Why buy Bus Simulator 2021? This article will try to answer that question, but let’s try to summarize the argument now: either because you like buses, or because you like simulation. The new iteration of the now cult Astragon series (a publisher of German simulation games, who else to test it?) Returned in 2021 for a sixth release in 13 years, and updates every levels, both in terms of content and graphics. Hold on to your seat, let’s go for a ride.
Welcome to the maaa-gic bus (familiar tune)
Three years after the last opus, rather pleasant as long as you are in the target, the buses therefore emerge from the garage in an edition 21 which brings a real boost to the franchise. You play as a driver who must please his boss by meeting all the challenges of his working day as much as managing his own small bus company and therefore updating his fleet. Indeed, the title will suggest that you develop your lines and vehicles in order to ensure the best possible service for your city. And imagine that this time you have two maps (including a remake of Seaside Valley, that of 2019), rather large, which globally embody the American or European atmosphere of a typical city. The first very nice strong point of the game is this open world universe that you can explore at your leisure. As you travel, you will pass several points of interest and monuments, you will see several rather varied settings, will come across some cars and pedestrians who inhabit this fictitious universe, and discover the local customs which are not so far from those of France. , namely the dislocation without flashing lights in front of your vehicle, the pedestrians with headphones who cross without looking or the famous “young people” who put the phone in full to listen to Booba. Aaaah, the picturesque charm of traditions.
As realistic as possible, at least as best as it can, Bus Simulator 21 wants at least to satisfy all the people who one day wanted to become a bus driver but who then found a real vocation (it’s okay, humor, we’re laughing) . Thus, the management of your vehicle – the heart of the game – is essential. After buying your first warship from a list drawn from real manufacturers (like MAN, Volvo, Citaro for the most famous), you will have to do a whole bunch of different tutorials, which will actually continue throughout the game since almost every mission seems to be an integral part of discovering the software. The title is intended to be quite educational and takes you by the hand quite simply. Good news for neophytes who will have to arm themselves with patience and a small notepad to remember all the stages. Settle in by opening the doors with one button, then start it all up with another, turn on your headlights, windshield wipers, open the doors, lower the ramp for the disabled, etc. All this happens with a button (on the keyboard or on the joystick), an inexorable series of manipulations which allows you to end up with hard simulation, as we love. If this aspect has not changed too much for several episodes, it retains its precision and we must admit that it is much preferable to play with a steering wheel rather than with the controller (or worse, the keyboard). The good news for some is that the level of difficulty is largely adaptable, which generally corresponds to the management of the level of realism of your bus. Also, fortunately (or not), collision management is always so unrealistic. Vehicles (other than your bus) drive like arcade soap boxes, the damage is not visible and you can easily be blocked by an extra pixel from a set hitbox without really knowing why. In short, the only way to know that you have actually run over a pedestrian or hit a post is with payroll deduction displayed on the side.
The dirty young people from the back of the bus
Because yes, of course, the game also retains its management side and the need to have to make your bus company prosper. For this, you will earn money every working day by completing lists of imposed tasks. As soon as your character has enough experience to pass a level, it triggers a “pay day” which will allow you to discover the infractions that are charged to you (such as not turning on your blinker to come out of a stop or brake too suddenly. ) and, if you can, buy new buses for the company.
In the list of tasks we note the main novelty of the game that really adds a lot to the management: it is now possible to create as many lines as you want in our city yourself (during peak or off-peak hours), by associating stops but also buses from your fleet. A notion of supply and demand is displayed on the map, which will allow you to choose wisely which districts should be served and how many buses would be better to pass there to reap the most profits. Because, when you are not aboard these vehicles, it will be NPCs who will ensure the circuit. In this open world, you are Matrix Agent Smith. At any time, you can teleport on a trip to do it yourself and thus collect the bonuses linked to your “mission”. Your good behavior will certainly give you money and benefits, but it will also ensure a certain level of “fame” in the neighborhood. Be kind and customers will scramble at your stop to get on the Magic Bus. Stops that you can also change so that they are more productive and therefore profitable.
Not yet a drunk guy urinating against a bar or rubbers harassing young women. Realism has its limits.
You will also earn your money and your notoriety by doing all the little thankless tasks that are too often forgotten when you are a simple passenger. Quite regularly, customers who board do not have a ticket, so you must make sure to give them what they ask for, between long-term passes, student tickets or the simple trip. Then, give change without messing up, so as not to lose any change. Less regularly (but sometimes a little too much), you will have random events that will shake up your daily routine. If you are feeling the soul of a vigilante, do not hesitate to go to the back of the bus and go up the aisle to hunt for free riders by asking everyone for the ticket relating to the route. It never misses, there will always be one or two to sanction. Nothing new on the horizon on this side of the gameplay, you also always have the famous character who puts his MP3 player (we are in 2004 wesh) to the bottom and who annoys everyone. A good remonstrance and it will be fine. Thanks to the rather daring randomization of NPCs, it will not be uncommon to see men with pink beards or students who have a senior pass. But not yet a drunk guy who urinates against a bar or rubbers who harass young women. Realism has its limits.
A technique unfortunately still dated
Moreover, this gameplay is more appreciable in multiplayer mode, up to 4 co-op which allows for example to vary the tasks and to allow the most authoritarian of your friends to choose the role of a security agent of the RATP (or of the Berliner Verkehrsbetriebe rather) who will have only task the repression of the frauds. We have fun as best we can.
Otherwise overall, the game remains similar to previous editions. The sound environment is quite flat (mention to the passengers who speak incessantly, it could be immersive if it were not all the time the same insipid dialogue loops, although reflecting, in fact, faithfully the reality) and the graphics engine suffers from many performance and optimization concerns. From aliasing, clipping, people walking on walls, the AI of other drivers driving people crazy or animations that date from another century, everything is still present. In terms of gameplay, the challenges are also generally simple requests summing up to connect a point A to a point B. And at the same time, what else to ask of a bus simulator, isn’t it? Finally, we will note new weather effects and a day / night cycle which is quite pleasant. Moreover, those who want to breathe between two journeys can get out of the bus at any time by parking it on the side (an NPC will then come back to take the line) then stroll in the open world as in a most basic RPG. You will be able to appreciate the landscape, the AI or your own skin since a avatar editor (quite detailed) is available to fully customize your character. The biggest fans of big machines can also take a tour of the bus or return to the garage to see your most beautiful creations thanks to the advertising posters to stick on the sides or the special coach pay’n’spray. The proof, I have already heard a customer say “this city is filled with discobus of thug, mazette”.