Bus Simulator 18
Gameplay 8
Graphics 8
Sound 7

Bus Simulator 18 walks a fine line between being a full-on simulator and offering an accessible experience for newcomers to the genre. It features a fairly sizable city, a number of licensed buses as well as the opportunity to not only drive your buses, but also manage your company and create new routes. A couple of areas of the game could still benefit from some improvements, but what is on offer is still very enjoyable, especially if you have a hankering for coasting around in a bus. A steering wheel is highly recommended for the most immersive experience and you need fairly beefy hardware to run the game properly, but overall we can definitely recommend it.

Gameplay: Create bus routes, drive them and make money while trying not to mess up.

Graphics: Plenty of good along with a couple of not so good.

Sound: Authentic sounds and decent music, but those chattering passengers become repetitive a little too soon

Summary 7.7 Great
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Bus Simulator 18

Developer: stillalive studios | Publisher: stragon Entertainment GmbH | Release Date: 2018 | Genre: Simulation | Website: Official Website | Purchase: Steam

Welcome to the pleasant town of Seaside Valley, one of the few places in the world without a bus transportation system. However, things are about the change as the town is planning on expanding their public transport options and as luck would have it, you are just the right person for the job. With one bus and a handful of cash you get to start your own bus company and hopefully manage to turn your fledgling business into a transport giant. This is a task that will require creating and driving numerous bus routes, but it doesn’t’ have to be a solo effort as Bus Simulator 18 also features a nifty multi-player mode. Don’t let the “simulator” part of the title scare you away either as the game is accessible enough that even if you don’t know the first thing about buses you could still jump in and have some fun.

Simulators are not everyone’s cup of tea, but somehow the genre has grown big enough that there are now practically titles available for almost every type of niche. From sports management to trains, flight, tanks, trucks and ships, the genre is definitely not lacking when it comes to choice. Even bus enthusiasts have a number of options available to them, so what is it about Bus Simulator 18 that sets it apart from the pack? Well firstly you get to choose between a simplified and realistic mode for the actual driving aspects of the game, which means you don’t need a bus license to actually be able to enjoy yourself. It is often the sheer depth of certain simulators that scare away players who don’t have the time or patience to memorize a phone-book sized instruction manual before they even push a single button. However, making the game more accessible doesn’t mean any depth is lost as toggling to realistic mode increases the pressure and gives advance players more to do. It also means that after cutting your teeth in simplified mode, you can challenge yourself with realistic mode when you are ready and eager for a bigger challenge.

We are pretty sure that everyone has been on a bus or at least know what they do, so the gameplay is actually as straightforward as you would expect. People need to get from point A to B and you have the means to provide them with this service. This involves driving around twelve different districts and picking up people from designated bus stops before transporting them safely and in time to one of the other ones on your route. Now, this is a bus simulator and not crazy taxi, so you are actually going to have to obey the rules of the road if you want to earn the money and respect of your passengers. The game keeps track of everything you do, so if you leave your indicator on for too long without turning, miss any stops, blunder into potholes or run any red lights you will get penalized. While you might be the biggest vehicle on the road you are by no means the only one, so you also have to keep track of your surroundings if you want to avoid costly fender benders. Finally, nothing depletes your bank account faster than running over people, so it is advisable that you ensure people are inside your bus and not under its wheels it when you drive.

Driving around in a large bus on busy city streets isn’t quite as chilled as cruising along a country road in a long distance truck, but it is still a pretty laid back experience. Bus Simulator 18 provides you with 5.8mi² of routes to play around with and while this isn’t quite as large as some other open world titles, it is still a fairly sizable area. Of course, you are not just a bus driver, but also the owner of the company, which means there are some management aspects to handle too. These involve planning your own routes, purchasing and customizing new buses or selling old ones, as well as hiring and firing drivers. You don’t have access to the entire city from the start, but must instead complete objectives laid out by Seaside Valley municipal officials, which in turn rewards you with new areas and more cash. The management side of the game is very straightforward and you can even disable the threat of bankruptcy if all you want to do is get on with driving a bus.

There is more to operating a bus than just stopping at every bus-stop too. In addition to obeying all the rules of the road you also have to deal with your passengers. This means opening and closing the front and back doors when you arrive or leave a bus-station, lowering a ramp for disabled passengers, operating the ticket machine and providing passengers with the correct change. Passengers can also block the doors to your bus, play loud music that disturbs the people around them, try and avoid paying their fares or leave litter on your bus, which are all things you have to deal with if you want to uphold your reputation. While these are all small things they do make the game feel more immersive.

One of our favorite aspects of Bus Simulator 18 is the multi-player mode, which isn’t something that we expected from this type of game. While the game is perfectly playable solo, enlisting the aid of up to three other players makes things a little more enjoyable. Just be careful as opening up your game to other players means that their mistakes could also end up costing you, so stick to private or hidden sessions with trusted friends if you don’t want the general public to jump in and cause havoc. Multi-player adds some mission variations in addition to the usual bus trips, so you’ll be able to take part in convoy missions as well as fast route missions. If you are so inclined, you could also tag along with one of your friends while they are driving and let them focus on the route while you handle the passengers. After completing a route you could even go out and roam the city on foot with your friends in search of secrets, which is a really nice touch.

Bus Simulator 18 was created with Unreal Engine 4, so with the proper hardware it is quite a good looking game. The eight buses on offer are all original licensed city buses from Mercedes-Benz, MAN, Setra and IVECO BUS and they all look great inside and out. While we are not familiar enough with these buses to comment on how authentic the interiors are compared to the real deals everything looks as they should. It can be a little daunting to slide behind the wheel of a bus for the first time due to all the buttons and dials, but holding down “TAB” highlights everything that is useful and interactive. The world outside your bus window also looks fairly good and there are plenty of detail to distract you from your driving. The other cars on the road are not quite as detailed as your bus and while there are plenty of pedestrians there still isn’t enough variety to prevent three or four of the exact same looking people boarding your bus in a row. This can look a little uncanny, but it’s not the worst. You can drive during different times of the day or in different weather conditions, which alters the visuals and provide some more variety. Driving around in the rain or at night can be quite atmospheric, although cruising along in the early morning sunlight is just as fun. There are certain areas of the game that could do with a little more visual polish, such as the lighting and we did notice a couple of peculiarities, such as the car ahead of us in traffic reflecting the dashboard of our bus instead of the front. None of these things detract from the enjoyment of the game though.

The developers of Bus Simulator 18 has gone the extra mile for the audio and not only recorded a bunch of authentic sounds for the various buses, but also added a ton of dialog for the passengers. At first the random corny dialog you’ll hear from behind you is quite entertaining, but people soon start repeating themselves and all the voice actors and actresses read the same script. Of course, if you grow tired of hearing people rave about some television show called “Winter of Passion” you could always turn on the radio in your bus and listen to some relaxing music instead. We played Bus Simulator 18 using a steering wheel and pedals, which made the whole experience even more enjoyable. The game can of course be controlled via other input methods as well and supports gamepads, Tobii eye tracking as well as TrackIR. Having never driven an actual bus we can’t really comment on the authenticity of the simulation, but we did find that the buses in the game feel a little weightless. Turning these beasts of the road still takes care and concentration unless you want to lose all your profit to bumps and scrapes.

Bus Simulator 18 is by no means a perfect game, but overall we did have a lot of fun with it. There is a certain amount of satisfaction that comes from driving a perfect route even in adverse conditions and the multi-player aspects just adds to the enjoyment. The ability to customize your buses are nice and it is also great to see Steam Workshop support. At the time of writing, there are already a couple of new bus skins and decals available, so hopefully this side of the game continues to expand. The free roaming aspect of the game is interesting, but not as much fun in multi-player as we had hoped. If there were alternative ways to get around, such as bicycles, scooters or motorbikes, it would have been a lot cooler as getting anywhere on foot takes too long. Since this is a simulator there is still a certain amount of repetition involved, which honestly is a little unavoidable for the genre.

Thanks to an interface that is clean and intuitive as well as a learning curve that is not as steep as some other simulators, Bus Simulator 18 is an easy game to get into. It is not as deep as some other hardcore simulators, but neither is it as arcadish as all those titles that make a mockery of their simulator label. The game could still benefit from some spit and polish in certain areas as some members of our team played without a hitch while others experienced frequent crashes or frame-rate issues. However, this shouldn’t deter you from trying out the game as it is certainly one of the better ones in its genre.

System Requirements

  • Requires a 64-bit processor and operating system
  • OS: Windows 7/8/10 64-Bit
  • Processor: Intel Core i3 with 3.3 GHz or AMD Phenom II X4 with 3.2 GHz
  • Memory: 6 GB RAM
  • Graphics: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 750 (1GB VRAM) or AMD Radeon R7 360 (2GB VRAM) or higher
  • DirectX: Version 11
  • Network: Broadband Internet connection
  • Storage: 6500 MB available space
  • Requires a 64-bit processor and operating system
  • OS: Windows 10 64-Bit
  • Processor: Intel Core i5-4670 (4th gen.) with 3.4 GHz or AMD FX-8370 with 4 GHz or equivalent
  • Memory: 8 GB RAM
  • Graphics: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 970 (4GB VRAM) or AMD Radeon R9 290 (4GB VRAM) or higher
  • DirectX: Version 11
  • Network: Broadband Internet connection
  • Storage: 6500 MB available space

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