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SimCity 4: Rush Hour Review
PIII 500, 128MB RAM, 16MB Video Card, 1GB HD
|ESRB rating: E
release date: Sep 22, 03 (released)
|» All About SimCity 4: Rush Hour on ActionTrip|
SimCity 4 is, without question, the top management simulation on the market. The development team at Maxis had a very simple goal for their next endeavor in the SimCity world. They attempted to bring gamers a bit closer to the inner-city transit system, as well as the difficult lives that are being lead by certain Sims. In other words, players have a variety of new options that will allow them to enter vehicles and carry out diverse tasks while they're at it. New features were also added, such as 100 new buildings (you'll see brand new building skins as well as and all-new structures), the ability to name neighborhoods, streets, avenues and land features, etc. Naturally, a couple of new disasters were also thrown in to make things easier for governors who wish to lash out their anger on the annoying and ungrateful populace.
As always, building a city from scratch is a demanding and lengthy process, frequently forcing you to deal with countless issues and challenges that come with every-day governing. In its basics, SimCity 4: Rush Hour carries all the elements of the original game. Which means that, as mayor, your primary concern is to keep an eye on factors that are vital to an urban surrounding - everything from health and education, to traffic and city finances. Unlike SimCity 4, this expansion pack has one major advantage that significantly influences the growth of your city. The first apparent and extremely effective gameplay improvement can be observed in the modified traffic system, which is more intuitive and complex than in the previous game. The cool thing is that players may now use additional options to customize and further improve their roads, railroad tracks, and highways. What's even more important is that you can access any vehicle within your city - be it on land, sea, or in the air. This particular feature is good for a number of reasons. To begin with, players have the freedom to drive to any location on the map, experiencing traffic and testing commute patters with the transport of their choice. Also, operating vehicles offers you an opportunity to prove yourself in a wide variety of missions that can increase your wealth and boost your reputation among the general public. Using vehicles, unfortunately, has its downsides that could lead to certain frustrating situations. The simple matter is that while players drive through the city, other vehicles will appear (or disappear) when you least expect them to - they obviously have very limited movement patterns, so as not to overstrain an environment that's already highly detailed. Whatever the case, when vehicles start popping up out of nowhere on the road your own vehicle could easily be destroyed in an unexpected crash, eventually making you miss the ultimate goal of a particular mission. These problems might cause difficulties if you happen to be playing in highly developed cities with heavy traffic and tons of other obstacles. So, driving might be best suited for medium-seized urban zones.
Speaking of missions, it wouldn't hurt to note what they can involve. Usually you are assigned to drive police cars - solving murders, robberies, going on surveillance of local neighborhoods, etc. Occasionally, things get a bit more exciting, as you ride around in police choppers investigating various crime scenes. Better yet, the game even gives you an opportunity to build a TV or Radio Station and then report from a news helicopter. And, that's not the half of it, kids! You'll also be able to operate trains, boats, airplanes, garbage trucks, fire trucks, limos, getaway vans, tanks, and more. Obviously, you don't have to work for the police every time. Sometimes you can work for various local crime organizations or simply take part in numerous neutral assignments. The developers deserve a big hand for offering such a splendid mixture of content. At times, these elements reminded me of the excellent and varied gameplay of GTA: Vice City (you know choppers, police cars, chases, etc.). It's pretty cool.
Even if this new drive-it-yourself technique isn't all it's cracked up to be, it does slacken some issues that made the gameplay rather difficult in the original. For example, in SimCity 4 it was very hard to achieve a stable and productive economy. Completing these missions can bring you earnings up to $70,000. Indeed a most commendable gameplay component, which allows players to increase their income without having to struggle with hefty cash balance problems. Thanks to this innovation, I think that some gamers won't object to the aforementioned snags that could occur while driving. Another positive point is that by completing missions you gain access to more controllable vehicles and you may also unlock additional buildings and structures. Of course, completing missions is not the only way you can erect additional structures. Some of them can be built right from the start. Anyways, like I've mentioned at the beginning of the article, the expansion pack contains somewhere around 100 new buildings. These new structures include high capacity educational facilities, fire-plane landing strips, deluxe police stations, an assortment of new bridges to erect, and more.
Bearing in mind this is an expansion pack, we didn't expect any radical changes in terms of visuals. Basically, you pretty much get to see the same level of graphics the main game has. Except this time around, there's a small number of additional features - lovely new buildings, cool-looking and delightfully animated new disasters (just wait until you've seen what an alien space ship is capable of), and so on. The game also includes an option for players to use the all-new European-contemporary architecture style, which undeniably brought some pleasing and refreshing changes to the environment (for instance, this architectural style presented an extensive range of beautiful skyscrapers). Regrettably, we were a bit disheartened that the game still suffers from a sluggish frame-rate, particularly when you have a huge and complex metropolis on your hands.
The quality of the sounds is also much the same as in the original game. Additional tones and voices were added to go along with the game's vehicle mode. These new sounds have been blended well with the style and humor previously noted in SimCity 4.
Clearly, Maxis succeeded in enhancing the experience of city-management even further by offering gamers a variety of new features to explore as they expand their humble settlements into dense and highly advanced urban zones. The all-new vehicle mode has its quirks, but otherwise it's a great addition to the gameplay. There is one other important thing to note here and it concerns the game's price. Rush Hour carries a $20 price tag and a $10 rebate from EA until January, which altogether seems like a reasonable bargain for an expansion pack.
8.1 Very Good
New buildings, architectural style, disasters... controllable transit system;
Handling the vehicles can be frustrating, steep hardware requirements.
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