Roller Coaster Tycoon 3 (PC) review
"Following on from the well-received Transport and Railroad Tycoon, Chris SawyerísRollercoaster Tycoon in 1999 helped paved the way to the many tycoon games we see today, even if it is now a highly-milked genre. The unanticipated success of RCT really gave Bullfrogís cumbersome Theme Park sim a kick up the rear end by showing how a game designing roller-coasters and theme parks was meant be done, and five years on this third outing finally introduces it to 3D graphics. Although the ..."
Following on from the well-received Transport and Railroad Tycoon, Chris SawyerísRollercoaster Tycoon in 1999 helped paved the way to the many tycoon games we see today, even if it is now a highly-milked genre. The unanticipated success of RCT really gave Bullfrogís cumbersome Theme Park sim a kick up the rear end by showing how a game designing roller-coasters and theme parks was meant be done, and five years on this third outing finally introduces it to 3D graphics. Although the updated visuals abolish many of the limitations of the old isometric graphics such as awkward viewing angles, is that enough to make it a better game?
Partly thanks to a change in development (Sawyer didnít actually actively programme this) RCT3 presents a radically different user interface from its predecessors at first glance. More options include a new sandbox mode (unlimited funds), a guest and scenario editor (set out impossible objectives), and of course the main career mode. The career mode appears to have quite a vast array of themed levels, with many more to unlock. Each scenario has three objective tiers, ranking in difficulty from apprentice, entrepreneur, to tycoon objectives. Parks vary from disused castles and Hollywood scenes to Wild West ranches or tree-ridden islands, all requiring your services to turn a quiet tourist attraction, or even nothing, into a thriving park. However, in reality these themed scenarios are little more than gimmicks with objectives being often similar throughout, albeit progressively harder. Furthermore many levels are uninspiring flatland wanting development, whilst the scenario objectives are littered with exploitable loop-holes making the career mode levels rather brief and easy.
Although the career mode is disappointing, the park-building interface is spot on. In-game options are far more in-depth with a greater choice in rides, shops and scenery than before. Thereís a staggering variety of rollercoasters that vary considerably in price, wooden rollercoasterís are relatively cheap, but if you want extreme corners and high velocity corkscrews youíll have to cough up for the added steel and thrust. But such investments will pay off when guests find them more appealing. Casual pre-built rides like the Merry-go-round and enterprise wheel are abundant; many are classified under themes like pirate or sci-fi styles, great for creating a themed area complete with the appropriate scenery and buildings. Thereís far more choice unlike the down-to-earth options offered by its predecessors, but the in-game tutorial does guide you through some new features, plus the interface and camera controls.
If having oodles of rides and shops isnít enough, there are plenty of other variables to monitor. Shops allow you to choose what products are sold; be it Ĺ pounder burgers are on the menu or the amount of cheese put on; how many carriages does a ride need, and how much you can charge before guests refuse to pay. Staff demand training to upkeep productivity and morale, whilst finances need closer monitoring especially when entrance fees canít be set on many scenarios, youíll have to spend prudently but know when to invest. Rides need to be maintained for breakages, or whether that corkscrew monolith is actually not too intense for visitors! Although remnants of these previous players will be familiar with, the depth adds extra micromanagement and consequently more realism than before. You can no longer get away with borrowing a lump sum of cash and then just forget about your finances.
The 3D graphics engine certainly doesnít fail to impress, looking quite cartoony with shiny environmental effects and hundreds of low-polygon peeps. The extra dimension makes it far easier to build roller-coasters without working around visual obstructions such as rollercoaster supports. Despite the new GUI rollercoaster-building is fundamentally the same menu system from before, but with the added auto-finisher (remember how awkward finishing rollercoasters was sometimes?) and the first-person coaster-cam (donít forget your bucket!). Path building unfortunately is a cumbersome process, trying to level land and build a path only to find they donít link from uneven land squares is a pain to fix. However, the similarities means returning players shouldnít find the transition particularly steep.
The facelift and decent game-play methods may make RCT3 appear as the modern revelation to the series, but its real pitfall rests on the career mode being too easy. Unlike the originalís objectives there is no time limit to the scenarios and they cannot be failed, are easily bypassed and are awfully samey. One objective involves repaying a loan, but this is easily done by selling most of your rides to give enough funding to repay it, then re-loan it to rebuild the rides. Building a ride of a certain rating is easily achieved by building a readymade ride for cheaply, and just keeping the park clean will guarantee a high reputation. In comparison to the original the career mode objectives are just bite-sized affair; getting 900 guests in your park after 2 years was much harder than building two roller-coasters of a certain rating whilst making sure the VIP sees a fireworks display. The endless customisation and the sand-box modes are great, but RCT3 feels more of a casual mess-around than hardcore action and thus lacks the same sense of reward. The satisfaction of building a thriving successful park from its predecessors seems to have oddly disappeared.
Rollercoaster Tycoon 3 may deliver to expectations, but only to an extent. Thereís an amazing amount of things to build, plenty of customizable options from ride music (use your own music collection if you want), from sauce on burgers to designing your own peeps. Most of the initial release versions glitches are now patched up, albeit with the seldom odd AI decision, but itís the supposedly central career mode falls significantly short of acceptable. The emphasis is directed on sandboxing action, but slapping together an awesome looking park just doesnít give the same satisfaction than building with severe scenario restraints. However the 3D graphics does lift this into the 21st century making park-building less frustrating and does justice to the parks you spent ages building. If you like RCT, then the new graphics engine does make this worth a shot, along with the Wild! and Soaked! expansions. However, if youíre after a more hardcore challenge, Iím afraid youíre going to be disappointed.
Community review by bigcj34 (August 10, 2008)
Cormac Murray is a freelance contributor for HG and is a fanboy of Sega and older Sony consoles. For modern games though he pledges allegiance to the PC Master Race, by virtue of a MacBook running Windows.
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