I do love to play around with cars in my spare time, usually fixing my own as I can’t afford garage rates. Under the watchful eye of my father in law, who is a mechanic, I have successfully taken parts off my car and replaced them. It was a refreshing change to take a look at Car Mechanic Simulator by Red Dot Games on the PS4 as it meant that I wouldn’t be scraping grease and oil off my hands afterwards!
I reckon that most people have seen or at least know of Car Mechanic Simulator as it has been around for a few years now. For those of you not in the know, the game comprises of you running a garage whereby you repair cars and try and make some profit while upgrading your tools and abilities to take on tougher challenges. Unlike Stu who reviewed the Nintendo Switch version having played the PC version prior to that, I have only played the mobile version, so was in for a pleasant surprise when it came to the amount of content you get to play with.
I will say right now that the tutorial is terrible. You are left to your own devices to wander around the garage like a child with pieces of equipment highlighting and then explaining, very basically, what they are used for. There are a couple of cars in the garage however you are not too sure what to do with them other than the tutorial asks you to take a car to the test track to complete the section. Hopefully, you have some basic mechanical savvy about you like the car nearest the door requires oil in the engine before it will let you start the engine!
There is a basic story behind Car Mechanic Simulator and you begin with a small garage with minimal equipment. You get to pick and choose what cars you would like to repair from a list and then commence sucking through your teeth as you attempt to diagnose the faulty parts. You carry out the whole process from start to finish by yourself. It is worth noting that some of the cars you repair are necessary for the story.
It is down to you to read what the customer has said is making a noise or what they are feeling when driving the car and then start to inspect and disassemble various components until you get to the degraded component. You have the ability to view the car in an x-ray form with all of the parts on display and you can navigate around using the thumbsticks. Annoyingly when manoeuvring the camera around it can be really clunky as the camera locks onto components and prevents you from looking at everything you may wish to see. It does take some time to get used to however after a while you will become more fluid with the camera. On quite a few occasions you will need to disassemble housings and other parts in order to view what is hidden underneath. There is a methodology in doing this, as there is in real life, and Car Mechanic Simulator does well when it comes to teaching you the correct order that parts must be removed.
When you inspect components they indicate their condition using a traffic light system, green for good, amber for borderline and red for perished. From there you walk to a PC and order the replacement parts which arrive the moment you press “buy”. There is a shopping list function that allows you to list the parts that you need to buy however I found that they sometimes only gave a basic overview of what was required but not specifics such as tyre width, profile and speed rating. If you are not careful, with certain parts it is possible to order the wrong ones and it all comes out of your profit.
Progress is very very very slow. There is a huge skill tree that lets you unlock various abilities such as faster diagnostics and movement around the garage however skill points and money takes a while to amount up, therefore, it will take you a long time. Once you have money there are car auctions to take part in as well as barns to discover rare finds. For testing your cars you have the choice of a test track as well as a race and off-road track and also an abandoned airport. The driving the vehicle’s part is not massively exciting as I found the tracks and physical handling of the cars to be a bit dull however there are times that you do need to take the cars out for a test spin to diagnose issues.
Inside the garage, in Car Mechanic Simulator the textures and attention to detail are fairly decent. When exploding the views and looking at the various parts of the car it is done in a simplistic form to help you see and understand where everything is. The graphics are at times far from mind-blowing as the rust patches on the bodywork looked a little like cartoon mud splats and when out testing the cars the models seemed more like something from Destruction Derby 1.
All of the sound effects are as you would imagine a garage sounding, from raising a car on the hydraulic lifters to using the pneumatic tools to take the wheels off, they are all clear and noisy. The soundtrack is mainly drum and bass, giving you at times a very Fast and Furious high adrenalin feel when you are fixing the cars up and then at other times acting to calm you down with a few ambient numbers thrown in the mix.
Car Mechanic Simulator has many hours of gameplay due to the immensely huge skill tree that you need to unlock and the fact that it takes a long time to both level up and makes money to advance your garage. The game is oddly calming despite my initial lack-of-tutorial frustrations and clunkiness of camera control when navigating the x-ray views of the cars. When it comes to learning more about the internals of vehicles, it does give you an appreciation as to what is involved when changing parts out although you will never have to struggle with bolts that will not budge and those hard to reach spots! I have a feeling that this style of game is more at home using a mouse than a controller however the satisfaction that washes over you when you successfully repair a car will always be the same.
I award Car Mechanic Simulator the Thumb Culture Silver trophy. What it sets out to do is really quite clever however I do not think the Playstation console shows it at its best due to the controller.
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