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Berlin Subway


  • Berlin Subway

    Berlin Subway

    By Jane-Rachel Whittaker (20 January 2006)

    The city of Berlin fell victim to a clash of cultures in 1945 when
    capitalism met communism. As the war in Europe came to a close the
    suspicion and mutual distrust between the ideologies of East and West
    saw the drawing of an iron curtain across Europe. To the residents of
    Berlin the iron curtain was more than a political dividing line on a
    map but a wall erected from concrete that split the city in two.
    Families were separated for nearly 40 years based on nothing more
    than the suburb they occupied in the city and to which side of the
    wall their community found itself. The luckier ones were able to
    remain under the democratic control of West Germany and the allies
    but many found themselves under Soviet oppression and endured many
    years of corruption and communism that led to wholesale dereliction
    and decay. Tales of heroism from those who found ingenious means to
    scale the wall to freedom and frontiers such as Checkpoint Charlie
    have defined Berlin in the eyes of many. The rise of democracy across
    Eastern Europe led to her own citizens literally tearing down the
    Berlin Wall, often with their bare hands, paving the way for the
    reunification of Germany.



    Against this backdrop Aerosoft and TML have released "Berlin Subway"
    as an expansion for Microsoft Train Simulator. The graphics engine in
    MSTS has dated badly since first release and the developers have
    taken the bold step of creating a whole new graphics system that is
    bolted over the top of MSTS providing custom graphics for the entire
    Berlin experience. As such after installation Berlin Subway has to be
    launched from its own desktop icon. This leads into a range of
    configuration screens from choosing realism options to a choice of
    rolling stock.

    One of the most immediately apparent innovations is to opportunity to
    create a variety of weather conditions including winds and a choice
    of seasons. If you desire your trains to run in heavy snow, rain or
    brilliant sunshine then the options are all here with a plethora of
    weather effects. I particularly enjoyed the opportunity to create a
    Berlin winter scene with blanket snow and heavy winds. Of course
    fighting the elements and running your motive power relentlessly can
    take its toll on the wear and tear of the equipment and Berlin Subway
    also provides a unique maintenance module. By choosing to operate in
    fully realistic mode then rolling stock needs to be both cleaned
    regularly and maintained. Failure to maintain the equipment in good
    running order leads to increasingly dirty trains, this dirt being
    reflected both in the interior cab view and exterior train views and
    worse still the possibility of failures and breakdowns. All repairs
    are carried out in real time, so if the realism mode is chosen a unit
    that is in the repair shop will not be available for use for some

    Luckily there is quite a variety of rolling stock including the H-97,
    UL2, A3L92, F68 and the G1/1 multiple units representing equipment
    manufactured in the West and those inherited from the Communist
    regime after reunification. Once all the configuration choices have
    been made to your satisfaction a button press launches MSTS from
    within the Berlin Subway editor, loading a specially customised
    version with Berlin Subway splash screens and only the Berlin routes
    being available. I was relieved to find that opening MSTS
    independently of Berlin Subway still provided normal operation of
    previous routes and rolling stock, the customisations only taking
    effect when running MSTS from the Berlin launcher.



    When initially being presented with Berlin Subway for review I was
    concerned as to the appeal of a subway simulator. The idea of
    travelling underground through dark and dank tunnels initially seemed
    considerably less glamorous and interesting than operating a steam
    train through rolling countryside. Within a couple of minutes of
    launching Berlin Subway these myths were dispelled and I was
    completely hooked. The new graphics system provides the most
    immersive experience I have ever encountered in MSTS. The subway
    network came to life in exquisite detail finding myself in everything
    from graffiti adorned tunnels and 1930's stations to modern complexes
    all lit with a stunningly realistic lighting system.

    The uniqueness of the Berlin Subway was assured when the system was
    also split with the rest of the city. Some lines fell into decay with
    rolling stock being abandoned on platforms where they stood and being
    coverted into ad-hoc fleamarkets and bazaars! Reunification of
    Germany saw a massive restoration program for the entire Berlin
    Subway system and has created a network of contrasts with pre-war,
    austere communist and liberal capitalist station architecture
    standing side by side. The U2 North-South line and the U8 East-West
    lines have been recreated in immaculate detail offering around 2
    hours worth of track to explore end-to-end. The U8 line had the
    distinction of passing through the communist controlled sector where
    trains were allowed to continue albeit with the stations being closed
    and guarded 24 hours a day by heavily armed troops with trains being
    forbidden to stop!



    These stations have now been fully reopened and within the Berlin
    Subway simulation now teem with life with the inclusion of a vast
    array of commuters being added to all the platforms. I was
    particularly impressed with the ability to open the train doors at
    each station to be greeted with the ambient sounds of hustle and
    bustle as commuters and tourists jostled to board the train. A
    particularly impressive feature is the announcement system that, on a
    keypress, allows the driver to announce arrival at each station on
    the route with each station name being properly vocalised and
    announcing either a left or right door exit.

    If you are unfamiliar with the network and are wondering why a
    weather simulator has been included in a subway simulation the answer
    lies in the fact that not all of the modelled U2 and U8 lines are
    underground but large tracts actually travel overground on bridges
    and embankments that traverse the city. Again such was the quality of
    the graphics detail that I actually felt I was in Berlin with views
    of modern Berlin transposed with bleak tenement buildings that seem
    determined to offer a haunting reminder of Communist oppression and
    despair whilst they cling onto an existence in defiance of the
    bulldozers that have become a symbol for the vast refurbishment of
    the city. I did however, have to be careful not to get too carried
    away with sightseeing as a fully authentic signalling system is an
    integral part of the simulation and I had to pay careful attention to
    only proceed as directed to avoid mishaps with computer controlled
    trains that also inhabit the network. Engineering work is also in
    evidence and care has to be taken to obey all speed restrictions in
    force lest the automated safety systems onboard the trains apply the
    emergency brakes in response to driver negligence. I have to admit I
    found myself in this situation a number of times in my initial
    explorations of the system, being so absorbed by the sumptuous
    graphics to the detriment of my driving skills, which was probably
    much to the annoyance of my virtual passengers! When each line was
    explored to my hearts content I was able to delve into the included
    activities and was delighted to find that a whopping 46 separate
    activities were available with everything from all-stations passenger
    services to taking a unit to the train washing facility!



    Berlin subway is simply phenomenal and single-handedly breathes a new
    lease of life into the aging MSTS with a custom graphics engine that
    left my jaw on the floor coupled to the incredibly researched and
    detailed network that ensured that every square inch of track was not
    only true to life but unique. The choice of Berlin to showcase this
    new technology is an inspired one with the city's ambience and ghosts

    of its turbulent 20th century history pervading every nook and cranny
    of this simulation. Those of us who thought that MSTS was reaching
    the end of its useful life may well have to think again! All I can
    say in conclusion is please Aerosoft and TML can we have more of
    these simulations, the London Underground Circle Line and New York
    transit systems spring to mind, hint hint!

    Publisher: Aerosoft

    Developer: TML

    Requirements: fully patched Microsoft Train Simulator

    Price: $34.99

    Purchase Here

    Jane-Rachel Whittaker

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