Review | 2/12/2015 at 12:00 PM

Construction Simulator 2015 Co-Op Review

Get the thing, load the thing, drive the thing to the place.

Ever wanted to own your own construction company? Ok, it may not sound like the most glamorous job, but something about driving those big machines and turning a plot of dirt into a house just screams awesome, doesn't it? Construction Simulator 2015 enters the well-stocked market of construction games with a detailed, realistic simulation that manages to be accessible to a wide audience despite a handful of technical shortcomings.

Construction Simulator 2015 puts you in the jumpsuit of a new hire on a construction crew in a small country town. The green vistas, the bucolic houses, the drivers who wait ever so patiently while you park your rig in the middle of the road just because you're too lazy to drive into the lot. It's a great setting for a building game, and you have a surprising amount of freedom when it comes to exploring your surroundings. Don't wanna build? Fine, just run around the freeway trying to jump on top of cars. You can't die, nobody'll get mad at you, so have at it.

When you're ready to get down to business, Construction Simulator 2015 supplies you with a handful of tutorial missions followed by dozens of other quests. Each one follows the basic pattern of "We need XX material for the job site", so you go to the shop, buy what you need, load it onto a truck and carry it to the construction zone. You do all of the loading and unloading yourself. Grab the forklift, raise the pallet, put it on the flatbed, repeat until full, then strap it down, hop in the truck and start driving. Most of your time will be spent loading, transporting and unloading cargo, not actually constructing things. Keep that in mind.

The loading and unloading part is quite the adventure, however. Controls for each vehicle are amazingly detailed, so much so that I felt like a keyboard and mouse just wasn't sufficient. Take the digger, for example. You drive the thing by operating the treads individually. You can turn, reverse, speed up and slow down with just a few buttons. Switch to digging mode, and suddenly every button does something else. You can rotate the machine, move the big arm up and down, move the small arm up and down, raise and lower the bucket, and half a dozen other things I'm sure I left out. That detail is overwhelming at first. Laughably overwhelming. Key overlays make things simpler, and given some time you'll figure out the basics. By then you'll move on to another vehicle and need to learn things all over again. It's complex, but it's fun, especially in co-op when you get to watch your buddies fumble in the dirt when all they're trying to do is dig a trench.

Construction Simulator 2015 really holds your hand during the first part of the game, but then it just sort of leaves you alone, which is very disorienting at first. Should you rent some new equipment for your job or are you fine with what you have? Where exactly do you need to go to get gravel? Do you have to take a container there or do they provide one? You'll need to figure out a lot of things on your own, which can get frustrating if you just want to, you know, complete the mission.

Most of the time, Construction Simulator 2015 walks a very delicate line between frustratingly realistic and charmingly casual. Some missions drag on and on because equipment moves at real world speeds. Loading dirt into a container can take forever, for example, leaving you ready to hit the "montage" button and just get the day over with. There are a lot of smart menu features that keep the drudgery to a minimum (quick travel exists, thank the Maker), but there's still a necessary amount of grindy gameplay to keep the simulation experience alive.

Even though you have freedom to explore, Construction Simulator 2015 obviously wasn't intended to be Grand Theft Auto with forklifts. Collision detection is pretty iffy, especially when it comes to jumping. You can wiggle your way up towers and leap off without a scratch. (That's not a good or a bad thing, I just wanted to tell everyone I did that.) You can never tell when a piece of scenery will be solid or if you'll just pass right through. That's fine, I guess, you can't judge a game based on criteria it was never intended to fulfill. But the world is just so open, it beckons you to run around and stir up trouble, especially in co-op.

Co-op is the saving grace for Construction Simulator 2015. Running the construction company on your own puts an enormous amount of pressure on the game's creaky mission structure and repetitive tasks. But when you bring a friend along to play, suddenly you're having a great time. Loading a truck isn't frustrating because two people can tackle it together. When one person messes up, it's funny, not infuriating. Watching your pals jerk back and forth in construction vehicles as they try to figure out what the buttons to do is wonderful. And when they get used to the control schemes, you become a loading and building force to be reckoned with, which is also good!

One way co-op pushes Construction Simulator 2015 forward is the ability to delegate your own tasks. Everyone doesn't have to stand in the same area and focus on one thing. Load items in shifts, send one group off in the truck to carry half of the materials while the others load the second vehicle, that sort of thing. Construction Simulator 2015 doesn't always break things up into ideal co-op team packages, but if you work well together, you're in for a good time. The downside is the more people that play, the laggier things get. Stuttering screens are frustrating no matter what kind of game you're playing. Groups of two work fine, but four can cause problems on occasion.

Construction Simulator 2015 deals out a decent construction experience, but it's hard to ignore the various bugs and glitches you'll encounter during regular play. Things don't always go as expected. Everything from clipping through textures to teleporting materials and vehicles that get themselves stuck will plague your time with this game. It's what really keeps the experience from standing out as exemplary.