SimCity 4 Review

We build our dream city in the latest city building game from EA.

Review by Tracy Bosworth
Published 25th January 2003

SimCity 4

  • Developer: Maxis
  • Publisher: EA Games
  • Release Date: 17th January 2003

Sim City has had us building, creating and destroying cities since 1989 and over the years the game has seen many sequels that always manage to improve on the predecessor, modernising and bettering every aspect of the game allowing it to remain the No.1 sim game around. Now we have SimCity 4 to add to the shelf but what makes it better and what makes it different? Well, to be honest, just about everything!

For those of you who have never played SimCity before, if you exist, lets run through the basics of the game. Basically you are the mayor and are given a blank landscape in order to create you bustling city. There are 3 zones in which you can lay down the foundations of your buildings these are Residential, Commercial and Industrial. Once the zones are marked by yourself your sims will then hopefully, if the conditions are right, get to work in building up the zones with houses, factories, shops and office blocks. To keep the sims coming to live in your city you need to provide them with the bare necessities such as power and water as well as a few other services such as police, fire stations, schools and hospitals. The main obstacle of the game is managing the budget, raising taxes might give you more money to play around with but what's the point if all of your sims pack their bags and leave? The key to a thriving city is the trick of balancing the budget.

The main difference to SimCity 4 is that you no longer have one isolated city to create and run, you now have an entire region to play around with allowing you to create a number of cities at once.

Starting off a new game brings you to the region of Maxisland, here you will find a tutorial city that enables players to get to grips with most aspects of the game. If you want to jump straight in and create your own city you can choose one of the city tiles from Maxisland or load another region and choose a tile from there instead.

There are a few well-known regions to choose from including London and San Francisco or if your feeling really creative you can even create your own region, complete with city tiles ready for you to develop. This new feature adds tons of replay value to the game and allows players to become more ingrossed in their cities and their real living, visitable neighbours.

As with the rest of the simcity series, the main obstacle in the game is balancing the budget, you need to make sure that your monthly income is bigger than your monthly outgoings. There are a number of ways of generating income from raising taxes to altering your city ordinances. Sometimes business opportunities will come along and although they offer you a monthly sum of money, they can also cause damage to your relationship with your sims. For instance a toxic waste dump might generate a few extra simolians but do you really want half of your city marching down the street in protest?

Unlike the other SimCities, your budget is now handled in smaller parts, public services have their own budget as do things like power stations, water supplies and transport. Although slightly more difficult to organise, this feature allows players to cut back in some areas whilst leaving funding high in places that need it.

Due to the new Regional concept of the game it is now possible to cut deals between you and your neighbours such as offering them power or water for a monthly charge. Providing you connect your cities together by road or rail, you sims can also commute from one city to the next broadening their employment opportunities and strengthening the city's budget.

Although I personally have never found them particularly useful, your full team of advisors are here to keep you upto date with what is needed in your city from transport to education to finances and if they are not enough to keep you on your toes, you can now import your Sims from the game The Sims to live in your city, you get to choose a house for them and from there they will find a job and settle into life in the city you have created. From time to time they will give you little updates on how their life is going and on certain features of the city that need improving in order to keep them happy. If you don't have any sims of your own, Maxis kindly provides you with some pre-made ones to choose from.

As usual in the SimCity series, you have been granted with god like powers that enable you to sculpt landscapes, mountains, cliffs and rivers and when your city starts to get the better of you, send in an earthquake or an erupting volcano to liven it up a little. Should your sims constant whining begin to get on your nerves, throw a meteor in their direction, giving them something real to whine about!

SimCity 4 really manages to bring an old game into the present by provided some beautiful and clean graphics. The game allows players to zoom into the city so far that you can see children playing in the back gardens of houses, busy school yards and even spot little dogs going for a stroll down the street. The day/night cycle brings your city to life by allowing you to see your creation lit up and shimmering in the darkness before dawn breaks and the sun comes up in time for the sims to climb out of bed and hit the roads for the rush hour traffic in a bid to get to work on time. Unlike previous games in the series, buildings no longer magically arise from nowhere, now we see little builders and cranes constructing the buildings and roads and even the fire stations are brought to life with the presence of little sims in bright yellow jackets accompanied by shiny red fire trucks.

If you attempt to play SimCity 4 on a lower spec machine be aware that the game encounters massive slow downs and occasional crashes.

Overall Sim City has visited 2003 and it really looks the part too. With what has to be the most complete SimCity game ever, heres wondering if Maxis will ever manage to pull off yet another sequel to this forever improving game.

Review Score: 7.8/10

Please note, this review was scored using our old system. For more information please see our review policy.

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