Saturday, 15 December 2012

Review: Tropico 4 Gold Edition - Trouble in Paradise (X360)



It would be going too far to call Tropico 4 a game-changer in the city simulation genre, but it’s certainly a game that shows the rest of them how it’s done. The banana republic cultivator is back and this time coupled with hefty expansion Modern Times and while it’s not going to offer anything new to hard-bitten dictators, Tropico newcomers will get everything they need to become the El Presidente of their dreams.

Tropico 4 allows you to take on the role of the ruler of a small island nation and it is up to you to determine whether you will be the benevolent dictator, keeping your population content, or the militant tyrant who always has his finger on the trigger. As head honcho, or El Presidente, your cigar-sucking self will be in charge of pretty much everything, from making sure hospitals aren’t under-staffed to dabbling in the turbulent world of foreign policy. In fact, you will barely get any time to breathe when you’re constantly trying to keep your nation from falling apart, whether that’s the fault of the economy or the variety of random natural disasters that can occur at any given moment.

You could probably describe Tropico as a ‘light’ simulation, but that would be doing it a disservice. Sure, the layout is simple and the menus easy to navigate, but that’s not to say this isn’t a city builder that anyone can’t sink their socio-political loving teeth into. Building farms and mines will net you resources while money flows from tourist locations where foreigners flock to your island paradise in search of sun and sangria. You will also be keeping your loyal subjects happy with houses, hospitals and other buildings, but here’s where Tropico 4 gets a bit clever. The populus is split into different factions including capitalists, communists, nationalists and environmentalists, all of which have conflicting agendas and all of which need appeasing by yours truly. While the capitalists are kept satiated with a thriving industry and a free market, communists prefer farms and housing. Of course, the nationalists don’t like the country getting involved with foreigners, so you’re going to have to decide whether you’re going to marginalise a couple of groups to appease everyone else, or you’re just going to do what you want. Factions keep gameplay fresh and exciting and are a great addition to the game.

While this all sounds quite dry, Tropico boasts a humorous charm, with missions ranging from the rather mundane to whacked out scenarios like keeping a group of murderous mimes at bay until they can tour Vegas. Yes, that happens. There are 20 missions in the main campaign and the Modern Times expansion adds an extra 12 scenarios. Each mission is varied and adeptly takes you from a tiny burgeoning nation to a thriving civilisation, with a learning curve that’s not as frustrating as some other titles in the genre.

Thankfully, the console controls are very well done, using the bumpers and analogue sticks to great effect in place of keys and a mouse. In fact, this is one of the better simulations ported onto a console.
Modern Times gives you a plethora of new toys to play with in addition to the new scenarios. Set a year after the events of the main game, the expansion focuses on the rise of technology. Buildings become obsolete and have to be upgraded, you can build skyscrapers, biofarms and modernise your current architecture. You can also block people’s internet, stop people using social networks and create a police state if you’re feeling particularly despotic. There’s even a zombie invasion complete with a zombie inquisition by religious zealots. But one of the big additions Modern Times brings to the table is the metro station which allows people to quickly travel between stations, allowing you to reach new zones and plan your flag, so to speak.

As a whole, Tropico 4: Trouble in Paradise is a great package with a fantastic game. While the visuals aren’t cutting edge or anything, Tropico 4 and Modern Times presents a range of great scenarios as well as a sandbox mode allowing you to pretty much do what you want for as long as you like. Sure, you’re not getting anything new out of the gold edition if you’ve already invested previously, but for newcomers looking for a simulation that doesn’t overwhelm you with complexities, but that’s also satisfying and humorous, then look for further than this fine package.

*****

Originally written in the December issue of Thirteen1