March 1999
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Sim City 3000

by Jason Morrison

When the original Sim City came out, no one thought it would work. The concept: build a city. No, you don't use it to attack other cities, or even fire missiles at UFOs. But you do have to deal with traffic congestion, pollution and crime. Sim City paved the way for the glut of simulation games you see today.

When Sim City 2000 came out, it was one of the most anticipated titles that year, especially for Sim City fans. Not only did it offer the same gods-eye-view in creating a metropolis, but now in stunning psuedo-3-D. New ways to zone, new city services to take care of and a much more intelligent simulation, not to mention much-improved graphics and sound. We fell in love with it. Search the internet for Sim sites, and you'll never run out of new ones to look at.

So when plans for Sim City 3000 were announced well over a year ago, there was bound to be a stir. It would be in true, rendered 3-D, they said. Each building would be it's own microsimulation, there'd be little Sim-citizens wandering the streets, and it would be out for Christmas 1998.

Since I'm writing this new game review in February of 1999, you've probably figured out that not all went according to plan. Yes, 3000 is an improvement on 2000, but they've shied away from true 3-D to stick with a modified 2000 viewpoint, kept the simulation out of each individual gas station to free up processor time, and continuously pushed the deadline back till today.

But now, finally, I've got it, and let me say it is indeed worth the $40-50, if not the wait.

Farms!

Sim City 3000 has improved many, but not all, of the little peeves that 2000 players hated. For instance, it's no longer necessary to place power lines connecting to each individual building and the water system makes a heck of a lot more sense. You can not only build roads and rails to other cities, but make deals with them-need extra power? Buy some from West Haverford. Got extra landfill space? Charge Meltown $1000 a month to haul it away from them.

Ah, yes, garbage-probably the single biggest new addition to the game. Now, not only do you have to build police and fire stations, hospitals, schools, pipes and power plants, but you have to haul away garbage too. Believe it or not, it's a lot of fun.

You can see the people

There are new bonus buildings-awards and opportunities-which add to the little mayor's house and statue of 2000. Most of these can have a very profound impact on your city, and I'm still reasoning out just where to put the county courthouse and medical research lab.

You can now zoom down to near-street level and watch the little Sims walk by, and traffic of all different shapes and sizes-from busses to compact cars-travels around your city giving it a real life of its own.

Some of the problems with 2000's design, however, have not been addressed. You still can't build anything on hillsides, which often keeps your cities that much less realistic. It can still be a pain getting seaports and airports to develop correctly, and your advisors still tell you the exact opposite information at the same time. The hillsides thing really bugs me, but it's not that big of a deal in the long run-some of the features of 2000 that were cut out should not have been, though. Small creeks, for instance, are no longer possible and neither are waterfalls or hydroelectric dams. And you can no longer shape the land before you start building-you can change certain options, but in the end you're left with totally random terrain.

One change not touted by the promotional website is the maturity of the algorithms controlling city development; in 2000, small residential houses might be built smack in the center of your downtown if there's an extra little plot of land not big enough for an apartment building. Now, that space is much more likely to develop into a small park or gazebo or even an empty concrete lot. Neighborhoods look much more realistic with tree lawns and swimming pools (or rusted-out car lawns in less desirable areas). With a much larger selection of buildings to develop, the cities overall look great.

World Trade Towers

One confusing addition are so-called landmark buildings; there is now a set of famous buildings you can choose from (such as the Eiffel Tower or Washington Monument) and add to your city at no cost whatsoever. I'm not sure if they benefit anything in any way, but it just doesn't seem right. In a city with one police department and all of three houses, you can place the World Trade Center towers with impunity. Whose idea was that?

Earlier I said it's worth the money but not the wait. Yes, Sim City 3000 is a decided improvement over 2000 and well worth going and getting. But it's also not that many years ahead of its predecessor, and would have been out a lot earlier had the guys at Maxis not pursued the dream of 360 degree 3-D graphics and sound. This game, more or less, could have come out a year ago with many of the same improvements. Still, it's terribly addicting, even for those of us who thought they had played 2000 out in every way shape and form imaginable.

Buy Sim City 3000 and related books through the Shrub and Outpost

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