What is Run 8 and is it for you?
Run 8 is a realistic prototypical computer simulation of train operations found in the United States (featuring railroads primarily in the Southwest, Florida and the Northeast) The major railroads found in Run 8 are BNSF, UP, SP, NS and CSX. (For complete details of the routes and trainsets available see Run 8 studios)
What’s so great about Run 8
Firstly, this review will be from the standpoint of someone brand new to rail simulators including Run 8 but not necessarily new to computer gaming. As of this post, there is a major train simulator on the market that you may be familiar with called Train Sim World by Dovetail games. I have not played that game but have watched extensive videos and streams of it being played. Now it’s true that my experience within Run 8 has been for only a few hours but as far as I can tell, Run 8 is in a category all it’s own in terms of realistic railroad operations. While Train Sim World boasts pretty photorealistic graphics and controlled scenarios, Run 8 shines in a different yet entirely important way. With its true to life scale routes (hundreds of miles in the base version of the sim alone), magnificent sounds and horns and its giant sandbox, Run 8 train simulator has a unique way of giving the player the true feeling they are and could be a real train engineer or yard master. And if you ever wanted to simulate the air-brake operation of a 100 plus car consist, Run 8 lets you do it. The simulator won’t hold your hand in the process but isn’t learning how to do it all part of the fun?
Multiplayer and Single-player
Run 8, in addition to its realistic sounds, routes and signal operation also features the option to work in a multiplayer setting (on a server) and perform prototypical yard operations with other people who are also running a copy of the simulator. (Note: I would highly recommend learning the basics of the sim and train operations before venturing onto a server.) Of course, yard operations, AI train and player train movement can be performed in single-player mode.
AI trains part of the rail sandbox
Computer controlled trains better known as AI trains can also be enabled in Run 8. This gives the player(s) the option to have AI trains run along side (within the same game world) as you “play” in this grand rail sandbox. If you ever wanted a railroading sandbox than Run 8 is the simulation that gives you the player much freedom in how you run a railroad and a train in Run 8.
Run 8 also includes an in-game switchboard, complete with signals and switches giving you the player the opportunity to manage multiple trains or just one if you so choose. Of course whether you choose to run multiple AI trains, run alone or with others is entirely up to you!
What I like least in Run 8
The overall graphical quality of the scenery found in the sim world look like something out of a game from the 90’s or early 2000’s. The anti-aliasing (or lack thereof) isn’t much better as a moving train can appear in certain light downright distracting with shimmering edges of the distance boxcars, especially in the noon day sun.
GRAPHICS: However, up close those BNSF engines (among the others included) and rail cars look pretty nice. While Run 8 comes with many options for running a train as prototypical as possible, within the constraints of a computer, some components of the simulator simply will not work with a mouse or simply do not function at all. The best example of this I found is within a locomotive’s cab. The horn, braking lever, throttle, reverser and independent brake levers are only controllable via a keyboard or RailDriver. It’s important to note however that not having this complete control with a mouse does not necessarily ruin the overall experience of running a train just something to be aware of. Likewise the sim comes of multiple menu options to either auto start (through a menu) or manually start the train engines.
Conclusion – Is Run 8 worth it?
Because Run 8 features many realistic aspects of real-life rail work, there is a learning curve. Aside from learning how to get a train or even simply an engine moving (if you’ve never done it in a simulator before), this simulator features many keyboard bindings to memorize and learn. Depending on your experience with games and simulators this will prove to be either a non issue or possibly a major challenge in and of itself. And let’s not forget about learning how the industries, tags and symbols work. Thankfully, the current version of Run 8 features some helpful PDF files for getting yourself acquainted with basic sim operations and a handy keybinding cheat sheet. And there are also YouTube videos available for additional help to getting started in Run 8. In addition, all of the sim’s keybindings can be found (and even changed) within the simulator itself for quick reference.
So is Run 8 worth $50? Well, the answer to that is of course a subjective one but to clarify, the $50 is for the base portion of the simulator as found on the Run 8 Studios website (as of this writing). For additional trainsets and routes the sim will cost you more (between $10-$40 for each one). However, if you find that you really enjoy trains (particularly from the U.S.) and are seeking a realistic operational open world train simulation and can overlook some not-so-good graphical renditions, than starting with the Run 8 base sim might just wet your whistle! Just be prepared to have loads of fun and want to buy those addons!
DISCLAIMER: This review if from personal experience with the simulator and not affiliated with Run 8 Studios
image source: images are in-game screenshots