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E3 2012: SimCity (impressions)

Posted by: John at 6/6/2012 11:34 PM
Ah SimCity. My first appointment at E3 on Wednesday and I think anything I see after this will have a tough time matching up to you.

Let me just say, the GlassBox Engine powering SimCity is absolutely amazing. Just draw dropping amazing.  Everything you see in the game is being simmed. From the little people wandering the city with jobs and living quarters to all the traffic that gets backed up to, well, just about anything you see on screen. It's all being simulated by the incredible GlassBox engine.

The level of detail is truly amazing. The buildings are absolutely gorgeous and you can customize pieces and parts of the buildings. Based on the type of city you decide to generate, you'll get distinct look and feel that will make your city very personalized to you. One of the cities shown was heavy into industry and it showed by having many buildings with smoke stacks that produced pollution in the city. The city that specializes in tourism had beautiful constructed buildings and landmarks to lure people to visit. So, SimCity is really trying to produce visually appealing and easily customizable buildings for you to play with.

In addition to highly detailed buildings to make your city more realistic, curved roads are now in available. Once you lay them down, you can easily zone around them as the engine automatically curves the zone along the road as well. Curved roads is a long overdue and great addition to the series.

As you are going through the game, there's some nice indicators on the screen to help you out. At the upper right, you'll see how much you are losing or making in an hour. So you can quickly see if you need to start to do a few things to get yourself back into the black. On the bottom are some quick accessible icons as well as any alerts that appear.

The developers have done a great job in offering up plenty of visual cues to help you build your city. They've taken their influences from Google Maps in the style on showing you color coded information. For example, you can quickly see where power is being distributed or lost by an overlay. When installing a light rail system, a green overlay will let you know the optimum place to put stations. So, the team has really done a lot of work in trying to give you great visual indicators to help you build your city efficiently.

Asynchronous multiplayer was shown where there were three cities controller by three different people. All three contributed in their own way in helping build an airport. But, what makes the multiplayer asynchronous is that any one of the players can pause their city and not affect the other ones playing.

With multiplayer, good and bad aspects of your city can affect your neighbors. One of the cities shown had bad crime rate complete with graffiti on the buildings. Scrolling over to a neighbor city, the demo showed a bank robbery complete with a full blown shootout. So, while the city had low crime rate themselves, the influence of the neighbor city caused crime to spill into its own streets. Let me say though, the bank robbery and shootout was the highlight of the demo.

SimCity was, by far, one of the best games I saw at E3. The detail you get from the GlassBox engine such as brake lights on the cars, people moving in the street, beautiful architecture in the buildings, and every little part of the game being simmed makes for a game the comes alive when the city is active.

February 2013 is when it's slated to be released and you can bet I'll be there when the game's released to pick it up.