Rome wasn’t built in a day. Review

Sim City 4 Info


  • N/A


  • 1 - 1


  • EA


  • N/A

Release Date

  • 01/01/1970
  • Out Now


  • PC


Rome wasn’t built in a day.

Well, their lazy Roman asses obviously didn’t have Sim City 4.

Oh wait. Come to think of it, we’re the lazy ones, sitting on our butts

in front of our computers. The Romans were the ones who worked really hard building

all those aqueducts. Anyway, just think if they did have this game…

Ol’ Julius would have been able to watch his city grow from on high, like

Jupiter himself. The Senate would have been on hand at the click of a button,

ready to dispense helpful information [Yeah, helpful. Just like our Senate.

]. With a few more mouse clicks, Brutus’ home could have been obliterated,

leaving Caesar plenty of time to go build casinos.

Casinos, missile

silos, toxic waste dumps… yes, Sim City, the long running city creation

and simulation series, is back. When you get down to the nitty-gritty, there’s

a host of updates: new region management, an easy to use interface and a huge

amount of new detail. There are also some problems, such as some bugs and an

unfinished multiplayer game. Finally, there are the additions of a God mode

and MySims mode that are more cursory than revolutionary. But at the heart of

it all, I’m still building myself a city.

When you play a game, intangible feelings can well up deep inside you. When

you play The Sims, you empathize with your Sims and relate

to them in human terms. When you play Black

and White
, you feel that you have great God-like power at your fingertips.

Sim City 4 still elicits the same feelings that it always has: you feel

like a sort of mayor-god hybrid. Rudy Giuliani meets Jesus.

Now this feeling isn’t a bad thing. After all, it’s the proven formula

that has worked on the other Sim City games. But Sim City 4 ups

the ante, and actually makes three promises: “Play God. Play Mayor. Play

with your Sims.”

As for the promise of playing god, the “God-mode” is really just

a precursor to the actual game and an easy way to let off steam when you feel

like rendering destruction, Old Testament style. As for the promise of playing

with your Sims, you can import them into the game, but they are non-interactive

and essentially just give you paraphrased information that you already get from

your advisors. God mode and MySims mode add touches to the mayoral experience,

but don’t change it from what it has always been at its core: city building.

Building a city begins with your SimNation. The SimNation is a huge plot of

land set in a grid with multiple regions. You select one region to build one

city. Multiple cities within the SimNation can exchange resources. The game

even comes with some empty regions with terrain that resembles the shape of

such notables as San Francisco, New York and Berlin, but there are no scenarios

to play against this time around.

When you first stake out your region, you can switch into God mode to shape

the terrain to meet your whim. “Terraforming” your plot of land has

an artistic quality to it, as you brush in mountains and carve out some valleys.

Once you are finally ready to start your city, fireworks hit the night sky and

you take off.

Sim City 4 is a more difficult game than before and has no variable

difficulty levels. You just have to start smaller, adjusting to the different

needs of the city. As your city grows, the economic infrastructures feel like

they are constantly changing. Your approach to city management will have to

keep changing, too, if you want a booming metropolis.

As you highlight plots of land to set the down various zones, selecting between

commercial, industrial, and residential, the inner streets within the zones

will automatically be generated. While this expedites the city planning process,

the inner streets don’t always connect perfectly when multiple zones are

set next to one another. The anal-retentive mayor will have to settle for slowly

zoning their land, bit by bit.

Your citizens will cry out for schools, hospitals and police enforcement. There

are a bevy of different meters to keep your eyes busy, from mayoral approval

ratings to demand for new city resources. There are six principle meters as

well: Environment, Education, Health, Land Value, Safety and Traffic.

Charts of every imaginable sort can be easily referenced, while numerous demographic

images can be superimposed over your city to judge your city’s strengths

and risks. And then there’s the bottom line – ensuring that your profits

outweigh your costs, thus making sure your city stays out of the red. Fall too

far behind in your finances and you’ll find yourself forced to build toxic

waste dumps for profit.

The new feature

I found the most interesting is the ability to tax different income brackets.

You can tax from the rich and offer low rates to the poor, thus making your

city more inviting to low-income families. Of course, you can just as easily

play the tyrant and try to keep the pleebs out, offering tax cuts to the privileged.

The MySims feature, like I said, isn’t as game changing as it sounds.

You can utilize your save file from The Sims or use some of the Sim characters

included, but the only thing that really matters is what kind of neighborhood

you place your Sim in. One realistic touch is that the lifespan of your city

will be far greater than any one Sim. Your Sims will eventually die, to be replaced

by their heirs, equally willing to give you the skinny on what’s up with

your city.

Sim City 4 is entirely 3D, from the terrain and buildings to the humans

(who look like sprites but are actually little rendered people). There’s

a stunning amount of detail here. Little tiny people walk about on their daily

business, while factories churn away. When areas of your city are in states

of degradation, they will noticeably erode. Cars busy their way along their

commutes, stopping at the toll booths. I did notice a car once ram its way through

a crowd crossing the street, like they weren’t even there. Still, despite

small glitches like vehicular manslaughter, the detail is praiseworthy.

However, I wish there was a smooth zoom instead of four zoom levels. As you

switch from level to level, the game noticeably skips a few beats while it draws

the different images, disrupting the flow of the game.

And speaking of glitches, I ran into a bug while saving files. If I quit the

game and selected the "Yes, Iwant to save my city" option, I was never

able to open those files again, leaving my poor cities of St. Liu-y and

Freakmont to languish in the ghetto of file corruption. My solution was

to always save first then exit, ignoring the game’s attempt to be helpful.

San Franfrisky was thus saved from the evil woes that now await a patch.

I don’t know if these problems are an isolated incident, but I do know

that there have also been reports of spontaneous crashes to the desktop as well

as disappearing buildings and the game chugging when cities get too big. This

is both worrisome and just plain sloppy.

On top of that, a multiplayer game called SimCityscape was promised, but when

you select that option, you merely get the Sim City webpage

promising this option in the future. C’mon guys – is this game really


Sim City 4 attempts to stretch the design to both the macro and the

micro, with the upward scaling of a God mode, the region play, the personalized

MySims mode and the great intricacy of detail. In the end, the stretching averages

out and we have a game that sticks to its familiar, comfortable suburban streets.

SimCity 4, while not quite finished, is just as addictive as it ever

was. Once you start playing, it wont be long before you’ll want the words "Mayor’s

Office" painted on your door.


Classic city building fun
More realistic economic model
Incremental tax brackets
Intricate detail
Good interface
Shallow God mode and MySims modes
Chugs when there’s too much going on
Still some issues and bugs
Multiplayer, where art thou?