Hello everyone ! Behind this unlikely title is the Rivet Games RABe 523, released today for €19.99 / £14.99 with a small additional discount until 4 June. For the first time with Rivet, the add-on includes no route, but it does include five career scenarios - including a driving tutorial - for players who own the Gotthardbahn from the same developers.
The RABe 523 is part of the first generation FLIRT series built by Stadler and is, as its German acronym indicates, a light EMU for Swiss regional traffic. It should be noted here that although the Flirt 3 already exists in Train Simulator, it is only used marginally in Switzerland. Regarding the Flirt 1, the Swiss Federal Railways have two 15 kV single-current models (RABe 521 and 523), one dual-current model suitable for France (RABe 522) and one suitable for Italy (RABe 524). Rivet has chosen to reproduce the 523, which is the most widespread of the four, with 61 trains in circulation on the RER Vaud, the RegiOlten and the S-Bahn Zug. On the other hand, as the S-Bahn Zug does not go beyond Erstfeld, we come to the first sad thing in Rivet's add-on: the train they have reproduced does not actually run on any of their routes! Our Italian friends would have appreciated the 524 which runs for real on the Gotthard route and all the way to Milano Centrale. Fortunately, it will find its place in TS on the recent Zurich - Olten route, but without displaying suitable destinations...
After this introduction, it's time to appreciate the creators' strong point: modelling. Here again, it's splendid, as much for the exterior as for the cabin or the passenger view - whose default location, however, is rather poorly chosen (fortunately, you can navigate between several seats with the arrow keys). I particularly like the sliding footboards and their metallic effect, which I haven't seen much of so far in TS. The roof, especially in winter, is beautiful. Small disappointment, the side textures are a little too clean, which is less immersive. Another remark I make for all Rivet add-ons: the rolling stock is provided in a single livery. I would have greatly appreciated having the RER Vaud, Stadtbahn Zug, or even TPF and TransN versions, their respective numbering being effectively in the game but only with the SBB livery! For scenario creators, a version without passengers can be obtained by putting the letter "u" at the end of the train number.
Features of this Flirt are a bit more advanced than on DTG engines, but as a user of the Expert driving mode, I was hoping for a semi-realistic startup procedure with maybe a controllable DMI screen. Unfortunately, on this point Rivet is to TrainworX what Milka is to Lindt (I'm not going to make friends with this very Swiss comparison)... Despite this lack, driving is pleasant, ZUB and vigilance are present, enable it with Shift+Enter (number pad) and acknowledgement can be made with the same Enter key. There is also as a destination display system, with about forty customizable routes. Nevertheless, instrument lighting in the cab is too dim, so that you sometimes don't know whether a button is on or off.
Let's continue to explore its features... The vehicle is compatible with request stops and will display an "H" next to the speed indicator if one of the passengers wishes to get off. There are also a gear selector for the wiper and retractable mirrors (their switch is next to the dead man's pedal). Small but nonetheless sensible attention, the brake indicator cylinders located at the bottom of the cab change according to the application of the air brake and the hand brake.
A quick look at the physics of the engine, not being an expert I find it more successful than for the GTW/RABe 526 of the Schaffhausen-Kreuzlingen route, with which the transition between coasting and acceleration was quite brutal (particularly noticeable with the VSoll/speedset). The Flirt has a smoother ride, however, the transition between electric and electro-pneumatic braking at low speed is the same as the GTW's and is therefore not realistic.
Let's now come to the audio review, where there are good and bad points. The sounds at a standstill and during acceleration below 30 km/h are good, at least I think that they were recorded on the real machine. Good points also for the sounds of the air when windows are open and for the two-tone horn (which is unfortunately not totally clickable, but available with B and the space bar) ! However, many mediocre sounds come from old add-ons, such as the brakes, the ZUB - which, by the way, is not supposed to make any noise when released - and more generally, everything you hear at speed. The train volume in tunnels is too high compared to the outside, which is unpleasant.
The provided scenarios are a good plus and allow you to extend the gameplay time on the Gotthard route considerably, as long as you disregard the inconsistency of the rolling stock with the reality and the lack of omnibus services. Yes, the 523 is primarily a regional service coach, but small stations are not accessible on the Gotthardbahn and Rivet only offers Regio Express services.
In conclusion, Rivet Games are true to themselves: excellent modelling but not very advanced features and sounds to reconsider. We're no longer in 2014 and many third-party developers have set a higher standard. The stock of the Scottish studio leaves me with a bitter aftertaste, that's why I give them a rating similar to the one the GTW/RABe 526 received. Come on Rivet, one more effort and you'll be my favourite developers on TS!
P.S. This review was made on a mod expressly given by Rivet Games. However, I have tried to be as objective as possible.
To see more...
https://youtu.be/Q2VYUSAbHzw - credits Rob Jansen (English)
https://youtu.be/XOpIDVfixI8 - credits Train Simulator (English)
https://youtu.be/VGsf3-jQqtg - credits iajer (German