reviews\ Oct 7, 2001 at 8:00 pm

Railroad Tycoon II: Platinum - PC - Review

Railroad Tycoon II: Platinum Edition is yet another indication that PC developers are smarter than everyone else. Whenever a console developer is going to upgrade or re-release one of their titles, they enhance the graphics a little, change the box art, slap on a hefty price tag and call it a brand-new game. Nintendo's entire first-party Game Boy Advance lineup consisted of old NES and Super NES rehashes. Neither Super Mario Advance or F-Zero featured any new levels or play mechanics that made it worth the purchase (assuming you owned the original). Other game companies have done the same (Resident Evil CODE: Veronica X, anyone?). Granted, these are excellent games that are a lot of fun to play, but why should I go out and buy another copy of a game I've owned since the 1980s?

On the other hand, PC rehashes (or more appropriately, PC upgrades) are much different than console games. When a PC developer upgrades one of their classic titles, they usually include new features, new levels and any expansion packs released. Railroad Tycoon II: Platinum is no different. Including the original game, 2nd Century expansion pack and the Gold Edition, RTII: Platinum is quite a package. What really impressed me though is that PopTop Software developed 50 brand-new scenarios exclusively for the Platinum edition. Add it all up and you've got yourself the ultimate train strategy game with over 125 different scenarios to conquer.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the Railroad Tycoon series, it is essentially Sim City with trains. Mind you, a much more involving version of Sim City, one that will hold your interest for more than a few weeks. Everything about the game is set up like Maxis' classic title; the menus, controls, infrastructure, etc. The first noticeable difference between the two games (other than the fact that RT concentrates primarily on the construction of train stations, track placement, locomotives, etc., as opposed to roads, houses and buildings) is that Railroad Tycoon replaces the persistent world of Sim City with a scenario-based system. Each scenario has you performing a different task, such as the transportation of cargo from one city to another, raising your personal and company net worth, building additional train stations and maintaining your company's profitability.

You may also merge with other companies to increase your income even more. The amount of options available in Railroad Tycoon II: Platinum is really amazing. I haven't seen this much diversity in a game of this kind since Sim City 2000. In some ways, RTII: Platinum surpasses SC2000 by giving the player so many things to do at once. You won't sit and wait for hours, hoping to earn enough money so you can buy another power plant, then repeat that process all over again. While waiting for your train to drop off some cargo in Beijing, you can purchase a new train, lay some track, check your stocks, etc. There's almost always something to. Instead of waiting for the game to catch up to you, you'll be working your butt off to catch up to the game.

Additionally, once you've earned enough money, you may purchase a wide array of industries to further increase your income. From retailers and factories, to nuclear plants and even bakeries (you can never have enough glazed chocolate donuts!), the industrial portion of RTII: Platinum is yet another aspect you'll have to watch carefully if you want to succeed.

Railroad Tycoon II: Platinum won't win any awards for its visuals, but who cares? No one buys a game like this for breathtaking graphics, they buy it for its depth, entertaining gameplay and high replay value. Still, considering the system specs (133MHz CPU, 16MB ram, 4x CD-Rom, 300MB hard drive space and a monitor capable of 800 X 600 resolution), RTII: Platinum looks good. The detailed landscapes, cities and trains are sure to catch your attention. Every action you make in the game is followed by a corresponding black and white full motion video showing what you've done. For example, if you bulldoze a few trees, you'll see some real bulldozers in action on the bottom right corner of the screen. If you lay some track, you'll see some men working on the railroad, etc. And because you don't need a graphics accelerator, even gamers with old PCs will be able to run RTII: Platinum with no problem. Given the cost of upgrading, I think most people will find the dated graphics a fair trade.

Unfortunately, the music doesn't match the quality of the graphics, let alone the gameplay. At best, RTII's soundtrack is a bore. At worst, well...let's not talk about that. I like to give game developers the benefit of the doubt, so I'll assume that the composer "thought" this music would entertain the player. Given the targeted age group -- young children and middle-aged men who love trains -- he might be right. But for a modern day guy like myself, the Oh Brother, Where Art Thou-inspired soundtrack leaves a lot to be desired. Thankfully, I was able to drown out the music by covering the terrain in snow in the Scenario Editor. However, now that winter's come, I must put up with the repetitive sounds of howling wind. Over and over again...

But the only major drawback (other than the music), is how hard it is to get started. If you've never played a strategy game before, this certainly isn't a good place to start as you'll be overwhelmed with things to do. Anyone without experience in the genre would have trouble jumping into a strategy game, but when it takes an obsessed, hardcore gamer like myself more than a few hours to fully understand what I am doing, you have a serious problem. Unless you've had a lot of experience with the previous versions of the game, I highly recommend reading the manual and at least the first chapter or two of the game's Official Strategy Guide (included on the disc) before delving deep into the world of Railroad Tycoon II. Aside from that, I have no complaints.

Railroad Tycoon II: Platinum Edition is rated "E" for Everyone (ages six and up). It does not contain violence or any other content unsuitable for children.

#Reviewer's Scoring Details

 Install: Easy
This has got to be one of the easiest games I have ever installed. Better yet, it only takes up 300MB of hard drive space.

Gameplay: 9
I never thought a game that centered on trains could be so much fun. When you think about it though, locomotives are only a small fraction of RTII: Platinum. There’s more variety in this game than most strategy games put together.

Graphics: 4 
In a world with Silent Hill 2, Metal Gear Solid 2, Munch's Oddysee and Wave Race: Blue Storm, it's hard not to think of RTII: Platinum's modest look as being "dated." Thankfully, visuals aren't everything.

Sound: 3
Oh brother, get me some earplugs. Railroad Tycoon II: Platinum's bluesy soundtrack will leave you feeling blue. If you liked George Clooney's crazy film, you might find this music to be entertaining, but I don't. The repetitive sound effects aren't very impressive either.

Difficulty: 8
This game may be rated “E” for Everyone, but I can’t think of a single six-year-old that could understand RTII. I certainly wouldn’t have been able to at that age. Of course, the harder the challenge, the better it is for us adult gamers. I’m sure that when the six-year-olds grow up, they’ll appreciate RTII’s harder difficulty just as much as we do.

Concept: 3 
As great as RTII: Platinum is, it’s hardly an original concept. Game developers have been rehashing old games for years, it’s nothing new. PopTop, if you‘re listening, make a full-fledged sequel next time.

Multiplayer: 6
Platinum's multiplayer mode is somewhat disappointing because you can't play against those who have the original version of RTII -- only players using the 2nd Century expansion pack, Gold or Platinum edition will be able to challenge you. However, this version plays just as good as the others, so I can't complain too much.

Overall: 8
All aboard? Well, if not, you really should be. Because Railroad Tycoon II: Platinum Edition is a train enthusiast's dream come true. When the developers said the 125+ scenarios would keep you busy for months, they weren't kidding. And when you compare the MSRP ($19.99) to some of the shorter, $50 games, RTII: Platinum becomes even more appealing.


About The Author
In This Article
From Around The Web
blog comments powered by Disqus