SimCity, the word is synonymous with success. Ever since the initial title in this extremely popular series was released was back in 1989, the franchise has become world renowned and recognized in nearly every continent on the planet. Who would expect that any game would reach such high limits? Maxis' seems to have a way of accomplishing impossible feats, with not one massive series known throughout the world, but two, as The Sims is frequently seen as the number one seller of all time. Maxis have the potential to produce groundbreaking titles, but does SimCity 4 live up to these standards?
SimCity 3000 had the potential to be a massive leap in the series, yet it seemed to fall short in several respects. Maxis have taken the initiative to correct these problems and implement a wealth of new features that will keep gamers playing for hours on end. The largest addition to the series is definitely the concept of regions, and integrating multiple cities as a single region. In SimCity 3000, players were able to connect roads and services to adjoining cities, and make deals to export garbage and other such trades. However, although the ability to link up your city was quite interesting, it didn't provide a real depth, the influences of another city. Maxis has taken this to another level in SimCity 4, as the addition of region play allows you to create multiple adjoining cities, where every single city has influence and works in sync with each other. This adds a huge element to the series, a whole new approach and appeal to the franchise that adds many hours of longevity to the title.
Upon first launch, players will be introduced to a very similar interface as that present in Maxis' blockbuster title, The Sims. Upon starting a new game, you will get an overview of a single region, where you can select a piece of land and start taking it to the next level. Before any city is constructed, players are allowed to act as a God and form the land to your specifications; the integrated terrain editor is nicely developed and very easy to use. Form and shape the land, add cliffs, rivers, mountains, and other interesting features, and get ready to start zoning your city. Once you've finished preparing the terrain, get ready for the action to begin, as it is non-stop from here on in.
The first step in the development of any city is zoning the land and preparing transportation routes. SimCity 4 implements a new method of adding roads in the zones. If enabled, this option automatically adds streets and grids through zones as they are defined. For example low density residential will have fewer roads than high density, yet these are determined and placed automatically, saving time and allowing construction to proceed more quickly. Power and water grids are setup secondly, very little is new in this respect. SimCity 4 offers much of the same as its predecessor in the ways of transportation and city services. Roads, airports, rails, and subways are the primary methods of transportation, while players will be required to build schools, hospitals, parks, and police stations just to mention a few elements. City beautification is a very important aspect, and SimCity 4 contains just the right touch. As with its predecessor, SimCity 4 includes the ability to add historical landmarks and tourist attractions to your city, whether you want the massive CN Tower or the inescapable prison Alcatraz, the title offers a wide selection to choose from. For added longevity, the developers have included a method to easily download new landmarks from the official website, simply a way to keep gamers on their feet and the title fresh with new content.
As present in previous SimCity titles, special rewards will become available as time progresses and your city grows, however SimCity 4 includes many more than any of its predecessors. If your city is financially struggling, you may be offered a toxic waste dump or federal prison. While these aren't the nicest places to live around, they can provide valuable income in the form of monthly payments to your treasury, this can make or break a small town trying to get off the ground. A large research center, radio station, mayoral mansion, not to mention a major league stadium are just a few of the rewards available in SimCity 4, an element that really adds to the entertainment factor of the series.
Aesthetically, SimCity 4 has been dramatically improved from previous versions; this is a huge step forward for the series. Buildings are other elements are fully rendered even on the closest zoom levels, something not present previously in the series. The detail in each city is remarkable; buildings are constructed in front of your eyes and expand as time progresses. The developers have taken the time to implement all the small details, which greatly add to the overall experience. From children playing in the parks and fields to the citizen's hustle and bustle around the city, SimCity 4 is a remarkable piece of work. New in the series is complete day and night cycles, seeing your city under the cover of darkness is a beautiful sight, something to be witnessed. Although the actual functionality of this is somewhat limited, it is simply an aesthetic feature that adds a new dimension to the concept behind SimCity. Unfortunately, this detail doesn't come without a price. Turning the graphics to any relatively high settings will require an extremely powerful system. Fortunately though, Maxis has taken the time to make the graphics quite scalable such that is runs well even on lower end systems as long as the detail is minimized.
SimCity 4 is a major improvement over its predecessors, never before has the series had such direction in its gameplay mechanics. Traffic lights actually direct traffic, pollution over highly industrialized zones is evident by the clouds hanging over the area, and the overall approach is much more centralized. Schooling and hospitals must be placed throughout the city, no longer will a single row of hospitals along one edge be able to care for the city. Traffic grids, public transportation, and keeping an overall balance are much greater factors than previous titles, greatly adding to the entertainment factor and realism of SimCity 4. Also included in SimCity 4 is the ability to import your Sims using the MySim mode. Should you not own the Sims, you can create a default family and transplant them into any home of your choosing. This allows you to get a deeper perspective on the living conditions of your city, and some actual feedback on what its like to be a citizen, a somewhat limited but interesting addition to the series.
SimCity 4 easily surpasses all expectations and is a very strong title overall, everything SimCity 3000 was meant to be. Although the limits of computer technology at the time of its release were somewhat limited, the developers made use of what they could, fortunately for us that limit is not nearly what it is today. With its numerous enhancements, region play, city centralization, and classic gameplay, SimCity 4 can keep any player entertained for hours on end, something few modern titles are able to accomplish.