This review will be for the Union Pacific Challenger and Big Boy DLC. There is a litany of problems with both of these DLC packages. I will only touch on a few of the many issues.
1) There are some things that a steam locomotive has to have in order to be immersive; it must transport you to that special place where you believe that you are actually running a steam locomotive. Well….., these engines lack all of those things. Missing or broken features are many and are overwhelmingly immersion-breaking, and while these engines look like the prototypes in the academic sense, they lack many fine details. Rivets on the tender are rendered two-dimensionally. A lot of detail is missing from the tender trucks including spring-rigging, brake calipers/shoes, and brake cylinders. The headlights and tender lights do not work. Additionally, the classification lamps do not work. There are many pipes, rivets, auxiliary devices, and linkages that are missing. A prime example is the missing compensating levers (throttle reach lever on the engineer's side of the boiler). The cab interiors are just as bad, rendred in low resolution and poorly detailed. There are several missing pipes, levers, and gauges. The cab windows do not open. The roof vents do not open. The Cab signals do not work. There are no cab lights so it is pitch dark inside; all the better to hide the missing details. On the Big Boy DLC I purchased, the cab windows are obscured by a grey haze so I can't see the engineer or fireman.
2) The sounds are bad. The Challenger isn't as bad as the Big Boy, but that is not saying a lot. The chuffing of the Big Boy sound like someone using a plunger on a toilet; a kind of wheezing, squishy sound. Even worse is that the sounds for both locomotives were borrowed from two-cylindered locomotives, and poorly made ones at that. The problem with using this sound for the Big Boy and Challenger is that the Big Boy and Challenger are 4 cylindered simple articulated locomotives. Even if the poorly made two-cylindered effect didn’t sound like a dying water buffalo, a two cylindered engine chuffs 4 times per revolution of the driving wheels. By contrast, a simple articulated would have two different sets of cylinders each chuffing 4 times per revolution; they would get out of sync with one another causing a staccato rhythm, 8 chuffs total per revolution. In railroad vernacular this is called “hitting a double lick”. This sounds NOTHING AT ALL like a 2 cylindered locomotive. The Gtrax Cab Forward got this sound effect down perfectly; why RSC couldn't manage to do it for the Big Boy and Challenger is incomprehensable. Ditto for the whistle sounds, hissing steam, and the “clunking” of auxiliary devices, all of which are missing, bad quality or poorly synced. What RSC should have done was to get sound samples from the real Union Pacific Challenger #3985, using the samples for both the Challenger and the Big Boy. It would have worked beautifully, but I guess that would have been too easy to do.
3) My biggest deal-breaker when it comes to immersion with a steam locomotive is the lack of a fully functioning set of particle emitters to model the various steam and smoke exhausts on the locomotives in question. After all, if a steam locomotive isn’t steaming and smoking, it isn’t much of a steam locomotive is it? I have said it in other reviews; the smoke and steam effects of the Gtrax locomotives (SP GS-4, NKP S-2, SP&S E-1, SP Cab Forward) are practically the best in the game. Why they were not used on the Big Boy and Challenger is beyond comprehension, as it would have added immensely to the immersion of this DLC.
The smokestack exhaust looks far too thick and doesn’t dissipate the way real smoke does. Essentially it looks like a column of dirty cotton candy shooting up and out, fluffy and irregular. The emitters for the cylinder ♥♥♥♥♥ do not work. The emitters for the wheel sanders do not work. The emitters for the boiler safety valves do not work, and the emitters for the turbogenerators do not work. The emitters for the injectors and feedwater pump are not present/do not work. And on the Big Boy, a coal burning engine, there is no stoker motor exhaust.
4) The performance of these locomotives is completely unrealistic. First off, the models possess far too much tractive effort, that is, low speed pulling power. While the Real Challengers and Big Boys were indeed powerful locomotives that could start and rapidly accelerate heavy trains, they didn’t accelerate to 80 mph in ten seconds.TOTALLY UNREALISTIC. On the other end of the spectrum, the horsepower curve is too weak. The real locomotives could sustain 40-60 mph speeds with heavy trains, effortlessly for hundreds of miles. These DLC engines,”run out of boiler” within a few seconds of high speed running and can’t run at all with any significant load behind them. They run out of steam and stall, forcing you to stop and build up steam again. COMPLETELY UNREALISTIC.
To add insult to injury, no rolling stock is included with either locomotive.
The only justifiable use for these locomotives is in “supporting roles” in other scenarios. For example, Elphaba makes at least two Workshop scenarios for the Smokebox F.E.F., Grain Rush ’57 and UP Overland Mail, that utilize the Challenger and Big Boy. They can be seen rolling by with their own trains; you don’t have time to notice their deficiencies because you are too busy running the F.E.F. Other than this, and similar scenario uses, I cannot understand why anyone would want this DLC.
Granted, if you were really desperate to own these, you could look for a third party software utility called Railworks Tools, donation ware that you can get here, http://www.rstools.info/
. Additionally, the locomotive performance issues can be addressed by installing physics mods found at Railworks America.com.
They are by a man who goes by the name of DtrainBNSF1 and can be found in the files section, under Accessories and Tools. Having said this, I feel most casual players don’t want to spend hours tracking down modding software and mods, learning to use and install them, only to fix some of the problems. This DLC should never have been released in it’s current form. If a game or DLC is broken, it’s broken, and no amount of tinkering is going to fix it.
Both the Challenger and Big Boy DLC were obvious “rush-jobs” cranked out without any thought to accuracy, realism, or quality control. These could possibly be the worst DLC offered for this game. The content creator who made the DLC and the people who made the release decision either didn’t like their jobs, or didn’t care about North American railroad history, both of which are bad news for a company that makes a “Train Simulator”. The decision to sell this DLC does a disservice to Dovetail Games, its other content creators who will be “tarred by the same brush”, the Train Simulator franchise, and two legendary locomotives that deserve better representation than this. My only hope is that Dovetail Games will rectify their mistake and build brand new models of both of these locomotives to the level of quality of the Smokebox F.E.F. Normally, if a DLC release is average in quality I will recommend a “buy” decision, with the qualifier that the purchaser wait for a sale. With this release however, I cannot countenance a purchase decision. The Challenger and Big Boy DLC are awful, and unless you are going to be using them as “scenery” in other scenarios, don’t buy them, period. This DLC is a TRAINWRECK, and this is coming from someone who loves North American steam locomotives and the Train Simulator game.
Final Rating: Red Block: Danger ahead. I wouldn’t buy this if I were you.http://store.steampowered.com/app/208361/?snr=1_7_15__13http://store.steampowered.com/app/208350/?snr=1_7_15__13