Taxi Life Review: A Calm Driving Game In The Right Ways, Chaotic In The Wrong

We play Taxi Life: The City Driving Simulator to virtually sample the life of an Uber driver
Taxi Life Review: A Calm Driving Game In The Right Ways, Chaotic In The Wrong

Some driving games focus on hardcore simulation of adrenaline-pumping circuit racing, others mix car culture with arcade-style gameplay and then there are a few which will cover more niche topics like Overlanding and demolition derby. Now, there’s one simulating the life of the humble Uber driver.

We’re of course talking about Taxi Life: The City Driving Simulator. Set in a 1:1 scale recreation of Barcelona (that’s 285 miles of road), the Nacon-developed game does what it says on the tin. You’re a taxi driver, starting up your own business and working on your way to becoming a giant of private hire transport business mogul within the Spanish city.

Taxi Life Review: A Calm Driving Game In The Right Ways, Chaotic In The Wrong

Before you can run though, you must first learn to walk. The game’s tutorial is quite neat, placing you in a typical driving school environment marked out with white lines and cones. You can choose to skip it but I’d suggest giving it a go - taking you through the basics of car functions, and best practices for parking.

Regardless if you take the tutorial or not, though, you will need to complete a test fare before you’re let loose to make your own way in the world of Taxi Life. Here you’ll learn the basics - pick your passenger up and drop them off. During this, you’ll have a couple of things to watch for.

The first is a ‘Patience’ meter. Despite the name, this isn’t time-based - instead, passengers will lose patience if you drive poorly, be that speeding, running red lights, heading the wrong way down roads, entering streets prohibited for car use or not using your indicators. The more patience remaining, the higher your tip will be. If the bar empties, you’ll lose the fare.

Taxi Life Review: A Calm Driving Game In The Right Ways, Chaotic In The Wrong

During your drives, you may also be prompted to have a conversation with your passenger. These are pretty robotic conversations and the voice recordings definitely sound like someone’s reading a script, but answering them will reward you with XP. Similarly, you may be given requests such as opening windows or turning the air conditioning on.

These can be quite tricky to do on the move on a controller as you’ll need the right stick to physically look at the required control and press the button. We’ve been playing on PlayStation 5, so haven’t had a chance to check for sure, but would hope these are mappable on a keyboard for PC use.

Once you’ve completed your first fare, you’ll have a couple of extra guide bits to complete. These include visiting a petrol station where you can refill your car (or recharge if you’re driving an EV) or clean your car. A neat touch, but perhaps little more than a gimmick as visiting one of the games’ garages - the next place you’ll be asked to visit - will allow you to do any of these.

Taxi Life Review: A Calm Driving Game In The Right Ways, Chaotic In The Wrong

You’ll spend a lot of time at the garages too, as this is where the core non-driving elements of the game here are done. You can buy new cars, modify your existing ones with performance and visual mods and manage your company.
Once you head back out, the game pretty much becomes complete fares, earn money, rinse and repeat. There are some variations in route length or the option of doing ‘Challenges’ - fares which remove road rules and instead have you try to reach your destination as quickly as possible - but it’s mostly the same thing. Not a complaint, but there’s not exactly a breadth of choice in gameplay. It’s hard to judge the handling model so finitely in a game that sees you driving mostly under 45mph, but it feels engaging enough.

There’s a loosely integrated skill system adding an element of progression, giving you perks such as better fuel economy or more XP for visiting points of interest, but it’s not core to the gameplay really.

Similarly, earn enough money to buy more cars (the first took me about an hour), and you’ll be able to hire drivers to generate passive income. Micromanagement isn’t a thing, so you’ll most likely just hire them and forget about them as the capitalist machine works in your favour.

Taxi Life Review: A Calm Driving Game In The Right Ways, Chaotic In The Wrong

Mostly, then, Taxi Life should be a serene way to zone out and take in a virtual rendition of Barcelona. Sometimes that is the case, but through no fault of your own, it often becomes quite chaotic.

That’s all down to rather questionable AI. An element of them ignoring road rules and being a general nuisance would inject some realism, but it seems to be unintentionally useless. Quite often, you’ll see them ignoring traffic lights (be that going through reds, or stopping at greens) or using the completely wrong lanes when turning at junctions.

Worse still, you’ve got about a 50/50 chance if you’re stopped at a junction of a car behind you just slamming into you. It’s funny at first but quickly becomes annoying - especially as repairing your car eats into your profits.

The issues with Taxi Life run deeper than that, too. I’m not too fussed that the graphics, even playing on PlayStation 5, aren’t sensational but the game appears to max out at 30fps and stutters a lot. There’s no wheel support either, which is transformative in similar games like Euro Truck Simulator. Hopefully, this is something developers Simteract can rectify in the future.

Another simple, but not insignificant, complaint is the lack of character choice too. You can only pick from four generic avatars, and none are female. In 2024, that’s unforgivable. It's even more confusing when you see NPC female character models available.

Taxi Life can be a calm and often very enjoyable way to switch off from the real-world hustle and bustle, but its chaotic AI and lack of polish often detract from the fun. Its £25 price point does flatter it a little, but we’d recommend holding off a bit for a few updates or picking it up on sale.


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