Taxi Life: A City Driving Simulator review for PC, PS5, Xbox Series X

Platform: PC
Platform: PS5, Xbox Series X
Publisher: Nacon
Developer: Simteract
Medium: Digital/Disc
Players: 1
Online: No

To be honest, I jumped at the chance to review Taxi Life: A City Driving Simulator entirely because of how negative its most popular reviews are on Steam. People complaining of AI pedestrians with a death wish, ridiculous physics, and drivers who rear-end you for no reason made the game seem promising in a negative sort of way – as in, it sounded like it had the potential to be a fun/terrible game.

Unfortunately, it’s neither fun nor terrible, but rather simply bad – and bad in a way that never quite makes the jump into guilty pleasure/so-bad-it’s-good terrible.

That’s not to say that none of the complaints aren’t true. Pedestrians really do have a total disregard for their own lives, walking out into traffic regardless of whether cars are coming or if there’s a crosswalk. They just step out in the street without looking both ways, time and again, and you get fined every time you hit someone. While it obviously makes sense that a game that strives to be a job simulator doesn’t reward you for murderous behaviour, it’s disappointing that the game’s physics – which I’ll get to in a moment – don’t apply to pedestrians. Rather, the game blacks out just before the point of contact and sets you back on the road with a stern message not to do it again. I’m not saying I want a taxi simulator where you can send bodies flying every which way…but I’m not saying that I’d be horribly opposed to such a game, either.

Likewise, Taxi Life’s physics are a little wonky, but not in a way that makes the game more fun. Rather, they’re inconsistent – on multiple occasions I found my car flipped over because I accidentally nudged another car (or in at least one instance, a parked Vespa) the wrong way, whereas when I reached a point in the game when I stopped caring about getting fares and just floored it to see what kind of damage I could cause, if I hit something wrong I’d just stop dead in my tracks. It all felt anticlimactic.

At the same time, though, experiences like those are pretty emblematic of the general driving experience here. The cabs in Taxi Life feel clunky and hard to manoeuvre, prone to stopping at inopportune times and getting stuck when you try to drive in stop and start traffic, but equally prone to suddenly going really fast without you even making an effort. As a result, you spend an inordinate amount of time here simply trying to get a feel for how to drive the cars.

On that front, it’s worth noting that Taxi Life features a painfully dull tutorial that ensures the game puts its worst foot forward right off the bat. Rather than letting you drive around Barcelona and showing you the game in action to help you get a feel for it, Taxi Life makes sure you have the basics down pat – things like parallel parking, and driving around corners without hitting pylons. Those are useful skills in the content of the game, to be sure, but I feel like if you really want to show how fun your driving game can be, it’s a bad idea to make parallel parking the third or fourth skill you have to master.

And as for the game’s central premise – that you’re a taxi driver picking up fares – it’s kind of remarkable how dull it ends up being. Taxi Life’s gameplay loop is established right off the bat and basically never varies for the rest of its runtime: you find a fare on your map, you drive them to your destination, and…well, that’s it. In theory the game rewards you for being a good driver, but I found as long as I didn’t literally flip the car over, you still got the money you needed to go on and pick up the next fare. Your passengers may complain a little if you go to fast or make a comment if you graze another car, but at the end of the day, if you can get from point A to point B, you’re fine.

Obviously, that’s the point of being a cab driver; Taxi Life wouldn’t be a very good job simulator if it tried to add in a bunch of glitz and glamor. But it’s still possible for a game to be a solid job simulator while also having fun elements (or at least being so terrible at representing its job that it becomes laughably good). Taxi Life doesn’t come anywhere close to either extreme: it shows how boring it can be to be a taxi driver, and it makes it so that you don’t have any real reason to play this game.

Nacon provided us with a Taxi Life: A City Driving Simulator PC code for review purposes.

Grade: 4