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SimCity 4 Review
PIII 500, 128MB RAM, 1GB HDD, 16MB video card
|ESRB rating: E
release date: Jan 12, 03 (released)
|» All About SimCity 4 on ActionTrip|
After sitting behind the mayor's desk for a few days, I slowly began to realize why his/her duties are so draining and stressful. A good mayor relies on a number of qualities: his astuteness, political and economic sense, business skills, and naturally good planning (none of which I possess by the way). SimCity 4 will allow you to test yourself and see if you have all of the abovementioned qualities. Creating a flourishing city takes time and it was always a huge and demanding job. In SimCity 4 the challenge is twice as hard. After almost 2 years since the SimCity 3000 Unlimited, EA and Maxis have made a completely improved sequel, which brings many innovations both in terms of graphics, as well as gameplay.
At the very beginning you can play the tutorial, which is brief and quite simple. Of course you can skip it if you wish, and quite frankly I think that there's really no need for additional instructions since the game has a very low learning curve and the interface is intuitive. On the other hand, the tutorial may be a very good way for inexperienced players to learn all they need to know about terraforming (the best and quickest way to alter the terrain before you begin building). In short, regardless of your previous experiences with SimCity games, you'll find that it is very easy to get into the basics of construction and city managing. At the main menu you can select where you wish to build your urban dream. The following regions are available: Maxisland, New York, San Francisco, London and Berlin. Still, don't expect to see finished cities on these landscapes, because you'll have to start from scratch - that's where the challenge lies.
One of the most important aspects of playing SimCity 4 is the amount of time and patience you need to invest into your town and its population. It is unwise to get hasty and start spending your money rashly on new and lavish objects; that is, not until you've reached an appropriate and efficient cash-balancing scheme. And believe me, that's the greatest challenge of all, and it actually represents the crux of the gameplay. You'll soon notice that it is very easy to get carried away with reckless building, so you ought to take extra care with your hard-earned currency. Surprisingly, this is where a few nifty and fun novelties were incorporated. If you should run out of cash, your financial advisor will immediately offer you a couple of suggestions that can make you regain your economic stability. The simplest answer to a financial crisis is to take out a loan from the local bank, or, if worse comes to worst, you can clench a somewhat unpleasant business deal and make a toxic waste dump on the outskirts of the city. This will drastically increase air and water pollution, but hey, it will also guarantee a substantial monthly fee. Another interesting way to make money is to allow the army to perform missile-launch tests within the region of your city (Pro: good cash going straight into your pocket. Con: very bad for your reputation, and not to mention it destroys the environment). Such details make SimCity 4 a really enjoyable experience. An experience that not only makes you think, but also offers you a choice to take desperate measures in desperate times.
To avoid any similar financial predicaments, one must expand ones town gradually and sensibly. This is truly the best thing about SimCity 4; most of the time you are required to wait a while after you've placed your first housing, commercial, and industrial zones. All of these take a bit of time to develop and grow. While you wait there are many things that require your undivided attention. For the most part, you'll be looking after the quality of your education system, health and financial status of your citizens, the order of traffic, general security of all the city districts, water supply, electricity, etc. Every aspect obligates extreme caution in terms of funding. In order to improve the efficiency of certain institutions and organizations you must increase funding. However, the player can simply get carried away and start over-funding everything, which is a bad idea if your town is still small.
The most obvious improvement from the previous games is the interface, which is now far simpler than it was in any other SimCity title. Apparently the developers made an effort to fine-tune the GUI so that it can appeal both to experienced and inexperienced SimCity players (it looks just like The Sims GUI - Ed). Every available function and option is at your fingertips; whether you want to expand the road, build a library, or erect a new housing area, it is all very straightforward and very easy to learn. At no time during the game will you be confused with useless pop-up menus and extra options. Additionally, the redesigned interface and toolset makes terraforming and map-editing practically trouble-free. Thanks to the GUI, you'll rarely feel the need to use any shortcut keys. All in all, a fine job on the interface and toolset.
The visual improvements are self-evident right from the moment when you start constructing your first district. The game doesn't feature full 3D graphics, which means you cannot fully rotate the camera to view your city from all angles (you play the game from an isometric perspective - Ed). But, somehow that doesn't seem to be much of a drawback. Quite the contrary; it allows for more details on the screen such as pedestrians, cars, nightlights, etc. Furthermore, when your city has grown a bit, there will be many activities on the streets. If you zoom up to the maximum, you will see little kiddies on swings, people playing basketball and tennis on courts you've so generously made for them, trees will grow in due time, day and night cycles will take place, etc. You'll see pretty much everything you'd expect to see in a huge and prosperous metropolitan environment. Like always, it is especially fun to watch your population and city involved in a sudden state of emergency (it is wrong to seek pleasure in the misery of the virtual people of SimCity, VADAR - Ed). It was particularly fun watching the tornado and volcano eruptions in action. By the way, I guess I should warn you that the game still slows up a bit from time to time (a factor which could also be noted in SimCity 3000 Unlimited), so you're gonna have to play on a powerful rig. On second thought, scratch that. I don't think the slowdowns have to do with the power of your CPU/GPU, as much as they have to do with the engine code itself.
The sound in the game doesn't appear to have any flaws. Various high-quality sounds can be heard all throughout the city jungle, from sudden gusts of wind to children's laughter. On top of that, SimCity 4 has a superb soundtrack with a large number of tunes at your disposal (you can play any of them at any time, and you can also import your own MP3 files if you like).
To ensure the growth of the SimCity community, the developers have also come up with the so-called SimCityscape multiplayer mode, which will surely increase the game's replay value even further. The SimCityscape gives players the opportunity to design and erect huge city districts and compete in cooperative multiplayer matches. Sadly, we didn't get the chance to try out this new mode online, but it's obvious that it's going to be big boost to the SimCity community.
In summary, this is without a doubt the best SimCity game so far. It is highly addictive and, as always, it has a very strong replay value. The game engrosses its player in a delightful little world of city managing. Being the mayor can be fun, but it can also be hard work. It's all about erecting houses and sky-scrapers, coping with the economy, and of course looking after your citizens - everything from their general welfare to education, health, traffic, and so on. Luckily, the interface is simpler than ever and each option and tool is on the screen right before you. I guess we have to thank The Sims for that. Also, there are several ways with which you can modify the land before you start building the city of your dreams. It was hard to juggle with a great number problems in the economy, industry, and education, but with extra effort I was able to erect Vadarsville and watch it prosper and rise to glory. Cool! Add another one to the list of EA's top-sellers.
The improved interface, which makes things radically easier. The enhanced visuals - the developers strove to incorporate an amazing amount of details in the districts of your very own metropolis. Visually, the new engine takes the franchise to a new level. Excellent sounds. The music themes are never too dull or repetitive. A lot more fun than the previous SimCity games.
Zooming in and out may take a long time to load because the screen is overburdened with stuff like dense traffic, passersby, and other activities in the city.
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