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Review: ProTrain 2
Developer: Blue Sky Interactive, Publisher: Blue Sky Interactive
Reviewed By Matthew Peddlesden
Date: 20 June 2002
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I remember hearing nothing but fantastic things about ProTrain 1 so I was eager to get my hands on a copy of
ProTrain 2 as soon as it came out - the delay in writing this review since then has partly been due to my trying to
give it a thorough run through, it's a very big add-on!
What does ProTrain 2 come with ?
You get a selection of locos and rolling stock, plus a massive route and a bunch of varied activities - so this product
conforms to what I consider an "ideal" package in terms of the types of things it includes - but does it have the depth
to match the breadth? Quantity over Quality? With that in mind, let's get on with it.
BR101, BR112, BR132, BR143, BR232 plus RE160 and InterCity control cars (basically like our DBSO it allows the train
to be driven from either end, so you have a loco on one end and a control car on the other).
The locos are completed to a high standard, while they aren't the best money can buy they are still very good indeed. Working
wipers are not on many of them, though at least one does have them. The locos all have transparent cabs and engine areas
which adds a nice touch of realism as you pan around the loco.
I found the textures on the sides of the locos to be a bit on the blurry side but the trade-off there is that in order
to fix that you need more texture files - which eats up RAM and ultimately cuts in to the ever precious frame rate - I felt their
trade-off was more than adequate, the textures do look excellent, especially if you are a little away from the loco.
There are sounds for all the locos which I was glad to hear - some unique sounds that are obviously different. One of
the good things about the locos supplied is the variety - there are some diesels as well as Electrics in the list and
the sounds do them justice.
I very much liked the cabs, especially the 232 cab, it looks old and abused with writing scrawled in various places and
a visibly dirty window to look out of, talk about setting the mood!
As you can see in the screenshots there are three kinds of passenger coaches, plus a fairly wide selection of freight.
All the passenger coaches have passenger views, however these vary quite wildly in quality. Sitting in the red duplex
coaches the view is very good indeed internally, whereas on the InterCity coaches it looked a bit more hurried.
The freight was particularly impressive. It is all weathered and in some cases vandalised - this really makes you feel like
you're hauling a real train and not some brand new models you just bought for your railway.
I was also very impressed at the sheer variety of freight that was supplied - it's not just a couple of wagons so that
they can say they included freight, but a good number of them ranging from vans to hoppers.
Comments on the Locos and Rolling Stock in General
I mentioned the rolling stock was weathered, this is also true of all of the stock included, the locos really do look
like they have a lot of character. You won't get the big names like ICE-3 out of ProTrain 2 and I have to say that's one
thing that I particularly liked. It's all very well everyone focusing on the big name locos such as ICE but there's a
ton more to see and do, and ProTrain 2 proves that nicely.
There is a slight flaw with either some of the scenery or all the locos - when you're sitting in a big glass station like
Dresden, pull your camera out so you are looking in at your train - at some angles you will be able to see the side of
the train nearest you completely vanish and you'll be looking at what looks like a cross section of the train! While this
does look quite amusing, it's a slight detractor from the effect - that said, setting rendering orders in Train Sim can
be quite complex and it's possible this combination just isn't viable in the current release of Train Simulator anyway.
The 'control units' are also driveable with their own cabs, so you'll be doing some of the activities driving from what
we might refer to as the DBSO, with the loco at the other end of the train pushing you along. This was a very nice touch
in my opinion :)
The route takes you from Dresden via Riesa to Liepzig. In fact it goes a little further than that and in between it
goes all over the place!
The scenery appears to all be custom and very high quality at that. I was mind boggled at the amount of detail I was
seeing and yet framerates weren't being hit - you can see for miles in to the distance with a city lining the horizon in
some places, with dense population between you and it and yet the framerate stays up! Of course, there are tricks to keep
the frame rate up by using simpler and simpler objects further out and it looks like they've pulled out every trick
they could find. The result is that you'll be fooled in to thinking you're looking at a lot more scenery than you really
are - it works, and it works very well.
The stations are all very well modelled, especially the big terminus stations such as Dresden, the detail that has been
put in to the whole route will keep you interested from end to end and back again, many times over. Indeed, the only
flaw with the scenery as beautiful as is provided in ProTrain 2 is the activities are a bit pointless :) - Let me explain that
comment (which is meant in jest) - In my testing, I
got hit by the penalty brake more times than I care to remember because I was paying far too much attention out of the window and
not enough to what I was doing inside the cab! :)
The quality of track work is some of the best i've seen. The first time you get near Dresden Hbf you'll see what
I mean, it's a monsterous weaving of lines that criss cross over and under until they are at the same level and then
it's points all over the place until you get to the platforms.
As well as passenger stations there are also freight yards in various places along the route where you can put all that
wonderful freight stock to good use.
The trees look a little odd in the dusk of Winter with some sides of them being very dark while some are quite light but to be
honest I didn't find it particularly distracting. Some of the nicer touches included things like the winter textures having
icicles hanging from building rooftops or uneven/whispy snow on some rooftops.
There is a good selection of vehicles for the road - however it looks like the texture mapping for the articulated lorries has
been slightly goofed. It's subtle and it's taken me a while to spot properly but if you look closely, i'm sure I can see that
one side of the lorries has the three small axels close to the cab while the other side correctly has them at the back. Again,
this is a minor point and it's taken me a good couple of hours looking for that specific thing to actually be confident enough
about it :)
I will unfortunately have to have my regular moan about supplied paths. I'm sure they were created for activities but it is
important to remember that the user will be shown these paths so make sure they aren't too silly! In this case, if you start
at Borsdorf heading towards Liepzig Hbf you start buried underground and in a forest, gradually making your way out of the ground
until finally you go sailing over a road without the aid of a bridge and then you are in to the normal scenic'd up part of
the route and things return to normal. This is fine for AI stock, it's good to have AI stock coming in on routes that the user wouldn't
normally use anyway as it livens things up even more at stations etc - but I would have expected all paths to be checked to make
sure the "user experience" isn't affected by selecting any of these path options.
The activities supplied will use all the stock both with you driving and on the AI trains you will meet, they'll have you doing
various tasks both freight and passenger and at various seasons and times of day. I've done two or three of the activities now
and they are very enjoyable if tricky - but i'm sure much of that was again down to me gazing in awe at the scenery and not
looking enough at my speedometer and track monitor *ahem* :)
This is one unbelievable add-on. It's without doubt my favourite so far, with highly detailed and vastly populated scenery from
end to end without hurting frame rates unreasonably the route is a joy to drive. Add the excellent selection of locos and rolling
stock and the variety of activities supplied and as I commented at the beginning, you have all the components of an ideal
add-on. The bonus is that this also delivers quality in spades too.
It's not completely perfect, but the errors and omissions are so tiny that they pale in to comparison. Trust me when I say that i've
been looking for negatives in this product specifically. Once I realised how good it was I thought I couldn't write a review
that was nothing but glowing praise, that's not very useful - there's got to be something wrong with it! Ok, I found a
couple of things but as I say, they're tiny and extremely easy to ignore.
I recommend this add-on whole heartedly.