The Barcelona taxi driver simulator Taxi Life: A City Driving Simulator was unlucky with its release. A lot of mud has been poured on the game, which seems to have been released ahead of schedule, and for the most part, rightly so, so the rating for Taxi Life is not very good right now. But in fact, the game is not as bad as it might seem at first glance.

Game Taxi Life: A City Driving Simulator
Genre simulator
Platforms Windows, PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X
Languages English
Developer Simteract
Publisher Nacon
Link, Steam

ATS/ETS2 formula

Everyone wants to be like SCS Software. To create a popular game and cut coupons for decades (ETS2 is almost 12 years old). That’s why SCS Software’s formula, which proved its viability with Euro Truck Simulator 2 and American Truck Simulator, is being applied to other games, primarily truck simulators, of course, but there are exceptions.

For example, the Polish studio Simteract, whose game is in question, initially tried to apply the ETS2 formula to the railroad simulator Train Life: A Railway Simulator, recreating a simplified layout of the entire European railroad and offering players to transport cargo and passengers from one place to another, almost like in ATS/ETS2. In Taxi Life: A City Driving Simulator uses the same mechanics in a single-city taxi driver simulator, and… they work again.

The cycle is the same: finding a passenger – delivering them to their destination – getting paid – looking for a new order – buying a new car – hiring additional drivers. But of course, there are nuances.

Passengers and traffic rules

Unlike the cargo in ATS/ETS2, which doesn’t complain about your driving style, as long as there is no damage, passengers in Taxi Life: A City Driving Simulator are cranky. They want to be driven quickly because their patience is wearing thin, and this affects their rating and tip amount, but you must follow all the traffic rules. Do not ignore traffic signals and speed limit signs, turn on turn signals in time and let pedestrians pass on unregulated crossings.

And God forbid you drive onto the sidewalk, turn onto a street with a different direction of traffic, get into an accident, or even easily hit a pedestrian, the passenger can simply get out and refuse to pay. And this is where the problems for Taxi Life begin.

The AI of cars in traffic and pedestrian NPCs in the game is simply terrible. It is said that immediately after the release, everything was even worse, which is why Taxi Life received a lot of negative reviews. Now the situation has improved a bit. But still, AI-controlled cars are stupid on turns, can suddenly slow down or change lanes, and freeze for several seconds at intersections. Although, to be fair, they always turn on their turn signals. On the other hand, real drivers on the real streets of Ukraine also do all sorts of things, so maybe Taxi Life has the highest level of realism, which should prepare virtual drivers for the situation on the streets of their own city.

Pedestrians are an even bigger problem. It seems that their only purpose for being is to throw themselves under the wheels of your car. Especially on narrow streets, at night, from a car parked near a crosswalk. Some NPCs deliberately stand in a crowd near the crosswalks and only cross the street back and forth. And sometimes pedestrians run red lights, or change their minds and turn back from the middle of the street. Yes, yes, real pedestrians in Kyiv do this too, but this is Europe after all. No wonder Western players were a bit shocked. Moreover, any touching of a pedestrian, even if they hit your car, means a ruined trip and a fine.

More nuances

In addition to carefully following the traffic rules, because this is not Crazy Taxi, you need to refuel and repair the car from time to time and keep it clean (because of the rating and tips!). You also have to communicate with passengers who ask about the city, your work, and just want to chat. Conversation is a choice of several behavioral options and consists of exchanging only three or four phrases, but it should be done without distracting from the road. Of course, if you want to get more tips, it makes sense to choose a polite or neutral tone. Successful communication increases the passenger’s patience, and vice versa.

Passengers also occasionally ask to turn on the air conditioner or radio, change the song, turn on the wipers because there is something dirty on the glass, open a window, etc. Fulfilling requests is rewarded with additional experience and increases the rating of the trip. And each of the passenger groups has its own preferences. Someone needs a car with 6 seats (yes, there are minivans here), someone needs only an electric car, etc.

Of course, just like in ATS/ETS2, the cars can be improved by changing components and decorating them. However, there are two orders of magnitude fewer options here, and there are only three liveries. Moreover, the cars in Taxi Life: A City Driving Simulator are unlicensed, so this is a fake KIA, this is a fake Peugeot, and this is a fake Tesla. They look similar, of course, but not so similar that they could be sued.

Barcelona! We will meet again someday

But the main entertainment in Taxi Life: A City Driving Simulator is, of course, Barcelona itself. It is a very smart and successful choice of a city with interesting, diverse streets and neighborhoods, with a lot of attractions, with its own atmosphere.

And what the developers definitely managed to do was to convey the atmosphere of Barcelona. With motor scooters parked in three rows and coffee shop tables trying to crawl out onto the roadway. The narrow, one-car streets of the Gothic Quarter and the chic promenades around the Citadel Park. With La Rambla, Diagonal Avenue and Parallel Avenue. From Plaça de Catalunya and Columbus Avenue. And, of course, with monuments, arches, museums, columns, churches and houses of prominent architects.

It’s a pity that only the city center has been built in Taxi Life: A City Driving Simulator has only the city center rebuilt, and not all of it. The Gothic Quarter, Barceloneta, a piece of the Olympic Village, San Antonio, El Raval. The map does not even cover Sagrada Familia, the symbol of the city. That’s why the longest trips here are 4-5 km.

To be honest, I love Barcelona very much, I’ve been there twice and dream of going back again. But unfortunately, first because of COVID-19, then because of [CENSORED] russians, it is unlikely to happen in the near future. So, personally, I was very pleased to take a leisurely drive through the streets of this incredibly beautiful city, find familiar sights and collectible graffiti, and relax a bit. It was a kind of virtual trip during the war.

What will happen next?

As we mentioned at the beginning, Taxi Life: A City Driving Simulator has received extremely negative reviews, although the game has [probably] sold more than 50 thousand copies on Steam alone. Taxi Life has a lot to criticize. We have already talked about AI and NPCs, but there are also questions about the graphics. Reflections in rearview mirrors; slow-motion animation of cars in the distance; general optimization; animation, appearance, and variety of NPCs – everything is bad.

The developers apologized to players for the state of the game at release and seem to want to support Taxi Life: A City Driving Simulator in the future, including by expanding the map. That’s cool, because it would be interesting to drive a taxi around Saints-Montjuic, Gracia, Asciampa, La Fonds-Den-Fargue. I could even drive to Tibidabo or pick up tourists from El Prat airport. But… after such a rout at the start, it’s unlikely.

Moreover, Simteract already has a game in its portfolio called Train Life: A Railway Simulator, which also showed great promise and was abandoned by the developers. The latest ratings are mostly negative, with players calling it nothing more than abandoned. This may happen to Taxi Life as well.

Despite this, we still recommend this game to those who miss Barcelona and travel in general. This is a chance to get away from the not-so-pleasant news of late.

Barcelona! We will meet again someday.