There is more beneath the surface of Sim City 4 than meets the eye.

User Rating: 9 | SimCity 4: Deluxe Edition PC
I have always been a fan of the Sim City series, putting in a huge amount of time into Sim City 2, and a decent amount into Sim City 3. Sim City is the game that started this Sim craze, and is the best or better of those types of games.

I won't go on and on about the many good aspects and few bad ones to Sim City 4 Delux. There is one important aspect I want to bring to people attention if they are wondering about the quality of this game compared to previous Sim Cities.

While playing this game in its first few hours, I was fairly disappointed in what I thought was a lack of improvement from Sim City 3. The graphics at first seemed to me to be not much of an improvement. The method of "locking" your views into orthogonal presets still exists. There did not seem to be many new buildings or features to me. Sim City 2 was a gigantic leap from Sim City, taking the city to 3D, and adding tons of features. Sim City 3 expanded on that, adding more detail and buildings and features. To me, Sim City 4 just seemed like 3.5 at best.

After I few more hours, I realized I was very wrong. First, the graphics are more improved as the game goes along, as your residents up their land value. But the main thing that blew me away as a HUGE improvement to the series was one very difficult to catch. You need to be a hardcore Sim City fan to notice this about Sim City 4...

Despite how fun 2 and 3 were, there was one major flaw to those games. Basically, every time you play the game (barring any natural disasters), the games are always the same. You followed the same progression of your city, in terms of your expansion and your finances, every time you play the game. You start out with your coffer of money for the city, and you spend on your basics at the beginning. It takes you a while to turn a profit each year, and you lose money each year for a while. You get close to $0, and then start becoming conservative. If you spend too much on expansion at this point in the game, you will go in the red. If you stay conservative for a while, you will start to gain money each year. Then you gain more and more, and by the end of the game you are gaining huge amounts of money each year. You never need to worry about money then unless you buy some ridiculous highway system or something. You end up with so much money the game is not fun anymore and you play until you get bored. To sum up, every game is the same if you charted your financial history - Starts off at let's say $20,000, then goes down a curve to approx $0, then slowly starts to upcurve, then upcurves to infinity for the rest of the game. This was the one thing that bothered me about Sim City, and I thought there was no chance of the series ever solving the problem. Sim City 4 did!

This pattern of every game is completely shattered in Sim City 4. In my long term game, I started at $500,000, and stayed around $400,000 to $500,000 for about 100 years. Then after a 100 years when my town was starting to get highly populated, the game became harder. Wow, a Sim City game that actually gets harder as you go along instead of easier! That is an incredible upgrade to the series. At this point in the game I started losing money and learned that I had to play better to stay in the black. How does the game to this? There is more beneath the surface than you notice at first. Well, the game is harder on you in terms of your income when more people live in the town. Citizens have trouble with traffic, and they could look for work in other neighboring cities if you do not offer enough jobs. More so than that, the game allow you to "optimize" things much more. In the old Sim Cities, you would buy a power plant or a school, and the power plant or school had X capacity. If your area only needed half of X, too bad, you got X. In Sim City 4, it is completely different. Buildings such as power plants or schools do not have high costs to build, but they have monthly rates of usage. You can "set" your power plant to only be at half its power capacity for $300/mo, or "set" it to full power for $600/mo. Same thing for schools and any other municipalities. So, you have the power to tweak everything to match your needs. If you do this, you can battle each month or year to have a balanced budget. You are not set to lose money, then bottom out, then gain huge amounts of money. You are more set to balance a budget each time period and break even, which is much more like a real city. And it gets harder as the city gets bigger.

Anyway, I have gone on longer than I expected, but I wanted to comment about this hard to notice feature. It definitely made me respect Sim City 4 more so than the previous Sim Cities, as it allows you to handle the financials of a city much more realistically, and in my opinion, in a more fun way because not every game follows the same pattern.

I did not want to go on about every feature, but here are some other plusses and minuses about the game:
Pluses: There are some more features such as more roads and park types. You can now build multiple cities/towns within a large area. You can now specifically build farms, not just via a large light industrial area. There are custom soundtracks if you have mp3 files. The expansion pack offers fun driving missions.
Minuses: The game did crash on me often and quit to Windows. I did not find the ability to create multiple neighboring towns all that fun, it just complicated issues such as the workforce.