Bustling New SimCity Makes Old SimCity Look As Still As A Board Game

The new SimCity, set for release on PC early next year, looks delightful. It doesn't look like it plays all that differently than the old ones; just updated, as they might say, for modern times.

You draw some roads, paint some zoning lines, and watch homes and business sprout. You connect power stations to power lines to buildings. You drop a firehouse and a police station in there to keep the people safe and happy.

What's exciting about this new Sim City is how alive it feels and how much it makes the earliest games in the series feel as static as board games. This one feels alive.

Developers on the game recently gave me a brief demo of the new SimCity, crafting a simple city to show some of the finer elements of their PC-only revival. They drew their roads, which now can be curvy. They did not terraform (there's no re-shaping of land in this game). They zoned the land between the roads, and as houses popped, moving vans pulled in. All of the traffic in the game is simulated, they pointed out. Every house has at least one Sim in it who has a job and goes to work. Each house emits some light, as do car headlights, turning the night-time part of the game into a spectacle of darkened hues and glowing lights.

I saw citizen unrest in the form of people picketing at city hall.

I saw crime as a van pulled up to a building and an arsonist jumped out, ran in and set a fire (we could hear the splashing of fuel, then the lighting of a match). Sims ran out in panic, some of them ablaze.

The new SimCity was announced in March with the angle that it will explore the environmental and economic consequences of cities operating under different policies but joined by their co-existence on the same Earth. This was why publisher EA trotted out the director of the Al Gore environment documentary, An Inconvenient Truth back then instead of just showing some gameplay. But what seemed like it could be a dour game of harmful consequences then now seems to just as likely be a sunny game of bright reds and blues, populated with pleasing caricatures of urban life. This new city, after all, can also have its own superhero and its own supervillain.

At E3, its developers will show multiplayer, which will presumably demonstrate how one player's handling of their city will affect the cities of those with whom he or she is connected online. I haven't seen that yet. I've seen a SimCity that seemed alive on its own, not in any way radically different from the games that inspired it, just brought up to date with modern tech and a welcome willingness to still be a bit silly.

SimCity is set for a February 2013 release on PC.


Comments

    Looks like real-world tilt shift photography which is pretty cool.

    My big question though is how is it going to play? For me, SimCity 2000 was absolutely brilliant but the games went downhill after that. Too much complexity and too much time spent being 'realistic' and not enough making the gameplay actually fun.

      + 1..

      By Simcity 4 I could never make the people like me and keep a sustainable city going.. So i would just lower taxes, wait till lots of them moved in then burn their houses down while shouting at the computer "so now how do feel about paying tax so I would have money to build fire stations" hahaha Vengeful God!

      +1 Agreed, SimCity 2000 was the tits, 3000 a close second. Sim City 4 looked great, but that was about it. Personally I hope they just go all out with the disasters.

    Looks likes, interested to see how it turns out.

    Just hope it goes back to the greatness that was Sims City 2000. I want to be able to use monsters and creatures to destroy my city, and I want to be able to build it up as a city state where the people fear and admire me. I want all the options, and I want it easy to play, challenging to master.

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