Living up to the hype? SimCity review

SimCityIt’s nearly quarter of a century since the first SimCity was launched. The brainchild of developer Will Wright, it spawned many spin offs including SimCity 2000, SimCity 3000 and SimCity 4.

But, this time round, notice it is not called Sim City 5, and that’s because its makers feel the 2013 edition of the game is a whole new start for the franchise.

On the surface of it, the concept is as simple as ever – build your own city, keep your residents happy, deal with any natural or man-made disasters, and manage your budget effectively.

But, underneath it all is new machinery that makes the 2013 version the most complicated yet sophisticated SimCity to date. Makers have created a new simulation engine called GlassBox which makes SimCity more multi-layered and multi-faceted than ever.

There are some similarities to its immediate predecessor, SimCity 4, as the new version has the facility to create several cities all on one huge map, making sure you connect them all up with an effective infrastructure. You can choose to play just one city or up to 16 at any one time.

SimCity imageThere are, however, some tweaks which make gameplay more realistic. You can now build curved roads, so your cities don’t all have to be quite so rigidly grid-based. You can also get a much quicker indication of just how well your city is working in the 2013 game.

So, for example, if you see traffic jams regularly clogging up your newly built streets, you know your road network is inadequate – you’ve either not built enough or your roads are too small. And this can have serious knock-on effects for your residents. Along with the frustration of getting stuck in a jam, it could mean a coal truck might not be able to reach a power station, meaning your city could suffer a blackout.

According to the game’s website you can “quickly view the consequences of your actions and dig in to see how the systems work. See the impact of your decisions by clicking on individual Sims to learn about what they’re doing, their wealth and happiness. Manipulate power, water, taxes, pollution, education, unemployment, and much more.”

You can also decide to give your city, or cities, a specialism. So, you can choose to build a college town that is full of universities and libraries or a city that specialises in big business like casinos, electronics or coal. Each specialism has big benefits, but also big consequences. So, if you choose casinos, you’ll get lots of tourists spending their money in your city, but you’ll also get associated Simcity piccrime.

Along with a return to more strategy and more depth than some of the later editions, SimCity looks great too. Inspired by tilt-shift photography, real-world scenes look like vibrant plastic miniatures, with an incredible level of detail. If you zoom down, from your Godlike viewpoint, to street level, you can see thousands of little pedestrians going home or shopping or commuting, along with emergency services responding to incidents.

Makers EA Maxis Emeryville are clearly very proud of their new launch. A spokesman said: “The model-like world and detail of the simulation make this the most responsive and personal SimCity ever. This is also the most expansive city management game yet.”

SimCity is scheduled for release on March 5.

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