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SimCity 4

“Play God, Play Mayor, Play with your Sims”. If that reminds you of something, it’s the ad that got many of you to buy this game. And I bet most if not all can agree it was well worth buying it. The history of this game is interesting, being one of the few games to go so far in a series (and amazingly, the same creator of this game created a game that has the most expansion packs!). Well, onto the thing you came to read, the review!

By far the best graphics Maxis has ever made. It’s sleek, clean, and very realistic. You’ll be in for a treat if you have never seen the screenshots. The game is split into TWO Graphic modes also! Day and Night which in turn gives the game a nice change in style every so often. More on this day and night stuff in Gameplay.

At night you’ll see street lights go on, factory’s security lights go on, car headlights, and even minor things like a beach that’s being used will light up, but when it’s empty it’ll become dark like the rest of the buildings at night. When day comes the entire city wakes up and walks or drives to their work. Obviously at day time no lights are on.

Jaw dropping details have been placed EVERYWHERE! Little windows will open and close, doors will too, clothes lines will move slightly in the window, the buildings are actually seen get built by construction workers, roads being paved, waves on the beach, parking lots slowly getting used up as the business becomes more popular. Yes, that’s right, the buildings look different all the time! If one Bob’s Greasy Pit is more popular than the other, more cars will drive to it and you’ll see more parked in it’s parking lot. The city is very dynamic indeed. There are countless amounts of details and they are constantly changing to how your sims react to the city.

Gameplay is the most amazing part of the game. Before we get to detailed in the mayor functions, let’s take notice to our sims. When you zone land for residential, the game will determine the price of the lot (either being poor, average, or wealthy) and then it checks the RCI demand. The RCI demand is a simple little icon that shows you which type of land people want to buy. It becomes espesially helpful in SimCity 4 with the new kinds of wealth for the citizens. If you click on the RCI button it shows you everything your sims want… mainly cheap land in the beginning and expansive land later. Anyways, if the demand for cheap land is high enough, and you just made cheap land, you’ll see moving trucks either on a road that leads to a neighboring city, at a train station, or if you neither, in a random spot. The trucks will then drive to the land they want to buy and start building a house. After a few months (in game time, not real life time) the house will be finished.

So what you ask? Well, when that moving truck appears on your city map, it shows you have a brand new unique sim. Unlike previous versions of SimCity, your sims are all unique now. They’ll all still be nameless, but they now think for themselves. You can watch their cars back out of the drive way and go to their jobs, or to a fun family night beach, or whatever! They really react. If you build a polluting factory right next door, you’ll watch their cars drive over to the mayors house to protest, or they might just move to the other side of town. The game is filled with all these sim decisions that in high populations it can really start to lag. Then there are your named sims which you import from The Sims. They still think and react like normal sims, but they give you even more details, like exactly where they are all the time. They’ll also talk to you through news and tell you when they get new jobs, and show you them. It’s fun interacting with them, like burning their job or house down while their away, and watching them freak out later.

Already you should be excited to see not only individual sims that thin, but watching your own created sims work and play in a city! If all of this has been hard to understand, the only way to see what I’m talking about is buy the game! Now for mayor tools. You get all the tools a mayor will get. Advisors to give you information about the latest protests and compliments, construction crews for roads and civic buildings, diplomats to talk with your neighbors and business corporations to get great deals, and even a nice commitee of reward givers for all your hard work! Making money in SimCity 4 is harder than previous versions and you’ll notice that from the start. For one, most if not all buildings that your sims do not build cost you a monthly check. That means roads, parks, power plants, landmarks, schools, so on cost you a little of money, to a great bundle of it. The good thing is, you can put fares on these things. These fares are called… TAXES! Before you even consider building a school, you should have enough money rolling in from taxes to support that school monthly. So basically, your sims pay for their schools through the nice system of taxes. Oh yea, the extra money you make can be saved for later =)

More than likely you won’t be making any money in the beginning. Only cheap houses will be built, which means only cheap citizens live there. If they are poor, they own poor things, which means they pay less taxes, in turn gives you less money. To get money you need to get rich sims to consider living in your city. That would either be keeping a family of sims in your city long enough for them to become richer or getting a rich family to just move to town. Once you got a rich family, you have to take care of them differently than poor ones. You can’t just combine your polluting factories and houses together anymore, you need a nice system of education and museums and health. You need almost no crime. As you can see, this game is not the easiest, but it is FUN!

The audio is as good as the graphics. It’s clean and very soothing to the ear. I don’t know if this is true or not, but it seems that if certain events happen, the current music fades out and plays a different song that’s more suited to the situation. The game allows you to play your own MP3’s, which is a big bonus to those that don’t like SimCity music but prefer Eninem or Blink182 to rap or rock their city to brink of destruction. I personally think the audio is excellent as it is, and the fading to situation part keeps me from using my own MP3’s anyways.

Controls. This is the worst part of the game. That sounds really harsh, but believe me, it may be the worst part, but its not worst controls I’ve seen. Instead of a very nice organized menu’s you got in SimCity 2000/3000, the replace it with a more The Sims feel. They even have the same little modes like ths Sims, isntead of live, buy, and build, its god, mayor, and sims. In each mode the bottem informative part shows information relative to the sction, while the left part of the screen shows buttons that you can push to do things (like build roads or start a fire). The way they show graphs and information is annoying though. They show little standardized versions of everything, then you have to click on it to show the detailed version. Also gameplay is not paused when reading or working through your charts and finances, which means you have to manually do it yourself. Not much left to be said, besides the fact you will eventually get used to the feel of playing a hybrid of “The Sims” and “SimCity” menu interface.

I totally recommend you buy this game, and the players guide if you have no idea what SimCity is about. Trust me, this versions is geared towards SimCity Vet’s for sure. Oh yea, I didn’t mention replay because like all simulation games, it’s infinate. So just go buy the game already!

10 out of 10

The author of this fine article

is the Editor at Thunderbolt, having joined in November 2000. Get in touch on Twitter @PhilipMorton.

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