Build a city and make sure the inhabitants like living there and you don’t go bankrupt. That’s the short and simple but also very addictive formula of SimCity which has now reached version 4.
It’s been since the original SimCity that I have actually played this game. Ok, I did see SimCity 2000 and 3000 but never actually had the time to play them so you can imagine that I was definitely looking forward to checking out this latest installment.
You start off with a huge landscape which is divided into several smaller pieces out of which you can choose one to build you city. Once chosen, you enter the territory as God and are able to manipulate it the way you see fit. You can create mountains, rivers, forests, etc. You can even choose where certain species of animals live, not for any specific reason but just to have some fun. The tools that are at hand in God mode are really all you need to create the perfect environment to put your city in. Once finished, you can regulate your landscape to match the borders with the regions next to you and you’re ready to enter Mayor mode.
Here you get an easy to use menu with all the options necessary to be able to run your town as you see fit. You can create three types of zones, being residential, commercial and industrial, each also being divided into three depending on how occupied the area’s are. Of course, if you choose f.i. a high density industrial area, the cost to create it will be a lot higher as tax income will be bigger aswell.
Once you’ve started building zones, these need to have water and electricity so you better make sure there’s enough of that. Each option has multiple choices like for instance the choice of energy where you can take windmills which have no pollution but a rather low energy rate or a cole central which gives higher energy but also a lot pollution. It’s all about these types of choices that you have to make. Try to keep your sims happy by getting a middle-way between providing them with all that’s necessary for their life and make sure they don’t get too worked up about pollution or garbage. And also make sure your town doesn’t go bankrupt because of overspending.
That’s actually the biggest challenge. Overspending is extremely easy to do as you’ll easily be pursuaded to start building highways, metro stations, etc while these aren’t necessary yet but do cut a big hole in your budget. Those first 100.000 Simolians are gone before you know it !
Keeping your budget in order is the biggest challenge. Personally I found that expanding you town constantly is the best way to make sure your income keeps rising while keeping all public services to a minimum makes sure you’ll stay within your budget. Of course, if you don’t comply to the requests of your civilians, the amount of inhabitants will decrease, making your tax income go down. My experience is to have low taxes which increases the amount of inhabitants, thus increasing your income (and you can change your taxes by income even. Have f.i. the richt pay more than the poor). But as I said, having a good income/expenses balance is the biggest problem to maintain as getting a larger town means bigger expenses for public services and you just have to make sure you don’t go over your budget or your finance advisor will start yelling at you (and be sure she’s the one that turns red most ;p).
Next to getting your town up and running without going bankrupt, you can try to get a higher appreciation from your people and be allowed to build special buildings. Also, by complying to certain things, you’ll get access to newer technologies for f.i. energy like a nuclear reactor and such. As you can see, there’s loads of opportunities to keep you occupied for quite a while.
New is the fact that you can even put some real Sims in your town and use them as advisor on certain neighbourhoods. You don’t own The Sims ? Don’t worry, a couple have been put in by default in SimCity4
I could go on and on about all the different features and menu-options that are available, but I think you get the picture. SimCity4 is extremely user-friendly and expanded to make sure you have all possible things to really manage your city in a way you see fit.
Graphically, SimCity4 is top-notch. Everything is created up until the latest details. You can see buildings being created from the first brick to the last piece of paint, see fog around cars when they drive by a toxic waste dump, have sims start to demonstrate when they’re not happy with certain budget cuts, etc. etc.
Overall I can say that it’s the details that make SimCity4 a great game. The way things are created, the sounds of people on the beach, the parties at the mayor’s mansion, the army walking around their base, cars in traffic jams, etc. One could spend pages and pages explaining everything that is put in the game.
Of course, we can’t have a review which consists of only positive points and the high system requirements are the biggest downpoint. Forget about the minimum specs, you won’t enjoy it without a decent gaming rig (I ran it on an Athlon 1.4 Ghz with 512 MB and GeForce4 4600 and had to install it on my second harddrive as my first wasn’t fast enough to keep up with the game). Of course, this is only a minor downpoint as one cannot expect to have a game as detailed as SimCity4 without having a machine that can support it.
Maxis has a winning formula with the SimCity series and SimCity4 takes it to the next level. If you haven’t bought it yet, go to your nearest game shop, get it and be sure to get rid of any social life for the next months.