The demo of Car Mechanic Simulator's latest iteration dropped the other day, and I just tried it out.
It's... well, it's Car Mechanic Simulator, so if you've played any of the previous versions, you know generally what to expect. A lot of the art assets, sound effects, and whatnot are carried over from Car Mechanic Simulator 2018. You do have a new garage, which seems a lot more spacious than the one in CMS 2018 (although you start with everything unlocked in the demo, so I don't know if, for instance, the main room is smaller before you unlock the second car lift, as is the case in CMS 2018). One new wrinkle is that you can actually go outside, which reveals that your shop is actually a complex of buildings along a highway in a desert somewhere. The test path (for testing brakes and suspension) and body/paint shop are separate buildings now, and they've also added a car wash and, as the demo intro movie proudly proclaims, "new dirt mechanics".
Although all of the stuff in the garage is "unlocked" in the demo, in that you can see it, most of it doesn't actually work. Clicking on the car wash, or the welder, or any number of other tools just gives you a dialogue box that says it's not available in the demo. What you do have working access to is just your repair tables (one for mechanical parts, one for body parts), tire mounting and balancing machines, shock absorber assembly tool, a couple of car lifts, the oil drain, and the all-important phone and radio.
Working on the cars themselves works much the same way as it did in the previous game, except for the addition of stuck bolts. Every now and then, you'll get a bolt that's highlighted in orange instead of yellow, and you won't be able to unscrew it. Instead, you have to right-click on it first, which causes a mysterious floating spray can of something that is completely legally distinct from WD-40 to appear and spritz the bolt, after which you can undo it. I'm... not sure this really adds materially to the gameplay, but it's cute.
Balancing wheels and repairing parts have now become minigames. The wheel-balancing minigame is OK (you just have to line up highlighted segments on a wheel diagram with a marker and click a few times), but the part repair one is seriously tedious. It's a timing/reflex game where you have to click when a pointer is in one of a few green areas scattered on a horizontal scale. (I assume skill unlocks in the full game will control how fast the pointer moves or what have you; how big the green areas are seems to be a function of the part's starting condition, the worse the damage, the fewer green boxes you have.) If you miss the green, you make the part's condition worse instead of better. If it's already as bad as it can be, you destroy it entirely.
This probably seemed like a great idea to the person who came up with it--it adds a bit of player challenge to what was, in CMS 2018, purely a function of the character's skill level. I don't like it, though, for two reasons: First, it makes attempting to repair parts take much longer, and second, in games with RPG-like elements, I really dislike mechanics that put the onus on the player's physical attributes rather than the character's. If I buy the full game, and I probably will, I doubt I'll bother trying to repair parts all that often.
Another thing I find mildly annoying in the CMS 2021 demo is the parts catalog. It works more or less the same way as the old one, but they've broken the parts out into more separate "stores" by category, meaning that if, for instance, you're in the main parts catalog but you want electrical parts (like spark plugs or alternators), you have to back up to the home screen and go into the electrical-parts store instead for those. Also, the search bar only works on whatever category you're in--e.g., if you're in the main parts store and have the "brakes" tab open, and you search for "fuel pump", it won't return anything. You have to back out to the "all parts" tab and try again. Search isn't cleared by changing tabs, either, so if you just searched for brake pads and then switch to the gearbox tab to get a clutch plate, it'll still be trying to search the gearbox tab for brake pads. It's a relatively tiny UI change, and maybe if you haven't played hundreds of hours of CMS 2018 like I have, you wouldn't even notice it, but I have, and it's irritating.
Other new stuff:
- Cars now have reservoirs for coolant, brake fluid, power steering fluid, and windshield washer fluid. If you pull relevants parts (for example, the power steering pump or the brake servo) without draining the appropriate reservoir first, you get the same message you got in CMS 2018 if you dropped the oil pan without draining the crankcase, about how you messed up and it'll cost you $50 to clean up the shop. I don't think there's a related part for the windshield washer one, that's just there to give you another maintenance task to do.
- Cars also have electrical systems now! Somewhere in the underhood clutter, there'll be a fuse box, and it has relays and stuff in it. Like air filter bases, the fuse box itself can be bad and need replacing, not just the relays mounted in it.
I assume if you pull a headlight without draining the fuse box first, you'll get electricity all over the floor and have to pay $50 to clean it up.
- One of the demo job cars is filthy, but since the car wash is not available in the demo, I don't know how the mechanic for fixing that works. Presumably you have to send it to the car wash building and then go do something with the hose.
According to the hype in the intro movie, there are a lot more options for painting things once you unlock the paint shop, but again, that's not available in the demo, so we just have to take their word for it for now.
Overall, after the hour or so of gameplay that's in the current demo, I'm not 100% sold on it. Not all of the changes have been improvements in my book. (The repair minigame, for example, or the way the car/job status screen seems a lot clunkier to me now.) Still, there's nothing in it that's so annoying it would make me decide, "Nah, however cool the new features that aren't unlocked yet are, they can't make up for this" and write off the idea of buying it when it's out. Depends on how much they're asking for it.
Benjamin D. Hutchins, Co-Founder, Editor-in-Chief, & Forum Mod
Eyrie Productions, Unlimited http://www.eyrie-productions.com/
zgryphon at that email service Google has
Ceterum censeo Carthaginem esse delendam.