Simcity 4

Review

posted 2/23/2003 by John Yan
other articles by John Yan
One Page Platforms: PC
I’ve played Simcity ever since the Amiga days when you had blocks of zones on a top down view with cars being depicted by black blocks driving through the streets. The Simcity series has come a long way since then and Maxis’s latest effort, Simcity 4, is a gorgeous display of cityscape with good gameplay in most aspects.

Simcity 4’s basic premise remains the same. You are the mayor and you’re trying to do your best to ensure your city survives and prospers through the years. Given a barren landscape, you zone out your city and handle the budget in hopes of creating a solid city for the residents to work and live in. You won’t do it alone as the much-needed advisors are there to help give you information on various aspects of your city while offering advice on how to deal with the situation.


That's not even a real monster! Come on, that's just a guy in a rubber suit!

Whereas in the old Simcity had you build up the whole area, Simcity 4 gives you sections of the region to interact with. As you move from section to section, you’ll eventually develop very extensive network of cities that can interact with each other in trades. You’re now not stuck with one town as you can move between them and take control of the previous ones you build if you feel they are not doing a good job at being self sustained.

The interface is very similar to the Sims in terms of look and feel. The cartoonish menus and buttons give you access to all that you need to build and run the city. Just like the old games, you lay out zones that are residential, commercial, or industrial. In a more granular method, you also select the density of the zones. A new feature is that not only will you zone out a region, but the game will also automatically lay out roads for you. The roads are definitely not made for high traffic so you’ll probably want to repave them with higher-grade roads. Sometimes the roads are lined up really well but you’ll more than likely spend time restructuring the way the roads are laid out. The automatic roads are a blessing and a curse at the same time depending on how well the roads are laid out. Unfortunately there isn’t a way to disable the automatic feature but Maxis should probably allow for this in a future patch.

Besides zoning, you are responsible for providing public services such as police, fire prevention, transportation, and utilities. Everything costs money so you’ll have to balance the budget like all mayors. Things that used to be free such as parks now have a maintenance fee associated with it. Just remember to try and not expand too fast because in Simcity 4, it’s easy to get into a very deep deficit and ya’ll have a lot of trouble breaking even. Taxes a major source of income and it’s now divided into zones and three economic classes per zone. Now you can change the tax rate depending on the class and that gives you a little better control at which groups of people you’d like to increase your disapproval rating. Decreasing tax rates will help improve growth but at a loss of income. Finding that nice balance of growth and budget is a hard job but you’ll have help in the advisors.

Another source of income is trading with neighboring cities. You can be like Enron and trade power if you have some to spare. Along those lines you can also trade excess water and garbage disposal. For the more desperate there are business deals that are good for the economy but bad for the city. For example, one city might want you to store radioactive waste materials, which bring the environmentalists protesting at the door. And finally there’s the ever-popular loan with interest of course.
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