CALLING ALL SIMCITY 2000 FREAKS!!!Getting a little tired of building city after city? Have you accomplished your life's goal of creating a SimCity replica of Des Moines, Iowa, only to find that you have no greater purpose to aspire to? Now it's time to actually go inside your city and control it not as an all-powerful comptroller, but as an ordinary Sim citizen- - an ordinary Sim citizen with a helicopter, that is.
After Will Wright, the creator of SimCity, finished his second masterpiece, SimCity 2000, he set to work on a new challenge for his disciples. He wanted the thousands of people who had created vast metropolises in SimCity 2000 to be able to explore them in 3-D. A simple first-person walking tour interface would not suffice, though; the new game had to take advantage of the random event generator in the SimCity world that controlled crime, fires, riots and such. What better vehicle to cope with all these contingencies than a helicopter? It can carry police to a crime scene, dump water on fires, launch tear gas into rioting crowds.... Anything the Sims need, their chopper-armed guardian can provide.
As you start a career game using the 30 included cities or a user game using yours, you will find yourself on the tarmac standing next to a little Schweitzer 300 helicopter. As you climb aboard, the radio inside turns on and starts blaring music and commercials. Hit the right key and the rotor begins to turn, taking you into the air to await your first call. You won't have to wait long before "Dispatch" crackles over the radio and relays your mission. If it's a traffic jam, you have to fly over and use your megaphone to tell the cars to move along. Medevacs require you to retrieve injured Sims and transport them to the hospital. For rescues, you'll need to have equipped your copter with a rescue harness to snatch trapped Sims from their precarious settings. Dousing fires with water takes quite a bit of dexterity and numerous trips to a nearby lake to refill. Riots can sometimes be handled with stern announcements over the megaphone and maybe a little spritz with the water cannon, but occasionally they reach Rodney King proportions and the tear gas has to be broken out. The list goes on, and the variable difficulty of each type of mission, combined with the differing characteristics of the nine copters, will keep almost anyone engrossed for hours at a time.
The graphics, although fluid and colorful, could have been visualized a bit better. The buildings and terrain are adequate, but the people and vehicles look as if they were designed by a junior high school art class. Even so, this is the only substandard element in what is otherwise a terrific package. The sound is especially well executed. The tunes on the radio (which you can customize) blend seamlessly with the realistic chopper sounds and the environmental noises to create a rich soundscape. Plenty of tongue-in-cheek Maxis humor awaits fans as well, with secret laughs that appear everywhere from the comical user's manual, to the congratulatory marching band that awaits you back at your hangar, to the sound a passenger makes when you drop him out at 4,000 feet. Even the cheat codes are funny. Type in "I'm the CEO of McDonnell Douglas" and see what happens!
Perhaps the finest feature of SimCopter is its added value to the SimCity 2000 user. The translation of the cities is impressively accurate. Each building, vehicle, street, bridge, and lake is exactly where it would be in SimCity 2000, only in rendered-on-the-fly, texture-mapped 3-D. If a SimCity with a high crime rate is loaded into SimCopter, you can be sure to get more than your share of robbery and mugging calls. Playing with a poverty-stricken city? Look out for riots.
On the whole, SimCopter offers a solid action experience combined with added value for SimCity 2000 owners and virtually endless gameplay. It's all the fun of watching a SimCity grow plus the feeling that you have a real hand in the process. Beyond that, it's a full-blown helicopter sim that would be extremely playable even if it didn't translate SimCities into 3-D. This one's a keeper.