SimCity 4 is a complex, challenging game, with plenty of things to explore - and a big but enjoyable learning curve.
When you first start your city, you can terraform it before it becomes inhabited. The terraforming tools are excellent, they vary from 'cliff'' tools to hill ones.
Once you're done terraforming, you can 'incorporate' your city, that is, to loose the ability to terraform it massively and free of charge, but also to be given the ability to build roads , buildings and whatever else your city needs. You can name your city and yourself (the mayor), and choose from 3 difficulty levels; easy grants you faster development and 500k simoleons(the currency used in the game), medium slower development and 200k simoleons, and hard 100k and slow development. Then, you get all the stuff you need unlocked; everything you may use as far as transportation, education, power etc etc are concerned are here.
One of the most important tools are zones. In case you don't know, in the SimCity 1-4, you cannot build homes or stores or factories right away; you have to zone first. That means, you choose a zone type, for example a medium density residential or a high commercial. Then you ought to build it next to a road (or avenue or highway etc) in order to make it accesible. The inhabitation of the zones is dictated by two factors; the first is the demand. If there is the demand for houses, you should zone residential zones. If there are too many houses build but there are no workplaces, then the commercial and the industrial go up. If you build them, you may then build more houses.
The second factor is the desirability. Desirability is dictated by local circumstances, for example the existence of police stations, fire stations and schools increases desirability.
Another crucial part about that game is wealth. There are three different types of wealth, the low, the medium and the high one. Wealth, is too dictated by two factors; the desirability and the demand. You can decrease the demand for a specific type of zone by taking certain actions, for example, if you build many schools and police stations, there will be a high wealth demand, at first for houses, and then, as soon as you have enough high wealth citizens, they will require better jobs, so the high wealth commercial and industrial demand will go up, and afterall you'll have a big educated rich city.
As far as economy is concerned, new players will find it very difficult to balance their badget. That's why most of them throw the game out of their window, frustruated. My advice would be to check internet tutorials on that. Economical management involves the tax control (taxes are your main income) and funding adjustment. The latter means that when you have built a school that requires 200$ per month in order to accomondate 200 students, but in fact there are only 5 students, you lower the funding in order to pay the amount of money needed just to suit the number of pupils.
Finally, there are many other tools, like graphs and disaster tools that are extremely convinient.
The graphics are full 3D, but with the ability only to shift between 4 angles, for performance reasons. The graphics are great, with a lot of detail to explore and overal creating a great optical effect.
Unfortunately, the game lags mercilessly unless you have a high-end computer (and imagine that the game was released 5 years ago!). A strong graphic card, Ram and proccessor power are required in order to enjoy simcity. The system requirements that are mentioned on the box are lies, terrible lies. My computer met them, and ran horrible ( I had to upgrade). I'd say the real system requirements are: Proccessor power: 2gh, RAM: 512mb, Graphics card: 128mb.
The sound rocks. There are plenty of excellent tracks, mostly of alternative genre, that are going to satisfy most players. Even if one doesn't like them, there is still the option of using custom music.
SimCity 4 is a must for anyone interested in building a city. That is, for everyone who has played a SimCity game before, or has spent most of his/her Age of Empires time building houses and creating a nice city without troubling about the military aspect (like me). Be warned though; the gameplay is rather 'boring' and 'dull' for players who demand action and bangs.