Tropico 4

Review

posted 11/14/2011 by Travis Huinker
other articles by Travis Huinker
Platforms: 360
Tropico 4 marks the second appearance of the series on the Xbox 360 following last year's release of Tropico 3. Developed by Haemimont Games and published by Kalypso Media, Tropico 4 introduces a wealth of features including new campaign missions, types of buildings, natural disasters, and more political depth with a council of ministers and relations with various superpowers. Most games now start on consoles and are later ported to the PC. With Tropico 4, the conversion was the other way around and fortunately it was not an afterthought.

The setting places the player into the role of El Presidente on a quest to restore glory to the islands of Tropico. The campaign contains 20 missions set on 10 different islands that each contain a set of objectives and special attributes, such as being earthquake prone or increased tourism sales. There is a wide assortment of objectives that continually appear throughout each game that might include selling tobacco and cigars to America or building more iron mines. Once the island has been well established and a number of objectives have been completed, the adviser to El Presidente will issue an end goal for finishing the mission. Once the end goal has been completed, players may continue to keep expanding their island or move onto the next scenario in the campaign.


The objectives allow for a number of possible routes in their completion. America might need exports of either fish, cattle, or sugar. The player can decide to build only farms for sugar or deny the request altogether. Many of the objectives are dismissible, but there are some required ones that lead up to the final goal. The game allows for even more freedom in how to rule the inhabitants of the island. Citizens might be ruled under martial law while also being denied the right to hold elections. Edicts such as martial law, prohibition, and other programs can affect the status of relationships with citizens and other nations.

At the beginning of each mission, the player can pick from a range of characters including dictators, presidents, and even rebel leaders. There is also a character creation tool that allows for the customization of clothing and various traits that will determine the player's style of rule. Players can mold their ruler as however they see fit from one mission to the next. The success of an island's economy or relationships with other countries will be dependent upon the happiness of its inhabitants. Detailed information can even be gathered by clicking on individual citizens to view their current thoughts about living in Tropico. Throughout most of the game, complex information including almanac statistics and the happiness of individual citizens are provided to offer further assistance if required. The few times that the complex information is required, the game will direct the attention of the player to a various tab of the almanac, such as trading imports and exports.


The greatest enjoyment from gameplay is the freedom in planning a city around the various objectives. There are a variety of structures available to place around the island and even some in the sea. All of the building choices can be accessed from a radial menu that is controlled by the joystick. Some categories can take a couple of joystick presses to pinpoint the exact selection when in an odd corner. However, the process of selecting and placing buildings around the island is effortless and often quite an enjoyable experience. The game will even suggest buildings for the player if they could benefit citizens on the island, such as more housing or police stations.

In general, the controls with panning around the island and clicking on structures for management is effortless after a few minutes. From a game that was traditionally controlled by a mouse, the experience on a console shows no signs of an ill-conceived port. The only major problem with the transition from the PC to the Xbox 360 can be found in the quality of its visuals. The game seems to have an odd rendering quirk in which objects from far away appear blurry. Small objects in the environment develop small dots around them when zooming out of view. However, the environment is absolutely gorgeous when zoomed in allowing for a glimpse of the island's citizens and tourists going about their daily activities. The only problem is that staying zoomed in for a duration of time is never required. The gameplay has players frequently panning around the island from one structure to the next.


The presentation earns high marks for its musical scores and radio transmissions that occur throughout gameplay. The game may be lacking a wide variety of songs, however, the ones included work perfectly to set the tone of a tropical island. There are also various radio transmissions that occur in relation to a current event or recent action taken by the player. The radio transmissions are often quite hilarious due to the excellent voice work and jokes that fit the tone of the game. The voice work of island citizens, ministers, and other superpower leaders are always enjoyable diversions from the gameplay.

The game truly shines in the amount of content that is included on the disc. For starters, the campaign features 20 missions with each lasting over a couple of hours. There is also a sandbox mode that allows for players to select a certain island and customize the scenario settings, which determine the occurrence of natural disasters, rebel attacks, and other difficulty factors. With the ability to replay missions with different strategies and the time required for completing each scenario, there is no lack of content for fans of strategy and city simulation games.

Tropico 4 is a nice change of pace from the range of other current games on the market that either focus on zombies or terrorists. Between managing the food consumption of the island's inhabitants to possible threats from rebels, the game successfully captures the player's attention from the start of a mission until its very end. Even then, players might have a difficult time in letting go of their once humble island that has since been transformed into the ultimate destination for tourists and premier exporter of cigars and rum.

Tropico 4 is also available for the PC.
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