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Review: High Speed Trains|
Developer: Aerosoft, Publisher: Contact Sales
Reviewed By Matthew Peddlesden
Date: 1 April 2002
High Speed Trains is a German package that traces the route from Kassel-Wilhelmshone to
Fulda, specially constructed for the delpoyment of ICE High Speed Trains
and is itself part of the complete route from Hannover to Wurzburg.
Before going much further I should stress that I am not particularly familiar
with the German Railways - my experience with them is limited to a couple of trips,
both times from Frankfurt to Bonn and back for a Star Trek convention :)
The package comes with the route mentioned, a number of loco's plus
rolling stock and a few activities - this meets one of my personal desires out
of any commercial package. Whether good or bad, it is at least complete and
an effort has been made to spend more than 5 minutes on the Activities, so
extra points there.
BR103 'Lufthansa Express'
The manual is quite nice, walking you through each of the loco's that you will be
driving and introducing their real world characteristics, their cab views and
some background information on them.
Next it goes in fairly good detail in to the German Signalling system, what
they all mean and how you will see them visualised in your cab.
Another couple of pages then describe the route to you, we'll cover that ourselves
in more detail later on.
Finally a good number of pages are dedicated to describing each activity to
you in good detail.
The screenshots in the manual are taken from the German version of MSTS
though this shouldn't cause anyone a problem :)
The package includes 8 different class of locomotives in multiple liveries,
and where specific rolling stock is used this has also been included.
The loco's included are:
- ICE-1 Amtrak
- DB ICE-3
- NS ICE-3
- BR103 IR (InterRegio)
- BR103 LE (Lufthansa Express)
- BR103 NR (Neu Rot)
- BR103 TEE
- BR103 TR (Touristique)
- P-10 Steam Engine
ICE-1 out of Fulda
A fairly comprehensive list and as I mentioned previously there are custom
coaches to go behind some of them such as the Lufthansa Express and the
All of the loco's except the 216/218 have their own custom Cab Views. The
216/218 use the Dash9 Cab View via Aliasing.
All of the rolling stock also has passenger views, with the passenger view from
the ICE-3 looking particularly nice just behind the drivers seat.
Other than the 216/218, it's also all Electric stock.
Overall I felt the quality of the stock was quite high, the 216/218 do let
it down as they look fairly rushed. The Zeppelin was a novel inclusion, but
I'm not sure how much use you're going to get out of it.
ICE-3 Passenger View
Lufthansa Express Coaches
Neu Rot Coaches
The paint schemes on the 103's are generally very good, especially the
Touristique livery which has a rather 'loud' livery.
Almost all of the stock has transparent windows with visible interiors, though
the ICE-1 and ICE-2 do not. I also could not see much difference at all between
the ICE-1 and ICE-2, though that could easily be down to my unfamiliarity
with German Stock - I'm sure if I showed my wife a Class 45 and a Class 37 she'd think
they were quite similar! :)
The Steam engine was a nice inclusion, it is textured well and it animates
smoothly. It also has its own period coaches, which add to the authenticity.
For those that aren't aware, when Amtrak were looking around for what we now
know as the Acela, they approached the German Railways and an ICE-1 was taken to
the North East Corridor for trials as one of the options. This special model has
been included and has different pantograph heights so that it can run properly
on the North East Corridor route that is included with MSTS.
The Cab Views included on the more modern loco's are quite nice indeed, with
working digital LCD displays for the various gauges. There is even a Cab View for
the TrackZeppelin (which is just a special kind of coach propelled along with
a propellor at the back believe it or not :) ).
Overall I was quite happy with the stock, though it doesn't stand out as being
anything to jump out and bite you either. The interior visibility on the ICE-3
makes it look very fetching as you rotate your view around - converseley, the
lack of interior on the ICE-1 makes it look very poor.
As I have said, the route represents a high speed express line between Kassel
and Fulda. Whenever I try out a new route there are a number of things that
I look for.
What is the main focus of the route - ie. what is it trying to represent and how well
does it do that?
This route is a fairly unusual one due to the extensive number of tunnels and
bridges in it - 24 Tunnels and 18 Bridges to be exact. The longest tunnel
is over 5 km in length. When you consider the route supplied is
91 km in length, I began to get concerned.
The Bridge and Tunnels are very well made indeed, they give a good feeling of
where you are - there are even the name boards in front of the tunnel entrances
so that you know which tunnel you are going in to and how long it is (though
if you're in the ICE you're probably going a bit too fast to be able to read
Either end of the route you have the two main stations, both are very well detailed
with plenty of surrounding buildings. They have gotten around the framerate
problem of lots of houses by using long single polygons that have a display of
houses on them, the same way that some people have done forest models in
MSTS. While this does do the job, and it certainly eases up framerates,
I can't help but think it actually ends up detracting from the effect because
you lose some of the feeling of depth when the houses don't have multiple viewpoints,
they just become almost infinitely thin :)
There are a number of 'Overtaking Stations' on the route, I was initially
very disappointed that they had included stations but put absolutely no effort
in to platforms and so forth - until I re-read the manual and found out that
these aren't really stations in the normal meaning of the word, there are
no passenger embarkations or departures at an Overtaking station, it's simply used
so that an ICE train can overtake a slower Freight train on the route.
Where can you go with this route?
You can go from Kassel to Fulda, and you can go from Fulda to Kassel - and
that's about it. There are branches off the main line but they go in to the distance
and then get buffered off. I found this to be one of the biggest disappointments
with the route, and the fact that some of the default paths end up sending you
in to these buffers just didn't seem very well tested to me.
An 'Overtaking' Station
An 'Overtaking' Station
What scope is there for your own activities?
I consider this one quite important because exploring the route won't
show you all there is to see on a route and more often than not you'll get
bored with it and move on to something else. In order to have scope for
activities there should be stations to stop at, branches to do something
different and so forth. The Kassel-Fulda route is seriously lacking in any
features that might allow many more activities besides the default ones, they
pretty much cover all that you can do with the route out of the box, but
more about the activities later on.
Are there any track faults?
I saw the odd jiggle in the track where it does a slight side-jog to one
side, but apart from 1 or 2 instances of this the track was very well put
down, I didn't get a single broken coupler on several runs up and down
How populated is the scenery?
It varies from being not bad at all, to very sparse. The stations are quite
complex though they appear to mostly be quite simple shapes with quite complex
textures on them - though the effect is achieved and the stations do look
quite authentic. I haven't been to either station but I still got the impression
that on leaving the station it just seemed too empty, there didn't seem to be
enough on the ground. As you progress through the route you will go through
many tunnels and over many bridges and in these areas the scenery is quite
nicely detailed, but their main effort is in just those areas. I found that going
over a bridge you'd perhaps get a road underneath it, you could see a village
in the distance (unfortunately also constructed using the single polygon
housing 'photos' so for the most part they didn't look all that great) and
occasionally a river.
Don't get me wrong, it's quite possible that this is exactly how the route looks
in real life, it is after all a very modern route designed for high speed trains. You
aren't going to get "classic character" from such a route - my concern is whether or not
this route was a particularly good choice for a commercial product.
I like to spend my time outside of the cab when I'm on the long haul, unless
I have specific need to keep my eye peeled to the gauges I would much
rather enjoy the external view. Due to the tunnels on this route, you're
going to spend quite a lot of time in the cab view staring at dark
tunnels necessarily. The bridges also mean that view mode '4' doesn't
work particularly well as all you see for a lot of the time is the train
shooting under you.
Route Shot 'Kassel'
Route Shot 'Kassel'
There are a few activities supplied that cover a few operations:
Overall the activities aren't bad, they do exercise pretty much all of the
opportunities for activities that are present in the route due to limitations
on the route itself.
- Introductory Journey
Unfortunately this one is still in its German name on the UK Release.
It is a simple passenger run from Kassel to Fulda in the ICE-1.
This is another simple journey from Kassel to Fulda but this time in different
weather conditions and in the ICE-3 instead.
Going back the other way, in the ICE-2 this time.
- Frost Damage
It's a cold winter day and you are taking an ICE-1 from Fulda to Kassel, there
are speed restrictions in place and a point has been damaged.
- Freight Transport Part 1
This is a two parter, the first one see's you moving some wagons around Fulda
so you can later take some necessary parts and equipment to Licherode. Unfortunately
you're shunting around some BNSF wagons.
- Freight Transport Part 2
Now it's time to take the freight train to Licherode.
- Old and New
It's time to take the P-10 Steam Engine out for a commemorative run from
Kircheim to Kassel.
There are some spelling and grammatical errors in the briefings but I put that
down to the translation process - they are not serious errors and you will be
able to clearly understand what you are doing.
Overall I have to say that I was a bit disappointed with this product. They
have put some good effort in to the route but I feel that for my money, they
didn't pick a particularly clever route - blasting up and down an express line
is only fun the first couple of times and I expect more replayability than
that out of a commercial product.
The locomotives have come out very well, with the exception of the ICE-1 lacking
transparent windows/interior and the 216/218 which just looks very blocky. The
inclusion of cab views, passenger views and sounds also boosts the value of
this product as you're at least not going to be stuck looking at the Dash 9
cab having paid 25 pounds for the product (well, with the exception of the
216/218 that is).
We found at least a couple of spots where changing a point manually would cause
the entire system to completely freeze, requiring a cold restart to get the PC
working again. This was verified on two different machines and two
If you are interested in German Railways or you enjoy the high speed express
line trains then this product will be of interest to you - but that's about
all there is to it. There are no passenger stations besides the ones at either
end (Kassel and Fulda) and there are no freight opportunities or branch lines
besides doing some activities like the two-parter that is already included.
For everyone else, I'm sorry to say that this probably wouldn't hold your interest
for more than maybe a couple of hours.
Our final score for this product: