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Another Year...Another Trainz Re-Release...
on 17 July 2010
This is another Auran makeover of their Trainz programme (which dates from 2001) and in fact was originally meant to be released as an add-on to TS2009-WBE. However somewhere along the line the Auran (or rather Neverfail who run things these days) marketing people couldn't avoid the temptation to re-release the whole thing as a full product.
Good news is TS2010 does incorporate a significant amount of new content, though most of this has been harvested from third party contributions to the (in)famous Download Station. Highlight for UK users is the ECML, a massive undertaking that runs not only from Kings Cross to York but many of the sidelines out into Cambridgeshire, Lincolnshire and East Yorkshire too. There's a fair smattering of new motive power and rolling stock too.
Bad news is the hardware specs for this version have shot through the roof. Gone are the days when you could run Trainz on a modest laptop, Auran themselves are recommending a 64bit high end system (this is for software that still has its core in 2001, not much younger than MSTS). A crude attempt has been made to improve the look of the routes by licensing the use of Speedtrees, possibly as a counter to the detailed trees found in Railworks, but these look decidedly odd shaking in the wind and bare in winter defy description. They're also a performance hog. There's almost daily debates on the Auran forums about the performance issues but you have to wonder what has happened to the optimisation when my poor old laptop, which ran TRS2006 like a hot knife through butter and copes with Railworks very well, chokes on TS2010.
Not much has changed on the operational side. Despite the prototype style routes, Trainz is still essentially the virtual model railway where the driver also has to act as the signaller/despatcher changing points and setting routes as you go. Running to a disciplined timetable is still pretty much an alien concept in Trainz. Some of the routes do come with a number of player sessions but others (such as the aforementioned ECML) have only one. Those familiar with the software will be able to set up their own fairly quickly in the Surveyor editor, but it's hardly a good shop window for the new content. All the older content from earlier versions is still present though some of this has compatability and display issues with the changes bolted on to the graphics engine.
The powerhouse of TS2010 is still the Surveyor editor, of course. This is by far the best route building tool of any of the current train sims particularly when combined with some of the third party utilities available that allow importation of accurate DEM terrain data and mapping overlays. Just a shame it's not really possible to drive the resultant routes in an entirely prototypical manner.
Auran recently announced they are scaling down support for the many older versions of Trainz with effect from September 2010 so you either need to buy this version or TS2009 to continue to access the Download Station or upload new content. Personally I find the patched version of TS2009 works better at least on my development laptop. I'm also more than a little sceptical (cynical) that in a few months or a years time the cycle will repeat itself and Auran will put out another reissue at a high end retail price and declare TS2010 an obsolete version for luddites only!
Just make sure if you decide to buy this version you check and double check your hardware can run it.