Zusi - Der Zugsimulator Review

Zusi is one of the hidden train sim gems, a competent programme which is primarily designed to appeal to the German fan but has gathered a groundswell of support outside its native territory. The core of Zusi is a solid signalling AI which allows you to drive your chosen train in a fully dynamic environment. The combination of photo-realistic cabs (for most of the motive power) and the relatively simple external visuals are highly effective at conveying the impression of a working railway. The graphics do support day/night and transitions – driving a train around dawn or dusk can be particularly atmospheric.

The programme offers excellent sound support. The predominant traction, as expected, are AC electric locomotives and multiple units but there are plenty of diesels too and some steam. The roar of a Class 218 diesel hydraulic at full power is captured perfectly though my personal favourite is the scream of the Class 232 – which sounds like a BR Class 56 on adrenaline. The ambient sounds, track etc. are a bit more subdued but you do get some nice squeal around sharp curves and rattling across pointwork etc.

As already hinted at Zusi really does immerse you in the feel of an operational railway. Whether you drive one of the many pre-supplied routes or download one of the user created add-ons, you select from one or more timetables depending how many the creator has set up. You then choose which particular train you wish to drive but that is only the beginning as you may choose to take over any other service currently active in the timetable. The effect of this is that delays or problems you encounter on one journey will then react on other trains which gives the AI signalling a run for its money sorting things out. Occasionally the AI throws a wobbly and locks up but generally does a very good job of resolving pathing conflicts and priorities. The only drawback is that Zusi doesn’t have a save game function, which means you can’t save your progress and return later.


Ultimate Zusi - Arriving Koln Hbf with a Great European Express

Complex Track near Schwerte

The programme authors(s) have gone to considerable lengths to provide a detailed simulation of the German signalling system and safety features. A full description is beyond the scope of this review but you will need some understanding of how the system works especially approaching reduced speed limits and cautionary signals, often with much less warning than you might expect. As might be expected, train physics match the standard set by the rest of the programme so you need to think and plan ahead as you drive.

At the end of a run you do get an overall score and rating, though the requirements for a perfect drive are very tough so don’t be surprised to get a zero more often than not. There doesn’t seem to be any cumulative scoring or career mode, however.

Zusi is supplied with a full suite of editors including tools for building routes, cabs and timetables. A number of third party utilities are also available to assist particularly with route building. Although some English support has been introduced for the editors the route creator is a very complex and technical piece of software on a par with advanced CAD programmes. Your webmaster tried and failed – miserably – to make any progress with constructing a Zusi route so it is not for the faint hearted.

During 2005 the developer confirmed a new and upgraded version of the programme, known as Zusi 3, was in production. Further information on this can be found on the Zusi web site as per the link below.


In terms of PC hardware, Zusi will run on most recent systems including Vista. The official minimum spec is: 800Mhz CPU, Direct X 9 graphics card and soundcard. Some of the larger and more detailed routes require a minimum of 512Mb RAM.

Zusi is an independently developed and marketed programme and can be ordered via the author’s web site (see below). The software is well supported with updates and little add-ons always appearing for download. The programme goes a long way towards offering the ideal solution for those of us whose primary interest in a train simulation is to actually drive the train in a setting that has a realistic railway setting and an accurate replication of prototype physics and operational principles.

Zusi Homepage

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(This page created on 15/09/07 and last updated on 16/09/07).