Simulation games seem to be in an awkward category. You will either love them or hate them due to the fact that most are not really that exciting. After all, they are designed to be a simulation of something that goes on in real life (you know, that thing that’s outside of your front door? OK, I know the graphics aren’t as good out there as your console, but try it some time).
Car Mechanic Simulator [CMS] has been around for a while, initially launched in January 2014 on Windows and Mac. The idea (kinda obviously) is to work on cars making them roadworthy once more. It is only now, after 5 years of working on the game that it has finally been released on consoles.
The first major issue with the game however is zero tutorial! You find yourself in a garage and are expected to fully know what you’re doing in order to fix up cars. OK, so people who do have a basic knowledge of car mechanics may have an advantage here; I personally haven’t got the faintest idea other than how to change the oil on my car and put diesel in the hole at the back. I seriously struggled to get into the game for the first few hours, aimlessly wandering around picking up things and saying to myself.. ‘Ooh, shiney’.
Take into consideration that a modern engine comprises of hundreds of individual parts my learning curve was a very slow one as to what the hell I was supposed to be doing. That being said, it did all slot into place after a few painstaking hours (pun intended), but I feel that this will be a little too much for those casual gamers who want to get straight into the action.
What little hints that are given as to what things do is, well shall we say, dumb? Example, the repair bench is for repairs. Seriously? Oh, and apparently the paint shop allows you to perform various paint jobs.. I had no idea! So, if Red Dot Games want to treat us like fools with this information then why not realise that a lot of us actually are fools when it comes to mechanics and give us a tutorial?!
Take the lack of knowledge and throw in some seriously in depth menus and you know that your first few hours playing through CMS will be a painful and slow experience mainly made up of trial and error. As I said above, most people will get frustrated and leave the game after a short time, the thing is that the more you work your way through these menus and fiddle about in the garage, there will be a point where it all does click in your head and away you go.
Once everything has clicked into place in your head, the game is actually quite fun to play. The heart of the game revolves around problem solving. The cars that you bring in to your garage are huge puzzles just waiting to be solved. Take the parts appart in sequence and find that one thing that is holding the entire vehicle back from starting, fix it and then piece together the car again and you’re done. If you try not to think about the game as just mechanics of a car and look at it as various puzzles you need to solve you’ll probably enjoy it more if you are the type of person who enjoys puzzles in games.
The great thing is that the game does do a decent job of helping you through the process. Removing parts has to be done in a certain order and if there are any parts that are in the way of you removing what you think is right, they will be outlined in red as well as once parts are removed there are ghosted outlines so you remember where they go. Once you get to the point of finding out a cars faults then the overview mode will show you the offending parts in different colours.
I still say that if your a mechanically minded then it will be an advantage, nut the game did actually teach me a few things about cars that I didn’t know before, so was a good learning experience for me. That being said, to find fault with the car takes work and it can be something as little as a spark plug or the ignition coil which take some getting to.
Every job that you complete nets you money which you can put toward your own cars, but dont expect a quick buck, this game will take time. The amount of content within the game is impressive; countless numbers of repair work keep coming your way once you have finished a car. Car auctions, junk yards you can explore to find some rare cars, a massive skill tree to work your way through. Oh and best of all there’s test tracks that you can take your fixed wheels out on to see all your hard work come to life.
Working under the hood is a frustrating experience however. I found that I needed to be in the exact right place to start removing parts and that was if nothing was in my way. You may be looking down at the engine wanting to remove parts but couldn’t because something is stopping you.. but what? Well, thats a good question. First time round I was trying to strip the engine down and it took me 10 minutes to realise that I had to actually jack the car up and get underneath to remove exhausts and drive shaft. It did start to get annoying that the game doesn’t seem to help you out at all with things like that. Not to mention that if you have to remove a set of bolts from a component, you have to remove each individual one instead of a bulk remove. This then becomes even more annoying when you want to put the car back together and you need to order in parts.. searching through the enormous list of parts is painful at best.
To enjoy CMS to its fullest you will have to have a lot of patience with the game which I do feel will be its major short coming. Please give us a tutorial at the very least and people wont get frustrsated in the first few minutes.
Despite the major flaw in the game I still enjoyed it seeing my creations come to life and for this reason the game does get a 7/10. Its far from a polished piece of work like most of the cars you bring in to the garage, but there is something rewarding about seeing all your hard work pay off as the car rolls out onto the streets.
**PLEASE NOTE: AIR Entertainment were kindly supplied with a review copy of the game, this has in no way influenced my views on the game as per our review policy**