Construction Simulator 2 US – Console Edition – Xbox One Review
Can we build it? Probably!
What youngster hasn’t seen a big digger or played with a Tonka toy and wondered how much fun it would be to operate one for real? In fact there are plenty of not so young people who would love to have a go at the controls of one of these mechanical beasts. Well now you can in a virtual sense on your Xbox One with the release of Construction Simulator 2. You are placed in charged of your own newly formed construction company, and have to build up your business, literally from the ground up. You start with just one small digger and a flat bed truck, taking on small jobs, making money along the way so you can buy or rent bigger and better vehicles, that in turn allow you to take on the bigger construction jobs. You’ll start small by delivering materials, digging holes and resurfacing roads, working your way up, and if your successful you might find yourself with a contract to construct a shopping mall or two!
The game concentrates on the automotive and mechanical aspects rather than the personal details of construction, so you don’t actually see yourself as a character, but get to drive and operate all the machinery from a third person perspective. The developers realise that the selling point of the game is that the player want to get stuck straight into the physical aspects of the game, so it wastes no time in getting you into operating some heavy machinery. As you can imagine, there is no exhilarating thrill of speed and action with vehicles like these, but I soon found myself captivated and immersed in their operation as it takes skill and concentration to work some of them effectively. Operating a digger or a crane involves using both sticks on the controller simultaneously to control different parts of the hydraulics, so a steady hand and good co-ordination are needed, while still concentrating on moving each stick independently. It’s the gaming equivalent of patting your head and rubbing your tummy at the same time, but with a greater sense of achievement when you get it right!
Construction Simulator 2 is actually a conversion of a mobile game, so was originally designed with a touch screen in mind, but kudos to the developers because you would never guess by playing the console version. The buttons are mapped quite instinctively and it doesn’t take long to get the hang of switching between viewing, driving or operating modes at the press of a button or the depression of a thumbstick. Each vehicle has a tutorial section for the newbie or operator that needs a refresher, but once you get the hang of it you’ll be able to operate the plant to a satisfactory level, of course becoming an expert is an ongoing process.
The pace of the game is fairly pedestrian, with jobs taking on by accepting contracts, from a basic three at the start of the game, but soon opening up in variety as you get more equipment, visit different locations on the map and open new areas. There are four areas on the map, starting with the small and unexciting Desert Springs, then you work your way up to unlocking the suburban Sunny hills, the the commercial hub of Westgate before finally getting to play with the high rollers and build skyscrapers in Northridge. Building up your cash at the start can be a bit of a grind, taking on very similar jobs over and over until you have built up enough cash to move up to a better vehicle. The contract list does refresh every 10 minutes so there is a slight variation but theres not really any getting away from a bit of a grind if you want a decent bank balance. To unlock each new area of the map, its not just a case of having enough cash, but you need to complete a ‘Special Job’ which is usually more interesting and dramatic than the norm. You’ll need a specific set of new vehicles, which have to be bought or hired. If you do hire them, you need to work fast and efficiently as you’re charged by the minute for the rental, so the longer you take to complete the job, the more the rental cost will eat into your profits.
As you’d expect with vehicles of this size, it’s a fairly slow and laborious process driving them around, and even if you do try and drive recklessly, you’ll get an instant ticket from the cops for breaking the speed limit or running a red light. Thank goodness then for the fast travel function. This is an essential mechanic to save your sanity, as a lot of jobs involve moving between locations, picking up and delivering equipment and resources numerous times. When you’re on a job time will also speed forward at convenient times to try and keep interest and momentum going. For example if you’ve laid some asphalt or cement in an area, the game will often skip to the point a few hours into the future where its all set and dried, letting you get on with the next phase of the job. Be warned, some of the jobs can be fairly lengthy. Simple jobs will take a while at the start, but that’s just you getting used to the controls and layout of the environment, but even when I’d got the hang of everything, I found a more advanced job may take a couple of hours or more to complete, which certainly tested my concentration span with the less engaging parts of the task at hand. With the more unusual bits of kit it wasn’t a problem, but tedium did set in a few times with the less engaging vehicles.
As you’re building up a business and trying to make money, there is a management element to the game, but thankfully its not too complicated and doesn’t get in the way of having fun in the vehicles. Its not too difficult to keep the money rolling in if you don’t mind a bit of a grind early on, and you can always take out a bank loan if you are confident you can make a profit. You just need to keep an eye on the bank balance, think ahead as to how much materials and rental costs are likely to set you back, and you should avoid going into debt.
The main selling point of this game of course is the vehicles, and with over 40 of them to control, potential Bob the Builder’s can have a lot of fun, and to add to it they are all licenced. With big names in the construction game like Cat, Liebherr, Palfinger, Atlas and Bell all having their kit in the game, you can take control of bulldozers, diggers, cranes, concrete mixers and road layers to name a few, I’m sure every player will find a favourite. As mentioned before, you don’t get a first person perspective in the vehicles which is a shame as cab-cam would’ve been a great addition, but on some of the vehicles there is a front bonnet or bumper view as well as the third person camera angle.
Visually the game looks adequate, functional rather than visually spectacular, and it’s the only real indication that you’re playing a port of a mobile game. The graphics are enhanced on the Xbox One X but are still nothing spectacular. The focus is on the vehicles, which seem to have been rendered authentically, with the sounds matching very well for a decent level of realism. There was a bit of lag in the graphics with using the fast travel option, but nowhere near concerning enough to be annoying or detrimental to the game play experience. As with the graphics, the sound concentrates on the accuracy of the vehicles, and anything outside that is functional and generic.
As simulators go, you could say this one is at a beginner level, but then the PC is really the normal home for this genre, so at least its good to see another game like this making a foray into the console market, testing the waters. It could remain a novelty for Xbox owners or be at the start of an expansion in this format, but only time and sales will dictate that. For now Construction Simulator 2 gives us the chance to drive, dig and build to our hearts content at a less than hectic pace.
Developer: weltenbauer. SE GmbH
Publisher: astragon Entertainment GmbH
Many Thanks to astragon Entertainment for the review copy.