Review: Tropico 4 (Xbox 360)
Greetings El Presidente! I’ve managed to pull myself away for a few minutes from Kalypso’s latest Latin Dictator-Sim, salsa rhythms still swirling around my head. How does this fourth installment fair?
The aim of the game is to run a collection of Caribbean islands called Tropico, you first create your own Avatar or choose from an impressive list of real-life political figures. From Che Guevara to Augusto Pinochet, with a series of humorous traits such as alcoholic and compulsive gambler. None of these actually appear to affect game-play in any way.
The game features twenty separate missions to complete on different islands, each one revolving around a particular theme such as mining, tourism or even amassing a huge following on Twitter. The game features a robust tutorial mode for beginners, consisting of five different situations. When starting a level you’re given an informative briefing by one of your advisers who will explain what to do to complete the mission.
The game isn’t going to just let you get on your way and build a series of farms or mines to complete your goal however, there are factions in your community you need to worry about. You must build churches to appease the religious, you must set anti-pollution edicts to appease the environmentalists and so on.
Every-day citizens also need to have a series of quality requirements met, such as food, health and entertainment. Workers also need a certain level of job satisfaction. Failing to keep your citizens happy may result in rebel attacks, loosing an election, or even your assassination!
When building farms, your given multiple crop options, corn may not be the most lucrative, but your citizens can’t eat salt. It’s all about finding the right balance. As your population grows you also have to build additional housing and infrastructure. The game lets you build an immigration office where you set the policy as you wish, such as “open door” which is beneficial if you have lots of vacancies, but you will upset the nationalists by doing so.
Whilst your busy worrying what people think of you the game presents you with a tremendous amount of side tasks that can get you extra money or approval from a foreign power. You may be asked to export a certain amount of material or build a museum or school. So you don’t get inundated with tasks, the game only allows you to carry out five at once, which are displayed on the right half of the screen where you’re able to revisit the original instruction at any time, if you had forgotten what you needed to achieve.
The game also throws a huge amount of natural disasters into the mix; tornadoes, hurricanes, tsunamis, earthquakes and even volcanic eruptions. The latter resulted in the fire and total destruction of a series of luxury apartments I had just built! Following an earthquake I also encountered a mine collapse trapping several miners underground, clearly Haemimont Games has clearly been paying attention to world-wide events during the development of this game!
I later discovered buried in the deep buildings menu that you can in fact build a fire station, as well as several buildings which show off the games complex and diverse personality, such as Skyscraper Hotels, Luxury Yachts and Nuclear Power Stations. All of them have a purpose, but not all of them are required to meet your objectives. Learning to exploit your island and its inhabitants is key to mastering the game. There’s no point concentrating on exporting produce if the British get a 20% cut, or even growing crops in particularly bad soil conditions. You’ll need to find another way to make money, but luckily the games designed to push you in the right direction.
Graphically the game is beautiful. Featuring large draw distances, and detailed landscapes. A lot of attention has been paid to the small details such as the moving shadow of a palm tree in the wind, or cascading waterfalls next to an ancient ruin on the side of a volcano.
The game allows you to hover high about your populace and plunge nearly all the way down to street level with no loss in detail, I however did notice that during a tornado there was considerable slow down.
The presentation throughout is immaculate with the opening menus resembling a series of picturesque postcards. The colours and imagery coupled with the music throughout the game envelop you in latin-warmth. The game draws you in, to be El Presidente, so you really want to distil rum, to grow tobacco, and even dance like Ricky Martin!
Before playing the game I was concerned about the control scheme, as console controllers are not usually well suited to the genre, compared to a mouse or Wii remote. I was surprised by the simplicity achieved by the game’s developers. The left stick controls your position with the right stick controlling your zoom and angle. A and B are your main context-sensitive controls and Y brings up the building menu. The right trigger becomes your best friend as holding it presents a sub-menu giving all of the face buttons a second function. You can use this to bring up a series of other menus to control your edicts, avatar, overlays and almanac as well as control the games speed or tilt the camera view.
Before playing Tropico 4 I had never played this series of games, even though I’ve always considered myself a fan of simulation games such as Roller Coaster Tycoon, Theme Hospital and Locomotion. Tropico 4 is full of character, I’m not sure if its the salsa music, or the humorous clichés throughout but this was a blast to play.
For more information on how we review games check out our criteria here. A copy of this game was provided to The Paranoid Gamer by the publisher for review purposes.