It only feels like a few months ago that we welcomed Train Sim World 3 to console and PC gaming, and TSW4 is steaming in on the 26th September.
For starters a new scoring system balances the skill requirement across routes (because just stopping at a station scored 500 points, passenger routes used to score much higher than freight routes, some of which require a large amount of skill to complete.) In TSW4 a new 'Platinum' medal will reward aspects such as using safety systems and having the train's lights or wipers set correctly will add to the player's AP points score for each service.
Interestingly, TSW4 will feature a route that crosses the border from Germany into Austria for the first time; S-Bahn Vorarlberg: Lindau-Bludenz with ÖBB's 4024 Talent EMU.
US railfans will be pleased to hear that the Los Angeles-Lancaster "Antelope Line" passenger route, serviced by the Metrolink F125, is also part of the TSW4 base game.
The UK is catered for with the LNER Class 801 Azuma running the East Coast Main Line: Peterborough-Doncaster, a 125mph passenger service which has been on the most-requested list for a long time.
Surely the star of the TSW4 launch, but only included with the "Deluxe" version, is the world-famous Flying Scotsman, set in the current day East Coast Mainline running a number of railtours.
Also included with the Deluxe version is the awesome-looking Railpool BR 193 Vectron, which will pull freight trains on a TSW4 upgraded Nahverkehr Dresden-Riesa route.
Other new core features include Livery Designer and Scenario Planner 2.0, The new Livery Designer will receive a number of user-requested features, including UI things like undo/redo buttons, to both operator and custom fonts (with upper and lower case) and a new layer limit of 1000 compared to the old limit of 300, all of which are mana from heaven for livery creators.
Scenario Planner 2.0 allows for greater detail regarding start/finish points and timing, custom or dynamic weather, adding more steps to a scenario (changes of direction etc.) for user driven or AI trains, and the ability to design your own formations. A new, easier-to-use user interface will help make these new features easy to incorporate, and Introductory text that you edit in yourself will both personalise and describe your scenario, which can the be shared to other players.
A new photo mode will allow you to pause the game at any point and move the camera, adding various filters (such as motion blur) and save your shots to a new in-game gallery. Some stunning and evocative screenshots have already been produced in earlier TSW games, so the new graphical effects such as enhanced lighting, volumetric fog and advanced rain effects will surely enhance possibilities in Photo Mode.
Even the Creator's Club hub gets an overhaul with a new UI and the time-saving ability to add a filter to your searches to only include trains you actually own.
The TSW community's opinions are certainly polarised regarding the TS4 release, with many unimpressed with its arrival little over a year after the release of TSW3. The exciting new features and enhancements, as well as backward compatibility with all previous TSW 2 & 3 DLC routes and continued support for the "Gen 8" machines (PlayStation 4 and Xbox One) may well placate the moaners and stick-in-the-muds though.