas around the trackside. The variety of buildings and their build quality is very nice - it's just a shame that you are only around them briefly and then it's off out in to the hot desert for a long while.

This rocky area is a bit of a surprise in the route Sitting in the cab awaiting departure from Las Vegas Looking back at Las Vegas from the ground A lot of excellent buildings in the Vegas area

Occasionally as you drive you'll see signs down the side, tree's, roads, highways and small clusters of houses but it's fairly sparse and I still found it quite hard work to make myself drive it from end to end.

There are three stations on the route, Barstow and Vegas at each end and Primm is near Vegas between the two.

The activities included are a fairly dull affair but this is mostly down to the limitations offered by the route. I was disappointed that in the activities I tried I didn't see any other rolling stock at all which tends to give the impression that they were rushed and tacked on at the end. Given the nature of the route where stock doesn't tend to interact it should have been a fairly easy affair to add at least something else.

I also observed that timetables hadn't been properly set up for the activities, once again adding to the rushed view.

Again, due to the limitations of the route there are no signals anywhere (no points and apparently no tail-chasing either mean that you hardly need them), so there's not much track-scenery.

Leaving Las Vegas Heading in to a tunnel If you catch it, this is what a speed sign looks like, not particularly visible... One of the station approach signs

There are no gradients on the route either, so all in all there really is very little challenge to the product, not too much to see beyond a few scattered areas of (admittedly very good) scenery and no variety in the rolling stock other than the paint scheme. No extra effort was made to perhaps make the doors of the coaches slide open or to use animations for other purposes, and none of the stations have anything like sliding doors to add that little extra pizazz.

One thing that I was very concerned about was an extra paper note included in the box, it states that when you select an activity or explore the route you will get two error dialog boxes about missing SMS files. You should ignore them and return to MSTS and all will proceed. I have to say that for a commercial product that is just about as unacceptable as it gets. You're going to get those two errors every time you go in to anything on that route so it's not a one-off when you start MSTS either. Please note that this issue is noted as present in the newer V2 version of the product!

On a positive note I should say that the installation did go very smoothly. MSTS is not very happy about adding new kinds of track due to the way it works and I heard all manner of problems reported about this product on the forums whereby it didn't work if you had extra tracks installed such as XTracks or UKFineScale. I can happily say that I have XTracks installed on my machine for various freeware routes and the installation of Maglev had no problems at all.

I never enjoy writing a bad review, as a developer myself I know that there are people behind these packages that put their heart and soul in to them and having your work slated isn't the greatest thing in the world. But on the flip side, they are also asking for people to part with their money to see the product and therefore it's my responsibility to say if I think that you're getting a good deal. In this case I am very sorry to say that I cannot recommend this product at all.

Given the high quality of the models and some of the effort that was put in to this product however I am hopeful that when this team get together for a future product we should see something very good.

Overall Score

30%



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