SimCity 4 (PC)
The City that Never Sleeps Comes Back for More
By Dave "Fargo" Kosak | Jan. 25, 2003
The Lowdown: Graphically beautiful, this rich sim appeals to the hardcore but may turn away casual mayors.
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Game Type: Strategy/Simulation
Publisher: EA Games
ESRB: E (Everyone)
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Subsequent sequels have followed the same formula for urban enjoyment, each adding new graphical enhancements, with varying degrees of success. SimCity 4, the latest incarnation of the series, is no different: you're still planning cities, solving problems, and watching them grow under your benevolent (well, sometimes benevolent) guidance. SimCity 4 takes advantage of today's powerful PCs by allowing you to get closer to your city or farther out than ever before. You can follow individual Sims as they go through their life, or zoom all the way out to develop an entire region into an urban sprawl. While all of these enhancements make for a richer, cooler simulation, somewhere along the way the simplicity and easygoing enjoyment that made the original such a mainstream hit has been lost.
City of Lights! City of Magic!
Hands down, this is the most gorgeous SimCity yet. The terrain is beautifully sculpted with thick vegetation and wandering wildlife. Dozens and dozens of building types from various time periods provide endless eye candy. Day and night cycle as you play, so you can enjoy the twinkling lights of your city in slumber.
You can zoom in for more detail than ever before. Every home decorates their yard differently -- poorer homes hang out their laundry to dry while richer homes adorn themselves with putting greens or in-ground pools. Dozens of different cars drive along the roadways, beeping at one another in tight intersections, turning on their headlights at night. You can even see the little Sims themselves. Schoolchildren will run to catch their bus, tiny little people will play a game of baseball, or (my favorite detail) you'll catch Sims bouncing on trampolines. At night, bums will warm themselves alongside of burning barrels on the beach. Look closely: In the wee hours, zombies will claw their way out of graves in the graveyard. Maxis has done an incredible job of bringing the cities of SimCity 4 to life.
Your City Speaks to You
Another thing going for SimCity 4 is the interface. Following up on the incredible success of The Sims, Maxis opted to sculpt their interface along similar lines. Just as The Sims shows the needs of individual people with little meters, SimCity 4 shows you the needs of your city: changes in Health, Education, Pollution, etc.
SimCity 4 also offers a unique way to communicate how you're doing. You can place individual Sims into your city to follow their life, or even import your own characters from The Sims. Mostly this feature is fluff (your Sims have very little to say other than to talk about obvious city problems, and they seem to find new jobs and homes with the frequency of Kato Kaelin). However, it does lead to a hysterical bug: apparently the creators of Sim City didn't talk with the team creating The Sims Unleashed, so I was able to import my pet dog. To my surprise, Rover got himself a house and a job, and I watched -- awestruck -- as he drove a beat-up blue Volkswagen to work. Where does a dog work in SimCity? Flipping burgers at a greasy spoon, it turned out. It's a good thing I didn't budget any money for health inspectors.
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