What would you give to find yourself on your very own tropical island, with the power to do what you want, build what you'd like, and invite whomever you wish to it? Kalypso saves you the trouble of answering that by giving you that power, and all you must do is wield it well.
Tropico 4 finds you on your own tropical island, where you must build a bustling city Sim City-style and do what you can to conquer tourism and become a success. Every decision you make affects the future of your island, right down to your relations to foreign nations and the level of tourism you receive. As you build, naturally, your island grows, but with extra decisions on your part you can make it shine.
A variety of new buildings are available, including a Council of Ministers, where you can appoint your own minister and choose your type of government. Whether it's a democratic or conservative one, you choose who will run the place and how, and can either hire one of several 'best suited' people that are recommended to you, or you can pay a flat sum to hire a random expert in the field without having to think twice.
Fire stations have also been added, giving you the ability to deal with disasters that may hit the island more effectively, to hopefully prevent any possible damage they may cause. Strategy-wise, the game recognizes that a bigger city will need more than one fire station to provide proper coverage, and as such as you expand you must plan accordingly.
New disasters are available, both occurring at random in-game and for your own personal amusement, including eruption, tsunami, nuclear, tornado, hurricane, and oil spill. Each situation has different results and, depending what you want to do to fix it, can make or break your island. When an oil spill hits the beaches, for example, you can choose whether to treat it or leave it; if you treat it you get to watch as planes take to the skies to do what they can with their sprays, and in the meantime as the spill exists your tourism will drop in that area as an immediate result.
In addition to situations you must answer to as you play, icons will appear above certain buildings and people, giving you the option to click on them to take on extra tasks or options on the island. When you click on any of them an option will pop up and you decide what to do about it; it can be just about anything, right down to an offer for a foreign investment on the island for privatization.
Should you wish to have a free market on the island, the option is now available to you. Occasionally you will receive offers to have a privatized property built on your island, of which you choose whether or not to accept. Any privatized properties are out of your control, allowing you to run your parts of the island alongside 'someone else's parts', whereas in previous Tropico's you'd be in charge of controlling every single thing. This gives you more freedom to do what you like, including zooming in and following the inhabitants to see what they're up to, without having to focus on so much at once.
If you choose to use the editor tool, it allows you to do many things, including customizing and creating your island, recreating missions, doing landscaping, and making your own scenarios to add to those already available. Thanks to the beautiful visuals, creating your own masterpiece is a pleasure to do.
Social media integration is another new feature added to the Tropico series, where you can, at any time, use Facebook or Twitter to communicate stats and photos of your island, keeping your friends and whomever else in the loop as you progress.
Everything that worked well in Tropico 3 has been brought back into Tropico 4, and improved on top of that, right down to the island's power management system. It has been designed to be less intimidating for new and old players alike, and with the new features and the visuals it's easy to recognize that it is, in fact, a new game. It runs a lot smoother, the game is fun to play, the colours are more vibrant, and the island is visually stunning. Tropico 4 will be available to take home for the PC and Xbox 360 in August 2011.