I spent years playing this game for PC. The CD is still in my laptop right now. For those that don’t know, SimCity is the originator of being a mayor, placing down your roads, zoning area for buildings, watching them grow and balancing the budget. This isn’t for everyone, but to a lot of us, this is huge fun and SimCity 4 is probably the best in the series.
This is all single player, instead of the more current SimCity 2013 that is focused on multi-player. The game can cycle from night to day, but its just a look and doesn’t seem to do anything special. You have terrain control like previous versions of SimCity before you start each game.
You start out in a region map of dozens of land plots. Large, medium and small. You pick a plot of land and make your city. You can then save that city, load the region and start up a new city on a different plot of land or go to a previous city. Why does this matter? Because you can trade between cities, you can export and import water, garbage, energy and so on. Not just that, but the sims / citizens can travel back and forth. Such as living in one town and going to another for work. You’ll also have pollution effects that seep into other towns as well. This is all single player, so you need to jump between cities. Because two or more towns can thrive off of one another, you can put your heavy polluting industries in an extremely profitable town on their own with no residents living there to complain about how awful it is. There is no need for police, hospitals or schools if no one is living in your industrial city. Then just make some mass transit system for them to get to and from work.
When you play, you have full control from the start with only a few things locked away unlike Cities XL that requires your city to grow before it unlocks things for you. Because you have full control, that may set you up for failure quickly. Highways, big hospitals, deluxe police stations and so on cost big money and until your city is big, you should keep it small. Once your city grows, the game has ways to tell you that your hospital is too small, such as your staff workers will go on strike. How do you know if its too small? Sadly you can’t just hold shift and click the building, you need to click the ? and then the building. It seems tedious, but you’ll see what the building can handle and adjust its budget. If you can’t adjust the budget high enough, its time to make a bigger version of the building or just plop down another building to do the same thing.
You need to keep your budget balanced, everything will cost monthly money, so you either need to cut spending from places like roads, schools, utilities or raise taxes, which might make some businesses, commerce and residents run to away from your city. When you lower taxes, of course people move in, but then your hospitals, schools and so on will be overcrowded, your buildings will grow larger. Its beautiful.
The game will tell you what kind of zones you’ll need, such as low, medium and high density residential, commercial, industry and even agricultural. Its your job to plop them down. It has a graph to show you if you need more and less. If you need less, raise taxes for them, or replace the zone with a new zone. Luckily the game makes it easy to replace zones.
There are all sorts of charts and maps, such as pollution, both water and air. Crime, fire safety, land value and so on. If you want to raise land value, put down police, fire, schools and so on. Then add parks and various things to drive value up. Replace dirty industries that pollute with cleaner industries like medium density manufacturing.
You can also click on zoned buildings to see the crime, water, power, pollutants, and even the driving pattern of where the residents go and where the employees come from. Its a very nice feature. Especially if you’re trying to reduce traffic. You have control over roads, avenues, streets, highways, trains, subways, busses and so on. Its fun to see just how far people will ride a bus to work. The game has plenty of charts too, in order to demonstrate how far the average drive is, how much garbage you have, the age and education of your population. Its all a lot of information.
On top of that, you have advisers that will tell you what’s good and bad about your city. The game sadly uses pop up windows to tell you what’s up, but thankfully there is a setting to turn it off, or else before you know it, you’ll have nothing but popups. Instead you can look at the ticker at the bottom of the screen and even go into the advisers section to see their specific needs.
After all is said and done, you can then summon a natural disaster (or truckasaurus) to come and destroy your town. Why you’d want to? Just for the laughs I guess.
Because this is the deluxe edition, it comes with Rush Hour expansion pack, which gives you the ability to take over vehicles and drive them on the road. Not first person, but still from the normal almost top down perspective. This content gives you missions that will give you cash and other rewards, but really, it doesn’t feel like a great addition. Its just there.
This game is a classic, but after 10+ years, I don’t think that its aged very well. After months of playing Tropico and Cities XL, those games just seem to run smoother control wise and have explanation to them. Having a hot key for pause would have been nice. Fires break out in your town extremely frequently, no matter how good your fire coverage is. It just breaks the flow of the game, you need to send your fire fighters out to stop the fire and wait while they put it out. That’s just not fun.
There are also a few minor bugs, but some that will crash the game. Since there is no autosave, you can lose an hour’s worth of progress if not an entire city.
It is still an enjoyable game and I can recommend it more than SimCity 2013. Is it worth the $10 – $20? No and yes. If you enjoy mayoring sims, you can sink days and months into this game, then its worth it, but you should wait for a $5 sale if not cheaper.