There’s something oddly wonderful about a game trying to recreate niche, and bizarre parts of history. None more than OMSI, a game which sets out to lovingly recreate buses/routes in Berlin. Not just Berlin, but more specifically the Spandau district from 1980’s – 1990’s, a very peculiar, and to most of us obscure part of history. But does it succeed?
Let’s make one thing clear, this is not ETS2. It’s not lavished with game style game play mechanics about levelling up your character, running your company, and customizing your vehicles. Nor is it all that user friendly, or really all that approachable. This is a hardcore simulation, with hardcore simulation style lack of game play. The premise is as simple as coul be, choose a bus. Choose a route. Drive..
The buses are very nicely recreated, with a full array of working features on the dashboard, from the usual wipers, lights, adjustable suspension (on the more modern buses) and fully functioning computers, and ticket machines. Although unless you speak German, good luck getting your head around those. Thankfully, you can set your bus up using the rather basic, but functional in game UI.
The game does have a rather steep learning curve, while it does have tutorials these are next to useless, so your pretty much on your own. Getting in to a position where you can pick up your first passengers, is rather more than just selecting a job, and pressing E to start your engine, and putting the bus in to gear and driving. Every button on the dashboard does something some of these things are more useful than others.
If your patience lasts long enough to get your head around the rather steep learning curve, you’ll quickly find the game is actually quite enjoyable in a mundane, driving a city bus kind of way. Driving your assigned route, you’ll of course be stopping at bus stops, picking up rather badly animated but very amusing robotic passengers, selling them tickets, and all the usual things expected from a bus driver. The simulation of this goes quite deep, even down to them complaining, if the bus is cold.
The actual driving of the bus feels very nice, and really the developers have managed to create the feeling of driving a very large, cumbersome heavy vehicle, turns will be taken slowly, and much care has to be taken when weaving in and out of parked cars, and other obstacles scattered around the lovingly created depiction of Berlin. Upon hitting something, the passengers, which by now you have become belligerent towards, will swear, and shout at you in German demanding to get off.
The sound is absolutely spectacular, and a real master class in how the sound should be in these types of games, it’s incredibly atmospheric, and really transported me back to the 80s/90s as a kid travelling to school on those old double decker buses. From the whine of knackered old diesel engine, to the wind blowing in to the slightly open window, the bus rattling and banging as it chugs down the road. Its absolutely superb, and other developers of simulators should certainly take note.
As said already, the basic driving physics are excellent, however the other world physics, are more hilarious than anything else. With vehicles catapulting about in an accident, or humping the ground, people being swallowed by the floor. It all makes for some highly amusing, if immersion breaking moments.
It’s a given that a game like this is best played with a wheel, rather than state the obvious, I think its best to discuss other control devices, not everyone owns a wheel.
The mainstay of driving games, for those without a wheel at least. Unfortunately, using a controller is next to impossible. The over sensitivity of the Xbox 360 controller is not accounted for at all, no dead zones are added or able to be added. The stick simply functions as a wheel, which makes controlling the bus immensely sensitive, and next to impossible. Don’t even bother.
While the keyboard is completely indispensable, with the massive array of functions, and systems, all of which you will need to control, driving with it is, really as to be expected. The game uses the numpad by default. 4 Turns left, 6 turns right, and 5 centres the steering. While its more than possible to drive using the keyboard, keyboards don’t feature any analogue devices, everything of course is either on or off, which can make for some pretty heavy accelerating and braking, which is usually met by lots of angry German swearing from the passengers.
This is my preferred method for controlling the game. Generally I hate mouse driving, its over sensitive, has very little feedback, or makes very little sense. But the developers of Omsi have definitely cracked it. Move the mouse up to accelerate, down to brake, and of course left and right steer. If you don’t have a wheel this is my recommended method of controlling it. The only drawback, is steering, and accelerating at the same time can be rather difficult, and tends to be a little haphazard.
While I would like to say “The game is a triumph buy it immediately!”. That really isn’t the case. OMSI 2 is as awful as it is brilliant, an incredibly mixed bag. As already said, its not very approachable, a lot of the options, the controls list, and other things are not put together in a very user friendly or coherent way, at times it feels like it was designed by a madman! Even when trying to work out /change the controls The list seems to almost be randomly thrown together, without much regard for the poor player who has to find his/her way through it. In a game like this, which has an awful lot of controls, this really does make for frustration, and swearing.
In general the game is incredibly unpolished, mostly using simple OS ui windows to control various functions. More often than not, these windows can make little to no sense at first glance, and can take a quite some time to get used to.
The games stability is atrocious, and really, unacceptable. The game quits to desktop on a regular basis, randomly fails to load, and throws up a lot of errors usually in German, leaving you with little idea as to what actually happened. Sounds will just stop working, and all manner strange things will happen. For a game that’s been out a year (longer if you count the original) these really are issues that should no longer be present.
This is done by a simple overlay with arrows pointing you in the direction and icons over the stops you need to stop at. While this sounds just basic but functional, at times, it can be incredibly confusing. You’ll get arrows pointing you off towards other routes, which have nothing to do with yours, at times it offers you absolutely no direction at all, and other times it just sends you off down side streets your not supposed to go down, or tries to send you down 1 way roads (of course the wrong way)
The base lacks a serious amount of content The map really isn’t that big, and you have a very small number of routes to drive. Simply put, I doubt it will have much lasting appeal.
This game is actually quite annoying. It’s very solid, and very well made in parts but has far too many glaring issues. While I did enjoy it, It’s certainly not something I can whole heartedly recommend. I actually find it quite annoying, the potential is vast. Should it be given ETS 2’s spit, polish, and level of content, I can’t help but feel it would actually be a superior game, capable of knocking ETS 2 off my favourite simulator spot. But in its current state, its incredibly rough around the edges, and falls very short. If you enjoy simulators, and are looking for something new, you might like this one. But don’t go in to it expecting a complete or approachable, product, it isn’t.