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Platform

PC

 

Genre

Simulation

 

Publisher

Electronic Arts

 

Developer

Maxis

 

ESRB

E (Everyone)

 

Released

Q2 2003

 

 

- A seemingly infinite amount of small details

- Living, vibrant cities

- Compatibility with The Sims

 

 

- Steep system needed for quick play

- Depth can be intimidating for new players

 

 

Review: The Sims (PC)

Review: The Sims (XB)

Review: Rise of Nations (PC)

 

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SimCity 4

Score: 9.2 / 10

Though Iíve never been a huge fan of the SimCity games, their continued excellence is impressive and undeniable.  Even given that, I was kind of put off by the arrival of the review copy of SimCity 4 in my mailbox, especially since it was the latest in a long line of deep, involved PC games that I had been assigned to review.  At that point, I simply was ready to blow things up mindlessly.  To its credit, SimCity 4, with its nearly endless customizability and intuitive interface broke through my reluctance by the time I had spent thirty minutes in the tutorial mode.  On top of that, SimCity 4 managed to satisfy my need to maniacally blow things up better than I ever imagined possible (but more on that later).  

 

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As with all the SimCity games before it, SimCity 4 is a game of micromanagement.  Though it is this feature that has always turned me off to the games in the past, the sheer degree of control the game gives you to build cities combined with the options that the player has to work around problems as they occur means people who seek out the SimCity games because of the micromanagement will be extremely happy with the newest version.  One of the best new features in the game allows players to share utility costs and production with neighboring cities, giving SimCity civic planners an option beyond simply building a water plant or power plant near an underpowered grid in their town when trying to satisfy shortages.  It also adds a nice layer of depth to city planning, allowing players to build multiple cities that interact with one another.  I imagine for the true ďthe devil is in the detailsĒ kind of player, this feature will add many, many hours to the playability of the title.

 

Unfortunately, those players better have a kick-butt system.  SimCity has fairly low minimum requirements, but I donít even want to think about how the game would play on a system of that ilk.  On my test system, which is superior even to the recommended system by a great deal, the game can still turn into a slide show occasionally when scrolling across a large, active city.  Iím sure it is said activity that slows things to a crawl at times, but the city detail is so impressive that Iím willing to put up with the occasional drag.

 

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The cities in SimCity 4 are so active, so realistic that it is fascinating simply to sit and watch them for long stretches of time.  It is cool to watch as commuters have to take a long, winding road to work in the industrial park for a while, but then take the new shortcut that was just built as soon as it opens.  Cars stop at stop lights that actually cycle through the different colors regularly.  Fires break out at random, and when you send a fire 

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truck to fight the fire, little firemen hop off with their hoses and go to work.  The world cycles from day to night with the appropriate change in the numbers of people on the roads and sidewalks.  Ferris Wheels turn at amusement parks.  The cities are simply alive with activity.

 

Fans of Maxisís other mega-hit The Sims will be happy to know SimCity 4 provides a neat interactivity with that product.  Players can import their sims from The Sims  and move them into homes in the city.  Those sims will then go about their everyday life in the city.  It is really a neat addition and will probably persuade some of the ten million or so Sims players into buying SimCity 4 (now thatís good marketing).  The Sims/SimCity connection also makes one of my favorite SimCity pastimes more enjoyable.  Since the franchise began, I have always enjoyed destroying the cities more than building them.  Now, with Sim City 4, not only can I destroy the town, I can destroy my hometown, populated with Sims named after my friends and family.  Joy!  Check the accompanying screenshots and youíll notice the sad little town of Whitesburg in the throes of being attacked by a giant robot.  Unfortunately, my niece and one of my brothers lost their lives in the attack.  Very sad.  

 

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As with all the SimCity games (and most Maxis games even), there is just as much toy here as game.  It is marvelous fun to use God-like power to morph the terrain, release tornadoes on the town, or simply try to make your city the best it can be.  Fans of the older games wonít be disappointed with SimCity 4, and the easy interface and helpful tutorials mean it is also a great jumping in point for new playersóthough it will likely take a few failed attempts to really catch on.  Whichever camp people fall in, SimCity 4 seems destined to please.

 

- Tolen Dante

(July 6, 2003)

 

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