Bus Simulator 18 features above average driving mechanics and immersiveness, but is a near-complete failure on a technical and overall fun level.
Playing Bus Simulator 18 is mostly an exercise in frustration and disappointment. While the gameplay itself is solid enough, featuring above average bus driving mechanics and a system that immerses players in its particular world, there are just far too many bugs and technical issues. Developed by Stillalive Studios and first released on PC last year, Bus Simulator 18 has finally come to consoles, though the end result is something that players will probably wish the studio had spent a lot more time fine tuning and doing proper bug testing instead of rushing its release.
Like in previous iterations of the long-running simulator series, Bus Simulator 18 puts players in the position of both driver of their very own bus as well as the one in charge of their own company. The ultimate goal is to grow said company with money, which is earned from delivering passengers safely to their next destination. On the flip side, players will lose money if they drive erratically, run red lights or damage property or their bus. Eventually, players will be able to add new buses with other drivers and really see their company grow. It's this level of immersiveness that lends the game some early respectability, almost enough to overcome some early nearly-game-breaking bugs, including install and frame rate issues. But the game's cracks are vast and impossible to ignore for long.
Right from Bus Simulator 18's opening moments, which introduce players to a tutorial designed to instruct newbies on how to operate a bus properly, the Xbox One version of the game's technical issues make an early appearance. Overwhelming lag and frame rate drops immediately make traversing the map nearly impossible. These issues pass eventually but it's such an alarmingly jarring first impression that it might be enough to turn away certain players, especially mixed in with the title's infuriating loading times. All of these issues compounded on top of each other doesn't really spell good things for the rest of the game and, surely enough, they are issues that happen consistently throughout.
Bugs and technical glitches aside, Bus Simulator 18 simply doesn't sustain the fun for very long. In fact, the title can be downright difficult to keep up with after awhile. Getting from one bus stop to another is timed by a clock on the screen that counts down as you drive, which at first adds a fun wrinkle to the game. But the other cars' A.I. is so dreadfully bad that it's nearly impossible to make it to the next destination in time. While this won't fail the game, it does cut into profits earned, which would be fine if it were a fair system populated with smart and adaptive artificial intelligence. As it is, cars stop in the middle of intersections for no reason, pedestrians randomly stop walking in the middle of a crosswalk, and dozens of other little occurrences frequent the experience and are absolutely head-scratch-worthy.
The driving mechanics in Bus Simulator 18 are really the game's main saving grace, at least when the rest of the title is running smoothly. There's a detailed but not unpleasant learning curve to how the bus operates, what prerequisites need to be met before the bus can be moved, and to using every facet of the bus's functions to ensure maximum time saved and money earned. It's here where a good game starts to bleed through and that the title lives up to its simulator-promising name. It's just simply not enough to make up for everything else that Bus Simulator 18 gets so disappointingly wrong.
Bus Simulator 18 is a highly flawed simulator game loaded technical problems, buggy A.I., and a lack of fun. The driving itself and its sense of immersion are both big positives, but they're never quite enough to overcome the flaws. Still, for super fans of the series who desperately need their fix of bus simulation, it might be enough for them to overlook the bad. For everyone else, this is a ride that's simply not worth the ticket price.
Bus Simulator 18 is out now on Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and PC for $39.99. Screen Rant was provided an Xbox One copy for the purposes of this review.