Bus Simulators are a lot of fun. Especially when they are done right. I say that because Bus Simulator 18 left me wanting more. A lot more. The game had its flaws, just like many games out there but the game felt lacking in many departments. Hence, when I saw The Bus pop up on my radar, naturally I dived in headfirst expecting the worst. However, the outcomes had me pleasantly surprised, as evident from my The Bus Preview.
The Bus puts you in the massive city of Berlin that has been accurately created on a 1:1 scale. You drive your bus (and eventually a fleet of buses) on various routes around the city. Explore a range of buses and routes while catering to passengers from all parts of the city. The city is open to discovering famous landmarks and spots as you immerse yourself in utmost realism.
The Bus is available in Early Access on Steam.
STORY – Berlin Awaits You
I can’t comment much on the story right now as it hasn’t been implemented. Being in Early Access, it is difficult to gauge the full scope of The Bus but the signs are already promising. I did notice a game mode titled Economy which (according to the devs Trello page) indicates running your own fleet and transport company in Berlin. I very much look forward to that. As far as The Bus Preview goes, it’s a success.
I did get to try out Freeplay and to be honest, that is literally all you need right now. The entire city is available for your perusal and boy oh boy does it hold up. The city is rich, vibrant, and filled to the brim with stuff for you to see and explore. There isn’t much story right now but that shouldn’t stop you from creating your own storylines in Freeplay.
GAMEPLAY – A Tale of Two Worlds
This is where things get interesting. On the surface, The Bus offers a complete experience. You can roam the city in free-roam where your character can actually walk around. Though, it is definitely impractical to traverse Berlin on foot, just saying. You can obviously hop on a bus and drive around with/without passengers and there is enough action in the city to keep you engaged. The Trip Planner and Route Editor are amazing and powerful tools. Lastly, the interior of the bus itself is an interesting feature. The fact that you can actually interact with the buttons on your dashboard point to the level of detail The Bus wishes to present.
There are a few areas of improvement though. I managed to find just two departments to work on which is hugely impressive for a game just entering Early Access. The first and most critical mechanic is the handling of the vehicle. The steering mechanism is largely decent, but it’s still far from perfect. The bus can often feel “light” and sometimes “heavy” when handling. While that is definitely something that happens, thanks to air brakes and turbochargers and a lot of other factors but the steering issue here is definitely not about realism but the mechanic itself. The second issue is the sub-par controller experience. However, the devs have acknowledged that on their Roadmap and full controller support will be available soon.
GRAPHICS AND AUDIO – Needs Some Work
Despite this being The Bus Preview, the graphics already feel like a finished product. The map design and the 3D recreation of Berlin are top-notch and while I may not have first-hand knowledge of how accurate this is, I have read multiple comments from locals who praised the city built by the devs. Landmarks like Alexandar Platz, Berlin Airport, and more have been accurately recreated in a 1:1 scale, just like the rest of Berlin. The bus models are also highly detailed and since The Bus is built on Unreal Engine 4, graphics quality is hardly a concern.
However, the audio department definitely needs some catching up to do. While the city sounds and sound effects definitely hold their own, they are good enough for just Early Access. The engine and braking sounds could definitely do with some re-recording as the current sounds feel very “stock-sounds-like” and poke out in the aura of realism. Again, this is Early Access so it is likely that the sounds could be placeholders and they aren’t entirely bad. But they can definitely benefit from some higher-quality recordings.
The Bus was previewed on PC via Steam with a key provided by UberStrategist PR.