Classic Computer Magazine Archive COMPUTE! ISSUE 164 / MAY 1994 / PAGE 84

SimCity 2000. (city-building simulation) (Entertainment Choice) (Software Review) (Evaluation)
by Jason Rich

Jason Rich

Finally! It's here. The sequel to the immensely popular SimCity is now on the market. And no bones about it-- SimCity 2000 lives up to all the hype. Now you can control the terrain of your cities and even go underground. And when you enter the year 2000, you suddenly have huge populations to consider and new technology to experiment with. Incredibly realistic and fluid, SimCity 2000 doesn't disappoint.

The original SimCity introduced the concept of a software toy, an entertainment package with few predefined objectives and no winner or loser. Released by Maxis in 1989, SimCity lets us experiment and use our imaginations without having to be competitive or expert.

Since SimCity's release, computer technology has taken off, and SimCity 2000 takes advantage of these developments. Far more detailed and advanced in its execution, it provides an unbelievably realistic experience. To create this sequel, Maxis gathered and implemented fours years' worth of customer suggestions to ensure that SimCity 2000 would provide a satisfying entertainment experience. You won't be disappointed: SimCity 2000 combines elements of a complex role-playing game, a graphics-based strategy game, and a challenging, fast-paced puzzle to give you unlimited hours of fun.

In SimCity 2000, you're the leader of a city that you must design, build, and manage. It's your job to create and provide your populace with homes, offices, factories, and all city services, including police and fire departments, electricity, plumbing, mass transit, an educational system, and recreational facilities.

One of the many new features in SimCity 2000 is your total control over the terrain upon which a city is built. The main City screen is made up of tiny square tiles, each appropriately equivalent to one acre of land. Using the built-in Terrain Editor (before the simulation actually begins), you can design the terrain by adding mountains, hills, rivers, and oceans. These options are fun to experiment with--a mountain can be up to 32 tiles high.

You'll also appreciate the Underground Level, a new feature that gives you access to the land under your city. Here, you can build things like a plumbing system and a subway system.

Once the simulation actually begins, you'll be looking at a blank City screen. Your first task is to begin creating and placing residential, commercial, and industrial zones. You must decide if you want the buildings within each zone to be spread out or placed closely together. When working with residential zones, for instance, you can create a light residential zone, resulting in a community made up of single-family homes, or a dense residential zone, meaning that apartment buildings and condominiums will be built. Based on the location of the zone and the types of services available, the value of the real estate will be determined, and high-, middle-, and low-income areas of your city will be delineated. As you'll quickly discover, the placement of each zone has a major impact on the overall growth potential and success of your city.

Unlike in the original game, these zones are literally painted on the City screen, so it's quite easy to create zones that spread out over many tiles. When electricity is added to each zone, buildings and other structures are automatically built; however, you're responsible for providing all city services. Using the Query icon, you can get a closeup of any tile and see the dozens of different types of buildings and structures which are created within the various zones.

The zones must be connected with roads so that the population can easily travel by car throughout the city. Your transit system can include highways, bridges, on and off ramps, tunnels (through mountains), bus depots, a railroad system, and a subway system.

Great attention has been paid to detail and realism in SimCity 2000. The graphics are rich in detail, and if you have a sound board, you'll enjoy digitized sound effects. Another detail that makes the game lush is that nearly every decision you make has short- and long-term ramifications. At all times, you must consider every aspect of life in your city, paying careful attention to financial concerns while attempting to provide the citizens with all of the necessary services and continuing steady growth.

Included with the package is a series of scenarios which provide you with specific goals to achieve. During a normal simulation, however, there are no predetermined goals, which means you must continue to expand, experiment, and help your city evolve. As time passes, new inventions are created, offering you additional tools for managing your city. Based on your success, various rewards are made available each time a city reaches a certain population level. When a population exceeds 120,000 (after the year 2000), you can build Archologies, which are self-contained cities within cities. Archologies allow a city's population to expand into the millions over time.

The superior graphics and digitized sound effects are blended with an easy-to-learn user interface made up of icons, pull-down menus, and pop-up windows. From the beginning, everything you do on the City screen involves the use of commands and features available from the toolbar (made up of graphic-based command icons) and pull-down menus (found at the top of the City screen). Using the mouse, you can quickly activate any of the icon-based commands from the toolbar or click and hold down the mouse button on an icon to reveal submenus, which provide additional options.

The simulation becomes increasingly more complex as you become acquainted with the package's many options and features. In addition to overseeing the design of cities, you must also manage and maintain them. This involves using the Budget window and City Ordinances window (along with their various subscreens) to collect taxes and manage the cities' finances. Thus, you have to develop short- and long-term strategies as well as constantly look at the overall picture before you make specific decisions.

To add a touch of challenge and excitement, you can set various disasters to occur randomly or at your command. Disasters include everything from nuclear meltdowns to alien invasions and will truly test your city's design, since the police and fire departments, medical facilities, and military will be put into action.

SimCity 2000 offers three overall levels of difficulty. At the easiest level, you're provided with $20,000, and you can choose in what year to begin: 1900, 1950, 2000, or 2050. The later the year, the more technologically advanced the city will be. The harder levels give you less money at the start of the game, and there's a greater chance that natural disasters will occur.

A great aspect of SimCity-- both the original and 2000-- is that you can save your cities and trade them with other SimCity players. All of the popular online services offer Maxis support areas where cities are available for downloading. This increases the playability and enjoyment of the simulation even further.

SimCity 2000 offers a truly exceptional and unique entertainment experience. It seemed to be a long time in coming, but it's definitely worth the wait. You have never enjoyed playing God more than you will with this outstanding simulation.