Taxi Life: A City Driving Simulator review: I'd rather walk

Seriously, walking is good for you. Fresh air, exercise, and good for the environment. Just avoid Barcelona and its insane drivers.


The premise behind Taxi Life: A City Driving Simulator is simple yet appealing to simulation game fans like myself: Manage an owner-operator taxi company in Barcelona, drive fares around the city, customize your cars, and earn money and XP to grow your company. In principle, this sounds great, and other driving simulations have proven that this can be a successful formula. The reality of Taxi Life, however, is that the driving gets monotonous. Everyone else on the road either wants to kill you or get themselves killed by you, and many of its features are simplistic, incomplete, or flat out broken.

Become a taxi mogul

City car dashboard with speedometer, fuel gauge, and navigation system.

Source: Nacon

After completing the initial driving course to ensure you know how to operate a motor vehicle, Taxi Life lets you loose on the city of Barcelona, equipped with a map filled with potential fares and points of interest. Among those are garages for customizing your eventual fleet of vehicles, gas stations and electric charging stations, and a variety of cultural viewpoints that can be unlocked for additional XP. As you earn XP, you get to unlock skills in several different areas. Some will improve your vehicle's efficiencies or damage thresholds, while others will lower operating costs or allow you to get away with a few traffic violations. Earning money will allow you to customize your vehicle's style by choosing from different colors, dashboard decorations, and even purchase entirely new vehicles to expand your fleet. Having a healthy amount of cash on hand means you can hire additional drivers, assign cars and regions of the city to them, and hopefully earn some additional passive income. More on that later on.

The main purpose for looking at your map is to find fares, of course. Categorized by trip difficulty, with varying degrees of earning potential and trip lengths, you make a choice and drive over to collect your first victim, erm, passenger. After awkwardly trying to position your car inside the glowing box to trigger the animation of the passenger hopping into your ride, you'll then follow a GPS line to their destination and drop them off. Occasionally, passengers will initiate conversations with you which can affect your tip at the end of the journey. Following traffic rules, avoiding accidents, and generally behaving like a normal human being will result in a more satisfied customer and thus a higher payout. All of this is easier said than done, considering that the AI drivers in Barcelona seem all be new drivers who can't tell the difference between the left and right pedal down by their feet.

Instant madness

Interior of a taxi car at night.

Source: Nacon

Within the first few minutes of being let onto the streets of Barcelona, you'll be in an accident. I almost guarantee it. This will not be caused by you. You'll be stopped at a red light, next to other cars, when inevitably someone, most likely you, will be rear-ended. There's a good chance that the car that rear-ended you will then also be rear-ended by the one behind it. If you're lucky enough to avoid such an accident in the first few mintues of your Taxi Life career, you'll no doubt be stuck behind a vehicle refusing to move at a green light. You can tell that the AI is trying to move, as the vehicle's front tires will be spinning in place, but there's some invisible obstacle holding it back. Most of the time, other cars will drive slowly, fail to stop entirely at red lights, get stuck during turns, honk at one another incessently, and generally act foolishly. This is beyond character or realism of drivers. I'm sure that traffic in a big city like Barcelona can be chaotic, and I'm no stranger of driving in urban centers in real life, but much of the driving AI in Taxi Life is just broken or poorly designed. 

The frequency of collisions that are not your fault have a significant impact on your experience in Taxi Life. Not only do passengers get annoyed and tip less when you get wrecked, but your car's condiiton will deteriorate at a rapid pace. It's not uncommon to completely overhaul your vehicle, both inside and out, every other day due to damages. I've spent more money and time on repairing body work than fueling up the taxi. These repairs don't come cheap either, with a full overhaul costing a couple of average fares, making it extremely frustrating when the reason your taxi is constantly damaged isn't your fault. 

There are other quirks you'll experience in Taxi Life. When you pick up a fare, you'll get put into an animation where one passenger enters the vehicle. You'll then often find multiple folks inside your car, which was confusing at first, and then just seemed like poor design afterwards. Your car will also tend to roll backwards or forwards as you pick up or drop off a fare unless you're very quick on the parking brake. This starts with some funny animations of someone getting into a rolling vehicle and ends with another fender bender. 

When it comes to hiring other drivers with the hope of expanding your taxi empire, I was disappointed rather quickly when I found out that your employees only work when you do. Excuse me? The management screen of your employees is combined with the hiring screen, leading to more confusion about who's working for you, who's assigned a car, and who's not actually on your staff. The UI is pretty poorly designed in that area, and the overall experience of building a fleet of taxis and drivers wasn't fulfilling. Other simulations with a similar theme, be it truck, bus, train, seem to manage this aspect much better, and Taxi Life's implementation feels tacked on and not well fleshed out.

Beautiful Barcelona

A car driving down a street lined with palm trees in the background.

Source: Nacon

One of the better aspects of Taxi Life is the acutal rendition of Barcelona. The sunrises and sunsets are gorgeous, and the city streets are varied and nicely designed. Driving around the streets using one of the supported wheels feels quite nice, though the game is lacking from any sort of head-tracking that would make turning corners feel much better. For a title that started as a training simulation, that seems like a rather significant oversight. There are other strange things afoot when it comes to the realism settings. Taxi Life offers up three modes, ranging from an arcady automatic transition to a realistic gear and clutch setup. Unfortunately, the mode that is supposed to require the use of the clutch doesn't seem to care about it at all, letting your shift gears to your heart's content. It feels broken.

I could go on about how pedestrian AI is just as bad as driver AI, how the controller settings are so broken that assigning buttons from a supported wheel result in HTML tags in the UI instead of icons, and how collecting XP by looking at landmarks is nearly impossible unless you've got three arms, but I think you get the idea. 

This isn't the career sim for you

A car next to a gas station in a city.

Source: Nacon

If you're looking for a deep, well-rounded driving simulator with a career mode, then Taxi Life is going to fall short on all accounts. There are a variety of similar titles available that do everything that Taxi Life offers and do so much more competently. Taxi Life can look pretty at times, but it's a big ask to overlook its many bugs and short-comings. Driving a taxi around a city isn't the most interesting idea to begin with, so Taxi Life needed to get all the details right, and unfortunately it doesn't come close to doing so.

This review is based on a Steam code provided by the publisher. Taxi Life: A City Driving Simulator is available now on PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X|S and PC.

SEO & Technical Consultant

Jan has been playing video games for nearly 30 years and been a passionate geek for the better part of his life. When he's not grinding his way through Destiny in search of further lore, he can often be found neck deep in source code of various apps and websites. Feel free to ask him about whether or not Guardians are actually evil or not, and whether or not he'll give you some free SEO tech tips. You can follow him on Twitter @ChalkOne.

  • Barcelona is a beautiful city to look at
  • Driving feels okay at times
  • AI drivers and pedestrians are atrocious
  • Lack of fare variety
  • Managing hired drivers is simplistic and they don't drive unless you do
  • Several UI settings are broken
  • Lots of bugs and unpolished functionality
  • Does nothing better than the alternatives
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