Some games are so precisely targeted at a specific group of gamers that they have almost no appeal to anyone else. Maxis' Streets of SimCity is such a game. This driving and auto combat game lets you tool around the streets of a SimCity 2000 metropolis in an arcade-style atmosphere. You can head out for a calm, uneventful excursion, pick up and deliver packages, race against other drivers, or blow your fellow motorists to tiny bits with rockets and machine guns. The game includes over 50 SimCity maps and comes with the SimCity 2000 Urban Renewal Kit, which you can use to create your own maps.
If you've ever played Activision's Interstate '76, you'll no doubt notice its influence in Streets of SimCity. The game loads up to a funky 70s-style theme. It utilizes a channel-changing metaphor for selecting scenarios and tells you all about the "stars" of each "show." And of course, there's the obvious similarity that both games involve a lot of fast-moving firepower. Unfortunately, this isn't half the game I76 was, except possibly for die-hard SimCity fans who want to see their creations from street level.
Streets of SimCity lets you drive five different vehicles, including one that resembles the VW Bug, a Ferrari-style sports car, and a large utility van. You can customize your car (or truck) with a meager array of weapons and modifications, such as armor, airfoils, and radar detectors.
The game includes 30 scenarios that are arranged into five pseudo-campaigns. The stories for these are pretty well done and often humorous: One has you playing the role of a granny who must race and fight her way past a group of invading aliens. The gameplay for all scenarios is pretty much the same, however, and you must win one scenario before proceeding to the next. Money you earn in one scenario can be used to upgrade your car for the next. You can also pull into a garage during missions in order to get repairs and supplies.
As you drive around town, you'll see a number of objects on the streets. These can be power-ups (ammo, armor, repairs), packages (which can be delivered to earn money), and targets (cows, mailboxes, signs). You'll see pedestrians, too, but they are immune to your attacks and your driving - this isn't Carmageddon, after all. As you pick up certain items, you'll get status messages and clues regarding a scenario's objectives. These flash quickly into the top corner of the screen and can be easy to miss. Occasionally, your character will say something of importance to the mission at hand, but again, these utterances are easily missed.
The graphics in this game are decent but are not spectacular by any stretch. Even with 3Dfx acceleration, Streets of SimCity doesn't look quite as good as I76 without it. Also, the game runs sluggishly, even with the acceleration. Since the cities are SimCity 2000 maps, the streets are angular and turns are sometimes difficult to handle. On top of that, the game controls make it all too easy to oversteer, which often leads to overcorrection and the inevitable crash. Also, the steep ramps leading to bridges in this game almost always cause your car to catch air - even when you're just coasting.
Streets of SimCity includes some nice touches, including the cool-looking Hunter car, an enemy vehicle that resembles Jesse "The Body" Ventura's car from the "Jose Chung" episode of the X-Files. Also, the game's racetrack editor is handy and fairly intuitive. But the game's negative points far outweigh its merits. The first-person dashboard view makes it difficult to predict upcoming turns, while the third-person camera angles often block your view with trees, buildings, and other objects. Also, the in-dash radar is a blocky low-res display that is difficult to read. This game also crashed quite a bit and displayed the occasional glitch - such as cars resting on their sides atop high buildings.
There's no question that this game will appeal to SimCity fans who are eager to take a spin through their virtual cities. For those users, this game can be quite fun. But if you're just looking for a good auto combat game, you should stick to I76.