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SimCity 4 (Mac) artwork

SimCity 4 (Mac) review

"Ah, another SimCity has been released. This is one of the few games that feature no ending, no real violence, and can keep yourself glued to the computer screen until you suffer severe eyestrain. Throughout the years, this franchise has made a phenomenal impact on the world of gaming. The original SimCity was an incredibly revolutionary game for its day. Compared to other games during this period, the original SimCity was vastly superior in many aspects, primarily its gameplay. The..."

Ah, another SimCity has been released. This is one of the few games that feature no ending, no real violence, and can keep yourself glued to the computer screen until you suffer severe eyestrain. Throughout the years, this franchise has made a phenomenal impact on the world of gaming. The original SimCity was an incredibly revolutionary game for its day. Compared to other games during this period, the original SimCity was vastly superior in many aspects, primarily its gameplay. The release of SimCity 2000 gave an incredible upgrade to this astonishing classic in terms of gameplay and graphics. When SimCity 3000 came out, I couldn’t believe my eyes on how the graphics improved from its predecessors. Finally, with the recent release of SimCity 4, one question still remains: Could this game place an incredible impact on the revolution of gaming, or is it the first SimCity that will not be remembered in the future by many?

The basic gameplay is chiefly identical to previous installments. You essentially play as “God”, trying to successfully manage a city and its citizens (Known as “Sims” in this game). The main feature of this game that appeals so much to its audience is the fact that you can achieve whatever you want. You can choose to construct a quiet and peaceful rural town, or a busy and boisterous urban centre. You can also construct “destruction” cities, where its only purpose is for the Sims to suffer from dangerous disasters, severe crime, and heavy pollution. The countless options in this game are extraordinary, and thus, enable you to play it again, and again, until you fall asleep on your keyboard.

You first begin by selecting a plot of land from the region map. Whether you want to play on a small or large plot of land, or whether you want to construct your city next to the coastline or in a mountainous region, it’s all available to you. The moment you select your land, you’ll be first given the opportunity to manipulate the surrounding land in any possible way. The options are numerous - you can select to create mountains, canyons, hills, craters, lakes etc. You are also given the opportunity to plant forests and position animals that can wander throughout the entire terrain. All of this can be created by a couple of clicks from the menu. I love how complex, yet straightforward this feature is, since it provides beginners with a very lenient learning curve.

When you’re finished creating the ultimate terrain, you’ll finally be able to enter the real game -successfully planning and developing the settlement of your dreams. When finally activating this feature (called Mayor Mode), the entire fate of the city now rests in your hands. Even though it may seem you’ll easily be able to manage your city right from the beginning, chances are, various issues will immediately stumble you from the start. Questions such as “where would be the best place to start?”, or “where should I plan to construct my railways and highways later in the game?” will often pop in your head. Even though it may be complicating to manage the right decisions, it is actually quite fun contemplating about the specific advantages and disadvantages of a resolution about to be made.

In order to successfully manage your city, you must intelligently raise and lower taxes; strategically zone the locations of your industries, commerce, and residences; and wisely construct services such as schools and police departments. Failing to do so can hinder your chances of managing the most unbelievable city one could ever imagine. Though the above decisions are necessary for achievement, it is not required. As already mentioned, you can create any type of settlement you desire, including ones primarily for the purpose of destroying later on. In actuality, I had the most enjoyment creating the exact opposite of a successful city. Here, the options are endless to help displease your Sims. You can activate various disasters such as frightening tornadoes and shattering earthquakes that can send your lovely Sims to the other side of the world, or another dimension for that matter. You can also have a bliss watching your Sims riot throughout the entire city, or seeing them protest when you’ve constructed a gorgeous Toxic Waste Dump in their backyards.

Another major aspect I particularly enjoy about this game - as well as in previous installments - is that reality is heavily interpreted in your city. For example, in the real world, citizens wouldn’t want to live next to a Federal State Prison, or a smelly Landfill. Also, farmers would not like to manage their farms next to tall skyscrapers or smelly factories. All of this is interpreted in SimCity 4, which is why it takes heavy thinking to decide which zones you should locate in order to successfully manage your city. In addition, one feature that is completely new to the series is the implementation of a day and night cycle. The amount of realism featured in this aspect is incredible. For example, when the daylight fades away from the city, the Sims will actually turn their lights on in their homes. As night advances, the Sims in each building will progressively turn their lights off as they hit the sack. Furthermore, the city is busiest during rush hour - around 8 o’clock in the morning and 5 o’clock at night. Throughout these times, you can easily notice the Sims commuting to their workplaces, where sidewalks are flooded with livid pedestrians and streets are completely swamped with numerous traffic jams.

The number of unique buildings that can be constructed from the control panel is absolutely extraordinary. Looking back at the original SimCity, you were limited to constructing residential, commercial, and industrial zones; police and fire stations; coal and nuclear power plants; stadiums; seaports; and airports. I was completely amazed when I saw the number of new buildings that have been included in this installment. Here, you can build schools, hospitals, libraries, museums, recycling centers, solar power plants, city halls, courthouses, and universities - the list goes on. In addition, you can build various world landmarks, such as the Empire State Building, CN Tower, White House, and Taj Mahal.

In previous SimCity’s, one of the actions the mayor always had to perform was to periodically balance the taxes in order to keep the Sims happy, as well as receiving a respectable amount of cash in return. Unlike its predecessors, this game provides you the opportunity to independently change Residential, Commercial, and Industrial tax rates on three levels of wealth. This feature is pretty creative; it allows you to include and exclude a specific type of Residence, Commerce, and Industry on a certain “wealth” level. For example, if you want rich people to move into your city, while at the same time, want to flush all the poor people out, you would tax low-wealth Residential to the point where they could no longer sustain an income. On the other hand, decreasing high-wealth Residential tax would attract numerous rich people, since they wouldn’t have to pay a huge portion of their salary every month.

A completely new feature included in SimCity 4 is the essential “MySim” mode. This function enables you to create your own Sims and control them. At first, you must select a house where the Sim should reside in. As time progresses, the Sim will be able to monitor and eventually report any problems occurring in his/her neighborhood to you. For instance, if the Sim complains that there isn’t a school nearby for his/her kids, constructing a school located near walking distance of his/her house would greatly please everyone living in the surrounding region. This feature is significant since it allows the Sims to detect any problems that could otherwise remain unnoticeable from your perspective.

Though, with all the above information, this may seem like the best SimCity ever, right? Nope. One of the aspects of this game I truly despise is the creation of auto-roads. When developing a residential, commercial, or industrial zone, the larger it is the more auto-roads will be created accordingly. This feature was introduced, since each section of a zone, particularly residential and commercial, must have a road connection. While this may save you time, it will actually hurt you in the long-run. Auto-roads can often lead to the construction of numerous three-way intersections on major roads. In SimCity 4, traffic is accumulated mostly due to the number of intersections, particularly ones that are three-way. In other words, the more intersections a specific road has the more traffic jams will be created as a result. Instead, fewer traffic jams will produce if more four-way intersections are constructed. I have no idea why this issue is true in SimCity 4, since in reality, I would assure that four-way intersections would definitely slow down traffic the most.

Also, the auto-roads that are constructed are actually streets, instead of actual “roads.” This is an important issue, since roads can carry more traffic than streets. The shocking thing about this feature is that it cannot be disabled the moment you play SimCity 4 the first time. The only method to successfully disable this attribute is to download a special patch. Moreover, it seems that you cannot obtain several buildings and skyscrapers the first time you play this game. It has been reported that a bug is blocking the creation of these buildings. As a result, the existence of many bugs that disallow you to create cities to their full potential is a major disappointment.

In previous SimCity’s, the developers created pre-made cities that could allow you to jump right in and solve their current dilemmas. I always loved this feature, since I could always begin constructing a city without actually having to start from scratch. This feature is nonexistent in SimCity 4, which in my opinion, is another major letdown. The controls are also disappointing. While it is still a simple point and click adventure like in previous installments, scrolling is very slow. It would actually take about a minute to successfully scroll from one side of the map to the other. Furthermore, the controls are a bit awkward when trying to bulldoze any building. Whenever I tried to destroy a certain structure, for some odd reason, the pointer would immediately scroll to devastate the adjacent one. As a result of this, I must always take extra caution when trying to demolish a building located next to a tall skyscraper or expensive landmark.

On the up-side, the visuals are incredibly detailed and vibrant. Windows can be clearly seen on buildings and traffic lights are present at major intersections. The graphics truly show their beauty at nighttime, where the street lights are on and every building is lit with amazing illumination. During the day, it’s an incredible experience viewing the liveliness of your city, especially when observing the detailed Sims performing their daily activities. The disasters are presented with incredible detail as well, from the swift and vicious tornadoes, to the blazing volcanoes gushing out of the ground. However, even though the visuals are incredibly detailed, it is a terrible disappointment that even the most powerful computers can experience a massive slowdown when managing a city of a population of 100 000 and above.

Although this installment may be worse than previous SimCity’s, it is still recommended that veterans familiar with the SimCity series should definitely try it. Even though SimCity 4 may deliver the same amusement as in previous SimCity’s, the lack of many features, not to mention its numerous bugs, makes it a major disappointment compared to its predecessors.

Final Score - 7.3/10

centurion's avatar
Community review by centurion (January 27, 2004)

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