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Simcity 4

Simcity 4

Written by John Yan on 2/23/2003 for PC  
More On: SimCity 4
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.
If you are not happy with the way the landscape looks you can play God and change it. Raise or lower the land, add trees, build bodies of water: you have complete control as to how the landscape is shaped. With the tools available you have the ability to recreate some famous cities down to the shape of the landscape. To show you how complex the landscape can be, Maxis has included a model of San Francisco with its hilly cityscape. No longer are you limited to flat landscapes to build buildings and roads can now wine around on the side of a hill.

Disasters are back and bigger than ever. Half the fun is destroying a prosperous city with a volcano rising from the middle, lighting storms hitting the buildings, or even a robot monster rampaging through the city. Each disaster is accompanied by impressive visual effects that make the destruction of the city a feast for the eyes. Buildings explode and collapse with impressive results. You an either initiate a disaster or during the course of your playing time, a random will one occur. Watching disasters decimate your city can be quite fun.

Power trip? Who says I've gone on a powertrip? I'll have them killed!

For those with the Sims, you can import your sims into the game and live in the city. You’ll get feedbacks as to how they are doing and what they think of the city. I didn’t have the game but you can import a sim created in Simcity 4 if you so desire.

The level of detail in Simcity 4 is just jaw dropping. If you have the horsepower to run the game in high detail you’ll be treated to an insane amount of animations and highly lifelike architecture. From the kids playing in the parks and various types of automobiles driving through the town there’s so much eye candy to be had that it can sometimes be a little overwhelming. And for the first time you’ll see your city at various times during the day. Experience your city at night or on a bright sunny day. Famous landmarks are modeled incredibly accurate. When you view the bustling city from a far, you can’t help but marvel at how well Maxis has done with the graphics in the game.

While it’s not the Simcity that I saw back a few E3s ago where you could zoom in and out and through the city, it’s still a nice addition to the line. There are some features that haven’t been implemented yet such as the online play but that will be incorporated in the near future. Some of the annoyances such as the auto road laying have been addressed in the patch along with the ability to rotate the way your zones face. Downloads from the Simcity website will keep the game alive with new features and edifices. Maxis has a nice game here and fans of the old Simcity will surely enjoy the new version. Just be sure you have a nice up to date computer to run it as it is a system hog with all the details in the game.
Great graphics and pretty good gameplay outline the latest installment in the Simcity franchise. Online feature is still missing though but some patches have addressed some of the issues with the game already.

Rating: 8.6 Very Good

* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company.

About Author

I've been reviewing products since 1997 and started out at Gaming Nexus. After writing for a few different sites that went under, it's nice to bring back a site that's not dependent on revenue and just wants to deliver news and reviews of products.

I'm  married, and enjoy first person shooters, sports games, and real time strategy games.

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