Trainspotter jokes make me sad. Not because I collect loco numbers (though, yes, I once did) but because I can think of no other hobby that's as poignant or poetic. The trainspotter is on an impossible quest. By lingering in places of transit, he subverts them. By pursuing the prosaic, he ennobles it. He's a hunter, a watcher, a Zen hero. Salute him, don't mock him.
Unless, of course, he's wearing a silly anorak and thick glasses, in which case rip the piss out of him.
Rail Simulator could do with a few spotters on the end of its platforms. More pressingly, it could do with some extra scenarios and a pinch of randomness. I've been driving for three days now, and I'm already beginning to tire of the 15 missions. Because signalling and traffic don't change from one run to the next, there are never any surprises, no reason to stay vigilant in case of an unexpected double amber or temporary speed restriction.
True, by the time you read this the situation may have improved. The devs are just about to dispense an SDK. Assuming the tools are versatile and friendly, then RS should grow in exactly the same way as its heavily modded forerunner, Microsoft Train Simulator. Essentially, this is a modernised MSTS. The physics are slightly better, the graphics are substantially better, and there's far more British content in the box, but don't expect bold, Brunel-esque enhancements such as dynamic AI, virtual signal boxes or multiplayer.
Those content to chuff along a lovely stretch of the old Somerset & Dorset line (Bath to Templecombe) in a couple of beautifully wrought steam locos, roam North-Eastern rails (York to Darlington) in Deltics and Class 47s, or pilot raucous HSTs through the Thames Valley (Paddington to Oxford) until the modders at uktrainsim.com churn out new routes, locos and scenarios can buy this with confidence. Those who have never train simmed before, or - heaven forbid - aren't that attached to UK railways, might try budget-priced MSTS first.