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That's the power of a good simulator: The responsibility you're given feels real, but not too scary. In this decidedly niche title, you find yourself in the driver's seat of a full-trailer truck, hauling freight across Europe. Euro Truck Simulator 2 offers a vast network of roads to drive on, with many missions to pick from. I never thought a truck-driving simulator could be fun, but Euro Truck Simulator 2 ($40) proved me wrong. If you're used to more traditional racing games, getting used to the way trucks handle in the game may take some time. With its superb graphics and realistic truck cockpits, Euro Truck Simulator 2 makes long-haul trucking quite attractive.
You start the game as a freelance driver for hire, taking on trucking jobs across the continent.
Euro truck simulator lets you customize the controls and decide just how much of the driving you want the game to do, and how much you want to handle on your own. Euro Truck Simulator 2 has you carry diverse types of cargo, including heavy industrial tanks. Euro Truck Simulator 2's attention to detail, convincing physics, and striking visuals transcend its niche status. While trucking and freight delivery fills an important role in our modern existence, it's just one role. Unlike many AAA titles, SimCity holds a wide appeal, attracting both seasoned gamers and casual players. Cities in the new SimCity are much smaller than they used to be: it's not all that difficult run out of map space. SimCity's interface hides a great deal of complexity, including data maps for aspects of your city like health, density, land value, and more. Indeed, cities not only can cooperate in the new SimCity, but they pretty much have to, in order to succeed. As you pick up a new police station, school, or other public building from a toolbar and move over the map to pick a spot for it, the building will literally hover above the ground, swinging gently from side to side as you drag your mouse. You can see exactly who's using your city's parks at any time -- an indication for how the economy is doing. The latest title in a franchise established in 1989, SimCity is buoyed by its illustrious past. First, the original game: It remains commercially available to this day through GOG, a service specializing in old-time games. If you enjoy FreeSpace 2's detailed gameplay and wish for nothing more than some updated graphics, you're in luck. The FreeSpace 2 story only shows that a great simulator will likely live on, business circumstances notwithstanding. After FreeSpace 2 was released, the space simulator market remained relatively dormant for years. Strike Suit Zero's interface is much simpler than FreeSpace 2's, and offers a fluid gameplay experience. Developing the game was not without its difficulties: When funding ran out midway through the project, Born Ready Games turned to Kickstarter for extra funding.
The end result is a game with thoroughly modern, gorgeous looks, and simple, intuitive controls that puts you in the cockpit of a space fighter. When lighting the afterburner in Strike Suit Zero, everything blurs out of sighta€”you're moving that fast. Strike Suit Zero keeps things simple: There is no multiplayer mode, no radar on your HUD, no complicated key mappings to remember. If you like the notion of flying, but don't like to do it in outer space, you might want to try Microsoft Flight.
While the introductory missions are interesting and fun to play (especially the landing tutorial) and the graphics were strikingly beautiful, gameplay is marred by having to navigate using landmarks, rather than traditional waypoints. For example: One of the more frustrating challenges starts out midflight, and you're supposed to land the plane. Microsoft Flight lets you switch between several cameras to get a better look at the action.


Whether it's about starting a city, fighting an interplanetary civil war, flying a plane in Hawaii, or hauling freight across the old continent, a solid simulation game will keep you engaged and entertained for hours.
Strike Suit Zero breathes new life into an old genre, and introduces an engaging innovation in space combat: A space fighter that transforms into a mech. A true classic, FreeSpace 2 bred several open-source modifications, but the even the original, unmodded game is still fun to play if you don't mind the dated graphics. SimCity is a visually striking homage to a classic series that takes city building in bold new directions, but troubling business decisions and technical snafus spell trouble.
Despite its beautiful looks and impressive lineage, Microsoft Flight fails to offer a truly compelling gameplay experience. A beautiful surprise, Euro Truck Simulator 2 takes an activity that seems mundane at first glance and turns it into a compelling challenge. There is something soothing in watching the world go by from the high and mighty cockpit of a Volvo FH16 Globetrotter XL. They really do feel like trucks: Slow to accelerate, jarringly fast to brake thanks to air brakes, ungainly to maneuver, and immensely powerful. From one job to the next, you gain experience, unlock abilities, and set aside a nice nest egg you can eventually use to buy a truck of your own and start a trucking company. Manually switching gears on a truck hauling 20 tons of ore while navigating through a massive open pit mine is no mean feata€”which is why it's nice to have the game take care of that detail for you, at least as you're getting started. This is a game so well-made, it can make you a fan of the category just by virtue of its sheer quality alone. If you're looking to get a better look at the interconnected landscape of a modern city, you'll have to go with something a bit more mainstream: SimCity.
The sad story started with fawning reviews prelaunch, escalated to an outpouring of rage in what has been one of the gaming industry's most embarrassing launches in recent memory, and culminated with EA CEO John Riccitiello's quitting.
To help acclimate new gamers, the game starts with an extensive tutorial that takes 20 to 30 minutes to complete. If you constrain yourself to a single city, it is all too easy to end up with an average disappointment of a town, a place that excels at nothing, yet tries to do everything. The game cleverly uses tilt-shift affects to make buildings look like adorable miniatures, both realistic and game-like at the same time. That leaves it in an awkward spot: In terms of content, quality, and gameplay, SimCity has a very wide appeal, even (and maybe especially) if you're not a hard-core gamer. But not all franchises manage such an impressive lifespan: Even great ones fall prey to mergers, acquisitions, and the vagaries of the game business. While the original FreeSpace 2 offered very impressive graphics for its time, it can't hope to match modern space-sim games in the visauls department.
Open-source, free mods dress FreeSpace 2 in updated graphics from franchises you probably already know, and include new storylines and game mechanics to boot. FreeSpace 2 and other space combat classics kept the genre alive, albeit on the back burner. The crowdsourcing website doesn't always work out, but in this case it did: Born Ready raised almost double their original $100,000 goal, and carried on to release the game as planned. While the game's controls and HUD are simpler than those of FreeSpace 2, it innovates in the spacecraft department in a big way: You get to fly a giant robot.
But hit a button on your controller, and it instantly transforms into a hulking mech, armed to the teeth and capable of hairpin turns and aerobatics that just don't make sense in a fighter. It's a throwback to the old Descent series, the same one FreeSpace 2 eventually evolved from.
Much like SimCity, Microsoft Flight is the current incarnation of a long and illustrious franchise of games, dating back to 1977. Hawaii serves as the backdrop for the first introductory missions, in which you get to fly two aircraft bundled with the free download: A thoroughly modern Icon Deluxe light aircraft and a WWII-era Boeing PT-17 Stearman biplane. Microsoft Flight starts you off with fewer than ten missions and once you want to make progress, you have to pay up.
There is something relaxing and engaging about these games, and you may only look up from the screen to realize hours have gone by while you were immersed in a world of orderly progress and rising skills. Finally, my wife decided to take matters into her own hands, simply driving into the intersection and giving a few commuters a good scare.
Whether you enjoy being a mayor, a space combat pilot, a truck driver, or a civilian pilot, you can find at least one simulator in which to live out your fantasy.


The climate and time of day change, so you could find yourself enjoying a balmy spring day in one ride, and trying to navigate under torrential rain in the middle of the night in the next. Well-made and entertaining, by the time you're done with the tutorial you should be confident enough to take your first steps with a new city of your own. A region is a large swath of land with several designated spots for cities and Great Works, such as a Solar Farm, an Arcology, or a Space Center.
Instead, SimCity lets you specialize your town: You can make it into a gambling hotspot, a mining town, a cultural capital, and so on.
You can see exactly who's using your city's parks at any timea€”an indication of how the economy is doing. However, its price tag makes it difficult to justify, especially for the casual-gamer crowd. Such was the fate of FreeSpace 2 ($10), a space simulator originally released in 1999 to great critical acclaim, as part of the Descent and FreeSpace franchise. I launched myself into Diaspora, a mod based on the Battlestar Galactica 2004 remake, and was impressed by its slick graphics.
That is, until indie game studio Born Ready Games came along and decided to create a modern space combat simulator: Strike Suit Zero ($20).
For example, in one of the early missions you have to destroy a series of storage platforms containing enemy supplies.
These missions run you through the rudiments of taking off, controlling the craft in the air, and landing. In other words, the game suffers from the same issues plaguing many other "pay to play" titles, and even its fancy graphics couldn't redeem it. It may be overpriced, its DRM may be always-on, but if you ever enjoyed a SimCity game before, this is a game you're going to want to play. You should also be thoroughly impressed with the new SimCity's graphics, showcased as the tutorial cinematically pans and zooms the map to points of interest.
Cities within an area can cooperate: One city can pick up another city's trash, and Sims can commute from your picturesque town to the neighboring industrial city. Your town isn't limited to just one specailization, either: Given the right resources, you can specialize in more than one field.
Nights can be long (depending on the speed you set your game to), and are quite dark indeed. It was to be the last in the series, due to business circumstancesa€”but it can still be played today, and its source code, released in 2002, has been adopted by an active community of coders and modders.
Cockpit and HUD controls are intricate and well thought out, from subsystem targeting, through automatic speed matching, to smart indicators on your HUD showing a target's distance and bearing even when it's out of your field of view. It was nice to find myself in the pilot's seat of a Viper, trying to prove myself as a nugget (and badly failing).
You can fly at a platform at breakneck speeds, afterburners ablaze, only to transform at the very last moment and find yourself hovering in front of the platform as a fully armored mech, ready to obliterate everything in sight. Simply download the game and embark on a series of missions planned to both teach you the basics of flight, and hook you into buying later missions and additional aircraft. You can fly Microsoft Flight with nothing but a game controller: There are realistic touches like preflight checklists, but in the early stages, the game runs through them on its own, checking items off as you look on.
The careful narration that leads you through many of the other missions is utterly lacking on this one. FreeSpace 2 also makes good use of the keyboard, with an interface that expects you to memorize many keys. It does get frustrating, but it's also fun to see your skill improving from one run to the next. And like FreeSpace 2, Microsoft Flight is the last of its kind: Microsoft permanently stopped work on the game in July 2012, just a few short months after releasing this free game.
Manually switching on the aircraft's GPS map does reveal an airstrip, but after navigating all the way to it and executing a landing, I discovered it wasn't the right airfield and failed the challenge after all.



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