…And that brings us to the subject of music. For some reason, the developers thought smooth disco was the right music for City Life, as the entire soundtrack. Being a child of the 80s, I’ve never had much of a taste for disco; I don’t revile the stuff, but some easy jazz would have been preferable to the spunky beats that permeate City Life. In any case, it doesn’t sound very metropolitan, or very industrial, and it felt out of place the entire time I was playing. Because the sound effects were rather sparse anyway, I was tempted to turn down my PC speakers and drop a disc into my CD player.
As a counterbalance to the decidedly unappealing music, City Life’s visual presentation is quite impressive for a sim. The water effect caught my attention right off, and I spent some time zoomed in on my California facsimile’s surrounding ocean. The environment and the buildings you put in it all have a very high level of detail, and for one big reason: you can explore your city up close. With the zoom camera, you can take an almost first person perspective within your city, allowing you to examine problems and progress on a personal level. This is a nice addition, but it also shows some of the uniformity that is inevitable within a sim.
Buildings start to blend together because they are, in the end, set pieces chosen from a menu. Terrain relief is pretty much dominated by these buildings too. Even the people strolling about lack much variety; once you’ve seen one hobo, starched businessperson and rebellious, black eyeliner-sporting punk, you’ve literally seen them all. I would’ve liked if the social classes customized their neighborhoods by adding little improvements, messing things up or spray painting graffiti, but perhaps that is too much to ask from this kind of game. It isn’t an MMO, after all.
City Life is a transitional kind of game. It adds some very creative elements to a genre in need of new ideas, but it doesn’t take them as far as they could go. Social classes are a concept that deserved more exploration, but City Life’s design necessitates that they be rather clearly defined. Maybe future games will add more gray areas and allow for better diplomacy between classes. I’d love to see a modern Romeo and Juliet quagmire that needs a little working out from city hall. As it stands, City Life has the basic idea of social problems but without any of the close personality that would really give them flavor. The rest of the game is a highly competent sim that may take more patience than the average gamer would expect.
More On:City Life
City Life adds a new social element to the traditional sim game. It takes some clever planning to keep your city’s populace from destroying each other, but the implementation feels just a bit heavy-handed. The rest of the package is high caliber, except for some questionable taste in music.
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