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Bus Simulator 21 Review

Bus Simulator 21 puts you quite literally in the driving seat.  You are in charge of your very own bus company and everything that goes along with it such as buying buses, creating new bus routes and checking fares. You’ll also be maintaining damaged bus stops along your route(s) and dealing with lost property.  You are at the helm from the very onset.  Read on for our Bus Simulator 21 review!

Create your own bus driver

You begin your journey with character creation, albeit a limited one.  However, that isn’t a problem because you’re not here to worry about how good your character looks – you’re here for some bus-driving goodness!  Once you have settled on a character, you are then thrown into the world of owning and running a bus company!  At first, you will have to make decisions around which bus(es) to purchase, which routes to pick up, creating new routes and updating bus stops in need of some TLC along said routes among other things.

Let’s get something out of the way right now: this game is loads of fun and I had the best time driving a bus!  Seriously.  The whole experience truly draws you in and there is so much to do and think about that it is difficult not to become – and subsequently remain – immersed.  I also suspect that the game putting you in charge of your own success or failure, forces you to really pay attention to absolutely everything that you do in order to do the best that you can.

Routes

Routes, naturally, play an important role in Bus Simulator 21.  There is one to begin with, but you are required to learn others and to even create your own routes as you progress.  This deepens the immersion even further because you are literally crafting the way forward for your bus company.

There is also plenty of data available at all times, sometimes verging on too much.  For example, the Payday Breakdown screenshot above is the default basic view (note how there is an option to “Open Full Statistics”)!  This is very useful at first, but it can verge on analysis paralysis unless you really want to do a major deep dive into every aspect of your company.  However, it is also important to remember that this is indeed a simulator, and like real-life businesses, yours will also generate a lot of data.  It just depends on what your personal requirements are and it’s probably better to have it than not.

Driving lessons

There are loads of bus controls to learn and when you first begin, this can immediately and understandably be overwhelming.  However, you should always bear in mind that you aren’t required to use all of the controls every time.  Instead, you tend to use perhaps only 10% of the controls on a regular basis, with the others being used much less frequently or only when required (such as the ramp).

Fortunately, to make gameplay much easier for controller players like myself, Sillalive Studios has included a very useful and well-implemented radial menu (reminiscent of the one implemented in Baldur’s Gate 3).  This enables you to navigate the plethora of available bus controls with relative ease whilst still maintaining focus on the task at hand, which is to service the route correctly.

Realistic simulation

The driving physics feels close to being perfect.  You really do seem to “feel” the weight and handling of each of the different types and makes of buses based on how they are configured to their real-life counterparts.  At first, you will almost certainly crash when rounding corners, but this is to be expected.  The reason is that the wheels of a bus are typically further back along the body than most other road vehicles whose wheels are close to the front.  As such, you may be trained to turn the wheel sooner in real life, but you quickly learn to allow for the difference in the wheel position of the bus and make the adjustment easily.

The weather in Bus Simulator 21 is dynamic and may change at any point along the route.  The road becomes visibly wet, you are required to use your wipers and it really does feel as if you are driving in the rain.  Further to this, the weather affects the behaviour of other drivers and pedestrians alike.  For example, rain might cause pedestrians to walk more slowly and there may be a buildup of traffic due to vehicles travelling more cautiously.  The weather is implemented well and feels natural when it happens, mimicking real-life driving conditions accurately.

Control your entire bus

The in-vehicle controls and features are also implemented accurately, allowing you to interact with myriad bus functions as required.  Such features include operating the doors, lowering and raising the bus (known as “kneeling”), adjusting mirrors, turning wipers on and off, operating various internal and external lights, operating the ticket machine and even handing out correct change from fares (which you can do incorrectly if you aren’t paying attention!).  You can also leave the driver’s seat at any time to check fares in order to catch any fare-dodgers.

If you want to sit back and relax, enjoying watching your business unfold in front of your very eyes, then you can also request an NPC driver take over the route.  You are then free to stroll around the bus (which we all know is dangerous and should never do, naturally).  Also, you can choose to sit or even walk around and check whether passengers have paid their fares or not.

You are also free to roam the vast environments on foot, although the experience is quite different from driving buses.  The first thing you notice when maneuvering your character around on foot is how alarmingly fast they move.  Also, when you stop moving them, they immediately stop in an unnatural way.  Given how realistic the driving physics and overall experience of driving buses is, I expected it to carry over to on-foot transport.  Sadly this isn’t the case and my character’s erratic movements unfortunately withdrew me from the immersion.  So much so that I choose to travel everywhere by bus and avoid on-foot movement wherever possible.

Multiplayer

There are two multiplayer options and features available in Bus Simulator 21: competitive multiplayer and cooperative multiplayer.  Competitive multiplayer allows up to four players to compete against each other in various bus-related challenges, such as reaching specific destinations in time, racing or completing objectives.

In cooperative multiplayer, up to four players can team up in order to manage a bus company.  They take turns planning routes, buying new buses and driving buses among other aspects.  This could be seen as a way to simulate what operating a bus company under a shared partnership is really like. Crossplay is also enabled in Bus Simulator 21, meaning that people playing on different platforms can cross paths and play with or against one another without any problems, thus increasing the chance of matchmaking.

Given the diverse maps, vast bus selections, various career options and multiplayer options, Bus Simulator 21 offers a very high level of replay value indeed.  If you happen to be a bus and/or driving enthusiast, then you will likely lose dozens of hours to this incredibly detailed and immersive simulator.

From the very beginning it is clear to see that everything looks and sounds wonderful.  Vibrant colours and detailed environments make up your surroundings and everything looks realistic.  NPC movement can sometimes be slightly janky, but that doesn’t detract from the fun.  Add to that incredible weather effects and expertly-crafted sound effects for the buses, and it becomes hard not to feel like you are really there.

Not every car has a driver which is very amusing considering how it’s impossible to get run over in Bus Simulator 21! You often hear NPCs muttering something amusing (and sometimes offensive) as they board your bus and the sound of the engine whirring gently in the background sounds exactly like the real thing.  You also hear the rain pattering down against your window and onto the body of your bus and even the swish of the wipers.

Conclusion

Bus Simulator 21 is a very well-built and immersive simulator that offers a realistic and often challenging experience.  It makes you feel as if you are really there running a bus company and looks and sounds amazing.  There are some small problems such as minor bugs and unnatural character movements but these can be easily ignored.  There is also a plethora of data and options available to you, sometimes becoming overwhelming, but these can again mostly be overlooked if you know what you want to do.  Driving feels natural, the maps are diverse and there are extensive management options available to you.  Overall, Bus Simulator 21 is a great experience and is loads of fun whether playing alone or with friends.

Pros:

  • You get to drive buses!
  • Great implementation of a radial menu to access the plethora of bus functions.
  • Vast selection of buses.
  • Large open-world maps to explore.
  • Realistic driving physics.
  • Realistic weather.
  • You really feel the pressure of running a bus company!

Cons:

  • The huge number of bus controls can be overwhelming at first.
  • Occasional glitches detract from the immersion.
  • Character and NPC movement feels unnatural.
  • The camera is sometimes difficult to position.

Grade: 8

Bus Simulator 21 is currently available through GeForce Now and PlayStation Plus Premium. This review was made by Mus from PapaBear Gaming. You can check out his channel right here. You can follow him on Twitter by going here. That was it for our Bus Simulator 21 review.