Train Sim World 2 London Commuter 1

After almost two years of pandemic enforced solitude, this author was practically pining for the hustle and bustle of London last weekend: the rising heat of the London Underground, the oft-ignored ‘Stand to the Right’ signs next to the rubber staircase banisters, and the shrill sound of the train’s brakes pulling into Euston Square three minutes late. But seconds after being packed into a carriage like tinned fish, next to a mask-less man with the faint stench of last night’s vindaloo on his breath, the romance of the Victoria Line swiftly evaporated.

Fortunately, there’s always Train Sim World 2, a PlayStation 5 and PS4 game where public transport comes without caveats. We’ve written about a number of routes that have been added as expansions to this release, eulogising the virtual tourism aspect that the rail sim provides – but you really can’t beat those lines that you’ve ridden in real-life. That’s why we’ve been patiently anticipating the London Commuter, which depicts the 50-or-so miles between London Victoria and Brighton. It’s part of the new Rush Hour pack, and is perhaps our favourite addition thus far.

For those of you who don’t know, the Gatwick Express is an expedited rail service that connects London and Brighton to Gatwick Airport. We’ve been on this train a number of times – once hiding in the toilet, as we’d purchased a cheaper ticket – and the journey out of England’s capital into the seaside is an iconic one. Along the way you pass the ostentatious Battersea Power Station and cross the Ouse Valley Viaduct before arriving at the seaside in Brighton. It’s a really nice journey.

And developer Dovetail has really exceeded itself with the sheer amount of detail it’s packed into this route. While we enjoy the escapism aspect of the Train Sim World series, the British studio works with a shoestring budget given the niche nature of its tentpole title. And yet, the detail is extraordinary here: East Croydon’s contemporary platform walkways look borderline futuristic as you rifle through the station, while you’ll even see planes coming in to land when you stop at Gatwick to let passengers on and off.

There are two trains included in this DLC: the BR 377 in Southern Livery and BR 387 in Gatwick Express livery. Both have been immaculately rendered and border on Gran Turismo levels of obsessive attention to detail. These are fun trains to drive, too: this author isn’t exactly a locomotive expert, and the combined power/brake lever makes stopping and starting a breeze. With the Gatwick Express you’ll mostly be blitzing out of London and through the countryside into Brighton, but the BR 377 tasks you with more stop-and-start services through the many smaller stations along the way.

And this is a dense route, make no mistake of that. The expansion includes an eye-watering 1,500 services, and you can drive every single one. This has led to some issues at launch: we’ve got stuck at red lights a couple of times – there’s a lot for Dovetail to troubleshoot here – but it does mean that when everything’s working, you’re going to be seeing trains crossing you every few minutes. It definitely captures that “rush hour” feeling.

Unfortunately, the developer’s had to disable the increased passenger numbers from the Boston Sprinter, and you do get the feeling that the engine is straining. The team’s pretty good with optimisation, so we expect vast improvements over the coming months, but don’t anticipate flawless performance if you decide to take the Gatwick Express out in the midst of a snow storm during January – we managed to completely crash our PS5.

Performing a bit better but still sticking with the London theme is the new train added to the Bakerloo Line route. The 1938 Stock which released this week is inspired by discontinued rails from a bygone era, but it’s effectively the same unit that services the Isle of Wight DLC we wrote about last year. This is a gorgeous retro train, and while you’ll be driving it on the modern incarnation of the London Underground, the attention to detail on the furnishings is unprecedented. We actually found ourselves letting the AI drive and simply enjoying the scenery as a passenger.

The studio will be sticking with this retro rail format when it releases its 90s-themed Cornwall expansion later this year, which we can’t wait to try out. On a console where there’s no shortage of blockbusters, we’ve found Train Sim World 2 to be the constant that we keep coming back to. There’s still lots for Dovetail Games to improve in terms of core performance, but the sheer attention to detail in these latest routes shows how far the developer has come – and in terms of raw digital escapism, there’s still nothing better than this on the PS5.

What’s your go-to PS5 game for escapism these days? Have you ever been on any of the trains mentioned in this article? Don’t forget to buy a ticket in the comments section below.