SimCity 3000's beauty is in the details
(IDG) -- Twelve years ago, Will Wright created a happy little computer simulation called SimCity -- and the world of computer and console gaming was changed forever. Who knew building and maintaining a city could be so much fun? Who knew how addictive and challenging the entire process, no matter how exhausting, could be? Well, Will did. And now, with over a million fans worldwide and an entire decade behind us, SimCity 3000 has been released. And a starving, sleep-deprived city-builder named Nash couldn't be happier.
SimCity 3000's gameplay picks up right where SC2K leaves off: You're in charge of transforming an ordinary countryside into a sprawling metropolis. Gameplay consists of building a water and power supply, connecting these two structures with pipes and power lines, and then building the first of your residential zones. But those things alone won't draw people to your town. You'll also need to provide industrial zones where your residents can find jobs, and have commercial zones in which your residents can spend all their hard-earned money.
Longtime SimCity fans may not be immediately overwhelmed by new features, as the only additions come in the form of new building types, modifications to the charts (for pollution levels, traffic, and money-managing), new graphical features, and the NewsTicker. But this is a good thing. Rather than overloading the game with a plethora of new options, the team seems to have cooked up the perfect blend of subtle features whose sole purpose is to perfect the franchise, not change it.
Of all the new options, the NewsTicker helps gameplay the most. It runs below your view window and scrolls news and information about your city's status horizontally across the screen. The NewsTicker basically does what the Newspaper did in previous versions of the game. And its resemblance to a Wall Street stockticker will help tulip-trading baby boomers feel right at home.
Like all the SimCity games before it, SC3K's gameplay is good -- if you know what you're doing. On that note, I'd suggest that Maxis include an in-game tutorial next time around. Something for the newbies. Something definitely more visual, educational, and interactive. Something where their eyes are on the screen while they learn the ropes, and not squinting at the manual. Newcomers to the series may have a tough time getting started.
The first change you'll notice is the zoom capabilities: You can zoom in closer and zoom out farther than ever before. It's the little details that make the series beautiful, and SC3K is no exception. For instance, in the farthest zoom setting, not only do you get a bird's-eye view of the action, but the audio fades out as well to enhance the sense of distance, and you'll spot clouds floating by as if you were looking down from a mountaintop. Zoom into the closest setting, and you'll see the city come to life in an explosion of sounds, sights, and day-to-day activities. From commuters struggling to beat the clock to busy military bases complete with troops marching across the fields, the SC3K art team paid great attention to detail. And the results are very good-looking.
Maxis will also be supporting the graphics side of SC3K by releasing various freebies on the company's Web site (link below). True fans will be able to download free landmarks months after the game's release -- structures such as San Francisco's TransAmerica building and Nevada's Area 51. Any day now, Maxis will also release the Building Architect Tool, which will allow you to design your very own buildings.
SoundSimCity 3000 packs a lot of great sound -- from the hustle-bustle of downtown traffic to the sounds of boats sailing around the marina. And you get more than digital sound effects: there's also an outstanding musical jukebox that'll play any of a dozen-odd scores at the drop of a hat. Plus, you can process the audio in 3D mode if you have the proper hardware.
Overall score: 8.5 out of 10
A brilliant addition to a franchise with a huge following, SC3K does a great job of satisfying the hardcore SimCity fan, but it doesn't go out of its way to appeal to newbies. Casual gamers curious about the whole Sim phenomena may want to look for something more Sim-lite.
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