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Taxi Life: A City Driving Simulator

Taxi Life: A City Driving Simulator

Written by Jason Dailey on 3/20/2024 for PS5  
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I’ve established myself as the resident simulator fan here at Gaming Nexus. It’s a role I accept knowing full well that the genre is not known for its high-quality releases, cutting edge gameplay, or mind-blowing graphics. In other words, I understand the assignment, as well as what lens to view these games through. After all, isn’t beauty in the eye of the beholder? I searched for the beauty in Taxi Life: A City Driving Simulator and, truthfully, did not find as much as I’d hoped for, mostly because of copious amounts of technical issues, but also because filling the shoes of a taxi driver does not translate well to a simulation-style game.

Taxi Life sees you hopping behind the wheel of your very own cab in a partial re-creation of Barcelona, Spain. Your days as a cabbie begin in earnest after completing a driving test, not unlike the one you take as a teenager. Barcelona looks decent enough as you begin to make your way around, especially by simulator standards, so long as you don’t look too closely. Your taxi looks good too, including nice details you’d expect both inside and out.

In cockpit camera, the game can be as tactile as you want it to be. Raise and lower the windows by looking at each switch with the right stick and pressing a button. Each vehicle has lots of features to manipulate if you want maximum immersion – emergency lights, air, windows, radio, gear shift, and so on. If that proves to be too much of a simulation for you, thankfully each of the car’s functions can be done through a series of radial wheels instead, which are intuitive and easy to use. Along those lines, it is much easier to drive in the chase camera view, but far less immersive.

The driving itself feels good, with a couple of caveats. For some ungodly reason, the only way to keep your car from rolling forwards or backwards while stopped at a traffic light or stop sign is to alternate light taps of the left and right triggers. Because holding the left trigger will make you go in reverse, this was the only way to keep from rolling into another vehicle without engaging the parking brake at every stop. It drove me bonkers. The other caveat is more of an adjustment, I suppose, than an issue, but Americans should come in prepared to learn the traffic patterns and street signage necessary to drive competently in Barcelona.

On the surface, it may sound like exactly what you want in a simulator – quite literally, all the nuts and bolts of driving a taxi. But Taxi Life is an exceptionally mundane game, which I know is part and parcel to the genre to some extent, but there simply is not enough to do as a taxi driver. In comparison to other professions, like a police officer or construction worker, which have a variety of tasks to perform and equipment to use, driving a taxi feels rather tame. In other words, I don’t know that taxi driving has enough moving parts to make a worthwhile simulator experience – at least not in this instance.

Getting your start as a taxi driver is simple enough – select a customer from the map, pick them up, and deliver them to their destination. Rides vary in length and difficulty, which you can see and choose from up front. Each customer has a patience meter that depletes if you are taking too long to get them to their destination, breaking traffic rules, or ignoring their requests. At the end of each trip, you will get a report card for each ride, earning money and XP dependent upon how well you performed. Tips can be earned by listening to the needs of your customer or responding to small talk. They may ask you to turn the air on, roll a window up, or even change their destination altogether, though not every passenger will have a request or be a chatty Kathy, which was perfectly fine with me.

Some passengers require different types of taxis, like one with a larger trunk for more luggage, or a luxury car for high-end customers. These additional cars can be purchased with your hard-earned Euros once you’ve established yourself as a force to be reckoned with in the taxi game. You can also customize each car with various paint schemes and accessories, including an excellent Robert De Niro bobblehead for your dash. Customization is done at garages scattered across Barcelona, and that’s also where you will fix up your ride(s). If you think you can drive like a maniac around town like its Grand Theft Auto, think again. Being hard on your car will ultimately be hard on your digital wallet, but the biggest threat is your fellow Barcelonans, who seem to be driving (and walking) under the influence of some buggy code at the time of writing.

It wouldn’t be a proper simulator without some good old-fashioned simulator jank, but the bugs in Taxi Life rise above an acceptable level. The AI is all around you in the form of other drivers and pedestrians on the sidewalks, and it often feels more artificial than intelligent. It crashes into other vehicles, including your own, at an excessive rate, backing up traffic and hurting the payout of your current fare. In one instance, I witnessed four crashes within 60 seconds. Meanwhile, pedestrians might be worse than the folks behind the wheel. They walk back-and-forth in crosswalks, ping-ponging between sides of the street and bringing traffic to a screeching halt in the process. I hit a guy once because I accelerated as he left the crosswalk, but he robotically turned around and walked in front of my car. It cost me $100, and the customer I had sitting in the backseat to boot, which was maddening.

Even when the AI isn’t falling all over itself, the road remains a bit bumpy. For starters, there are lots of performance issues – stuttering, freezing, and flickering happen constantly on PS5. Developer Simteract has stated on social media that a patch is on the way, but it’s not here yet. In addition to the straight performance hiccups, it was commonplace to see pedestrians fall through the sidewalk, my car floating side to side when stopped, and other oddities. I witnessed a vehicle launch into the sky like it drove over a pinball flapper, which did make me laugh, but the point remains – Taxi Life needs an exterminator.

So, beyond bugs and your standard taxi driving, there are also some light business management mechanics to explore. Eventually you will have enough capital to purchase additional vehicles and hire drivers to work for you. You assign them to a vehicle, a section of Barcelona to patrol, and a shift time to help you earn some passive income. Each driver does have both a positive and negative perk to consider when hiring. For instance, a driver of mine made more money from completing rides, but also kicked in less money at the end of each shift. There is no real incentive to engage with this part of the game other than to make money faster, but eventually you’ll cap yourself out regardless. When you’re not driving customers around or managing your drivers, you can also take in the Barcelona scenes, scanning landmarks and street art to farm XP. As you level up, you earn skill points, which are used to unlock passive abilities such as having one police ticket forgiven per day, though you’d likely do just fine without them.

Ultimately, Taxi Life: A City Driving Simulator is a below average simulator experience riddled with technical issues. Fixes are said to be on the way, but even if they arrive, the taxi driving profession at-large doesn’t translate as well to the video game space as some other occupations. If you need a game to turn your brain off for a bit while you listen to a podcast, this is it. But if you’re looking for your next sim addiction, I doubt this is it.

Taxi Life: A City Driving Simulator proves that not every occupation can become a worthwhile video game simulation. It’s infested with bugs and soulless gameplay, making it more of a mundane taxi than a crazy one.

Rating: 6 Mediocre

* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company.

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About Author

Jason has been writing for Gaming Nexus since 2022. Some of his favorite genres of games are strategy, management, city-builders, sports, RPGs, shooters, and simulators. His favorite game of all-time is Red Dead Redemption 2, logging nearly 1,000 hours in Rockstar's Wild West epic. Jason's first video game system was the NES, but the original PlayStation is his first true video game love affair. Once upon a time, he was the co-host of a PlayStation news podcast, as well as a basketball podcast.

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