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SimCity (2013) Preview

Nick_Tan By:
GENRE Simulation 
PLAYERS 1- 16 
PUBLISHER Electronic Arts 
E10 What do these ratings mean?

Either build more roads or buy a bulletproof limo!

I first heard of SimCity at this year's Game Developers Confererence in an off-site hotel, at an event that was more like a business gathering than a proper game reveal. SimCity was the opening teaser for about ten minutes and then the rest of the hour was full of boring interviews with people who weren't even in the game industry. Luckily, we got much more than that from Electronic Arts at E3. This reboot looks so spectacular, in just the twenty-minute hands-off demo, that it's made me scour the internet for new PCs so I can play it at max settings.

This re-imagining of SimCity is all about detail, generated by the game's Glassbox Engine. The core idea of envisioning a city plan, paving the landscape with roads and houses, supplying electricity and water to every building, and meeting the demands of the citizens remains intact. The difference comes in sheer graphical power, being able to zoom into a friendly culdesac and see the miniature Sims going about their day, purvey the city and witness the foggy pollution in the air, and construct curvy roads that aren't fixed along the square grid. During nighttime, each household lights up one by one in real-time without a single hitch in frame rate. It's a gorgeous sight.

The other highlight is the inclusion of cooperative play, which Electronic Arts quickly demonstrated for us, in a mission where the goal is to build an international airport. The first city was a general suburb with plenty of residents; the second city was incredibly rich metropolis sitting on a rich coal deposit; and the third city was a tourist attraction filled with shops and a sports stadium waiting to be filled. The international airport is the culmination of the three cities, the first supplying the population, the second with the necessary ore to build the airport, and the third creating demand.

Of course, it's not all smooth sailing. The pollution and high crime rate of the second city can creep into the other cities, and residents travelling back and forth from the first city to the second can get stuck in a traffic without a well-kept infrastructure. On the flip side, the three players can join forces, with one city offering to provide electricity for another who needs it at a reduced cost. Viewing each statistic in the handy infographics made by the game itself will help spot both areas of success and areas for improvement, toward creating the perfect city paradise.

Then again, there's nothing stopping you from demolishing your digital utopia with a godzilla. I can't wait. SimCity arrives next year in February for PC (and hopefully for the Xbox 360 and PS3 as well).

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