Now is the time when you start your empire, this will all feel very familiar to anyone who has played any of the Sim City titles before. You will start by providing a power plant, laying down zones for residential, industrial and commercial developments. Laying down zones is a very simple job, but Sim City 4 actually lays down roads for you while you zone your different areas. This can be a problem because when laying zones next to each other, Sim City 4 will almost randomly lay some more roads, not inline with roads that have already been laid but in a sort of random fashion. This at times is not just annoying but it can prove to be expensive as you have to make alterations in order for all the houses and offices etc to get access. This road laying feature should have been optional in the games options but unfortunately it's not.
When zoning your land in Sim City 4 you should be cautious and build up from small development to larger one as you start bringing in the money. Residential zoning is split into three different levels of density. Low density - small cottages and houses, medium density - blocks of flats and high density housing which consists of tall condominiums. Low density zones are much cheaper to lay; than the high density zones, but high density zones will fit more people into a smaller area. Sim City 4 demands that you start small because the going gets very tough very quickly is you don't watch your budget. On top of this you will need to provide schools, police stations, fire departments and doctors surgeries to attract people to live in your town. Be cautious though, adding all these amenities straight away is a very costly process, so only give your Sims something should they need it. To start with Sim City 4 is a pretty basic game, but when things start to happen and you need to juggle your three zones around and keep your Sims happy at the same time Sim City 4 can offer some very deep and involving game play.
Sim City 4 has a very nice interface that looks very similar to the one out of the Sims games. Obviously the buttons and the information is different. The interface is extremely intuitive, you may find that some of the buttons pictures don't represent the function very well, but before you know it you will know exactly where everything is. A new addition to Sim City 4 is the breakdown of the tax page. Previously you where able to increase or decrease tax on residential, commercial and industrial businesses to gain money of increase demand should you lower the tax. Now each of the three wealth ratings of each zone has its own tax settings. For example if you want to encourage farming as it is easy on the environment you may want to reduce their taxes but you may want to give the dirty, polluted industrial businesses a higher tax rating because of the damage to the environment. This new tax system gives you a massive amount of control over your Sims and their demands. If you feel you want all you Sims to live in large condominiums then all you have to do is increase the tax rate for people living in small houses and cottages.
Sim City 4 also features the god mode, this is basically where you can unleash a massive meteor storm or other disasters and be god. You should take note though things like this can happen during the game without any input from yourself, disasters will always happen. Unfortunately you can't switch of disasters in the options menu which is a bit of a shame really.
Another mode available in Sim City 4 is the MySim mode. This enables you to import Sims of your own into your city. Instead of waisting my time telling you about it I would rather tell you the truth, I believe this just to be a gimmick and pretty much a waste of time. You have bloody hundreds of Sims telling you what to do already, why add some more?
I mentioned at the beginning of this review that there where some compatibility problems with most graphics cards. Firstly, Sim City 4 is a good looking game, but it is not cutting edge performance material, which brings me to my first point. When you scroll, using an ATI Graphics card the building have a tendency to disappear. Secondly some of the graphics are broken and you can even expect the game to crash occasionally. Even the cursor flickers when switch on to the solid colour mode, so much so that you can't see it. All of this is down to some very untidy programming and a lack of French polish. These problems should have been resolved before launching the game. Saying all of that, when you're not scrolling, moving your mouse around or not looking at a crashed PC, Sim City 4 does look very nice, especially when zoomed in on the closest level.
The audio is pretty good, but it could drive you insane after a few hours of listening. Most of the tunes are mellow jazz numbers that can become quite upbeat. Another nice touch is when you get closer to the action with the zoom, the noises become louder and clearer.
The bugs aside, Sim City 4 is a great strategy game with bucket loads of depth. Enyone who plays Sim City 4 is bound to enjoy it, you will play for hours thinking it's only been half an hour, a great sign of a good RTS game. You will also be able to sit a kid or a grandma in front of this game and they will both come away happy people.
8.0 out of 10