SimCity 3000 Unlimited - PC - Review

When you have the No. 1 PC game of 1999 in your stable, what do you do next?

If you are Maxis, and the title is SimCity 3000, you listen to the fans of the game and then incorporate their ideas into the new title SimCity 3000 Unlimited.

“It's been over a year since the original SimCity 3000 shipped and the game is still as popular as ever,” said Patrick Buechner, public relations manager at Maxis. “We saw Unlimited as our chance to create the definitive version of SimCity 3000 and give fans a number of the features they've been asking for. The addition of scenarios also makes the game easier to get into for players looking for a traditional ‘win or lose’ style of gameplay.”

Hmm, scenarios, huh? What can you do in a scenario that you can’t do in the game? As Buechner stated, win. The basis of SimCity is an ongoing battle of city survival, with no definitive outcome. You build, you tax, your population base grows or you become a ghost town. You can certainly lose, but, in the past, there wasn’t a winning situation. Now there is.

Unlimited contains 10 different scenarios, and three tutorial scenarios to ease the newcomer into the program. Each scenario presents a different challenge, has a skill rating and is a timed event. Some may be rated easy to intermediate and will limit you to 30 minutes to solve the problem, while others will last an hour without enabling a pause in the play. As for the scenario content ...

London is on fire and you must stop it from becoming an inferno. Locusts are destroying the small farms of your community and you must find a way to get rid of these pests. Your city is literally torn in half. Or you must reconnect East and West Berlin. If politics and disasters are not your forte, perhaps you are more in touch with the world of sports. Fine. How about a scenario where you must turn local athletes into stars with the future of the city riding on the outcome of your moves? Or you can prepare Seoul, Korea, for the upcoming 2003 World Cup.

And, of course, the program comes with a scenario editor which allows you to create your own situations and the parameters for winning.

For those who have never indulged in the SimCity phenomenon, the basics of the program are simple. You create and maintain a city. You can start small and watch it grow as more people invade that quiet hamlet, or you can start big and hope you don’t have to overtax your citizenry for the privilege of living in your corner of the world. You are the mayor, the city planner, the financial officer and emergency services all rolled into one. Even at the most elementary or introductory levels, this is far from easy.

You can get your feet wet by starting with a tutorial town, or you can jump right in and build your town from the ground up. You start with a section of a map, alter the terrain to create the environment you want for your town, then start laying roads. You have to zone the town for residential and commercial property, then you build your power plants so there is the means to attract Sims (they are the people who populate this world) and businesses. And don’t forget that where there are people, there is a need for water and garbage utility services. Where will you put the town’s waste? What about the fresh water supply and waste water treatment?

Naturally you have a budget and everything you do costs money.

Those are the basics of the program. What Unlimited adds to the SimCity 3000 mix are new disasters - yep, ill fortune can befall your community and now it not only includes fire, UFO attacks, tornadoes and earthquakes, but toxic clouds, a whirlpool (the price you must be willing to pay to live near water), insect plagues and falling space junk.

Your city can sport any of the 95 world landmarks and the Unlimited version adds Asian and European buildings. A Japanese temple sure does look pretty at the end of park that sits in the center of town. This program will draw out the architect in anyone with the Building Architect Plus tool.

Both the Architect and Scenario features require more than just a passing interest. They are not difficult to learn, but thoroughly absorbing.

In fact, aside from the new features, this program is not much different from the original SimCity 3000 product. The options package is easily accessible, the graphics are bright and inventive, the sound is solid and the action is painfully fluid. Painful? It is tough watching your city, your child, die because of poor management. But the lessons learned can be applied to a new town.

SimCity 3000 Unlimited is the same engrossing civics lesson as other SimCity titles. This program is supported by the on-line Web site (www.simcity.com), and is rated for everyone.

However, you should be warned - this product may become habit-forming, causing gamers to spend incredible, and fast-paced, amounts of time sitting in front of a computer screen worrying over spending money to rezone a section of their cyber city, or accepting a garbage contract from a neighboring town to boost city revenue. And if a game can cause you worry, joy and wonder - all of which are incorporated into SimCity 3000 Unlimited - then what you have is a terrific program.

 

Install: Medium.

Gameplay: 9. Flawless, time-accelerated action with easy-to-use option bars and incredible detail.

Graphics: 9.5. Exquisite architecture, animated city life and rich colors give this program a lush screen presence.

Sound: 8.5. Solid, from the soft musical backgrounds, to the noises of a city come to life.

Difficulty: 8.5. No matter what you try to manage - from a small town to a bustling city - this is a challenge.

Concept: 6.5. Sure this is a tad low, but remember this is an upgrade program. Points are awarded for the scenario features.

Overall: 9.5. You don’t need a super computer to enjoy the many facets of this program. The addition of the scenarios, and the architectural tools is a bonus. The Web support is fantastic. You can actually download, or upload, cities and building designs. This is one program that is not only well-thought out, but designed to optimize the gaming experience. This genre may not appeal to everyone, but it is a great combination of education and entertainment.

Amazing

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