Transport Fever 2 is a meticulously designed logistics simulator which tasks you with the timely transportation of passengers and goods via trains, trucks, planes, and ships. There is a simple satisfaction in getting something where it needs to go as efficiently as possible, and that sense extends to the gameplay experience as a whole.
It's probably worth stating upfront that Transport Fever is the definition of an enthusiast series. If you don't get jazzed by the idea of creating an intricate, interlocking web of systems, then Transport Fever 2 isn't likely to convert you. Still, if you're anything like us, you'll find yourself disassociating for hours at a time, entranced by the possibility of a new locomotive shaving a few more moments off of your most profitable route.
The main draw here is probably Free Play mode, which allows you to generate a random map using predetermined factors, such as climate, geography, continent, and difficulty. A fairly granular level of detail is possible, and you can share particularly cool maps with others using the associated seed, which is a nice touch.
You're given limited funds to start a successful transport company; the rest is up to you. By identifying the needs of residents in nearby towns, you can turn a profit by getting both citizens and the resources they require from Point A to Point B. This will necessitate ludicrously elaborate logistical setups that'll turn lush countrysides into warrens of rail, road, and rampant urban development. This proposition is made more tricksy by the need to process goods and materials at nearby factories first before shipping the finished produce to keep the needy townsfolk happy.
While somewhat overwhelming at first, Transport Fever 2 has been adapted for PS5 quite successfully. Before long, you'll plot routes and expand your operations with a few well-placed button presses. Everything to do with road transport has its own section, so truck stops, depots, and bus stops can be found within the same tab, as is the case with the other modes of transportation. Before long, we were placing structures and tweaking lines without thought, able to make changes and corrections as soon as they occurred to us.
An ever-present aspect of the game is its soundtrack, which, if you let it, will ear-worm its way into your psyche and have you bopping along for hours at a time — or curled up in the foetal position in a padded room, depending on the day. Ranging from the kind of smooth jazz Ron Burgundy would put on at an intimate afterparty, to spine-melting, soul-infused guitar solos, right into another round of honky-tonk piano. It's a wild ride; you never know what you'll hear next.
Lines are the basic building blocks of your burgeoning economy, and learning to analyse and tweak them to a specific purpose quickly is an essential skill. At its most basic, a line is simply a route between destinations. But, thanks to a relatively straightforward UI setup, adding stops, assigning additional vehicles, and adjusting the maintenance rate is a breeze, and we took deep satisfaction in regularly reviewing our existing routes.
Once a line is successfully running, the money starts to roll in, offset by the funds required for maintenance. Over time, a great deal of the enjoyment of the game comes from recouping the upfront setup costs of what was formerly a money bonfire and is now a profitable logistics chain. As time progresses, new vehicles will become available, increasing productivity still further. The small townships dotting the landscape will grow into thriving cities before your eyes, proof of the fruits of your labour.
You're able to pause or increase the flow of time as required, but even so, you'll find yourself waiting around at times, wishing your new fleet of wagons would just get to work already. We do wish there was an additional level of progression possible, as even on the fastest available setting, we found ourselves easily distracted from the experience.
There's a surprisingly detailed and almost entirely voiced campaign for players to dive into, with the entire thing serving as a deep and extra-long tutorial. You'll be guided through periods of economic growth in various epochs from modern history, from the 1850s onward, helping to connect isolated rural areas to booming economic sectors.
One thing to note is it's all done in character and is meant to be of its time, which leads to some uncomfortable line reads that, while rare, raised eyebrows enough to be worth mentioning. In the second mission, for example, called Coffee and Colonialism, a stereotypical Western commentator waxes poetic about the supposed inferiority of the local Javanese labour force. An optional objective in the same mission has you investigating whether or not some might be cannibals, which didn't seem strictly necessary in a game mostly concerned with trains.
Transport Fever 2 looks great for the type of game it is, with a pleasing amount of detail to each in-game vehicle model, of which there are hundreds. The environment, too, is pleasing to the eye, and you might think twice about demolishing a particularly scenic vista. Technically, it has some frame rate issues, and even in Performance Mode never really felt like it was hitting a stable 60 frames per second. Granted, a lot is going on under the hood, and strategy games of this ilk are notoriously CPU intensive, but it's still disappointing it isn't more consistent.
Transport Fever 2 is not a perfect experience, but it's a solid and satisfying one, providing developer Urban Games with a perfect framework to expand upon with future updates. It's well worth taking a chance on if the premise at all intrigues you, and if nothing else, will give you a whole new perspective the next time you find yourself stuck in traffic on your morning commute.
Transport Fever 2 is the type of enthusiast sim that will keep its target audience rapt for hours. For everyone else, though, it's harder to recommend, as even with its single-player campaign serving as an extended tutorial, it can be difficult to parse. Despite an inconsistent frame rate and some questionable dialogue, it's an undeniably satisfying experience for the strategic-minded, and one of the most in-depth titles of its kind available on PlayStation platforms.