After 10 years, the popular simulation franchise is getting a much needed reboot and visual overhaul, once again allowing would-be mayors to play out all of their city planning fantasies. SimCity turns the malaise of politics into an enjoyable roller-coaster ride full of humorous takes inspired by real world city life.

SimCity is a prominent franchise in the gaming world, and the name alone builds hype, which is a good thing considering describing residential zoning and crime rates as a new game to today’s FPS generation would likely result in their eyes rolling back in their heads and losing consciousness.  This year’s E3 treated us with a lengthy preview of some of the new features of this city simulator, and SimCity has more to show off than mere good looks.

The main draw, and what the designers wanted to focus on, is multiplayer, which isn’t just a fun way to play with friends, but adds its own set of challenges and perks to the game. Using three players and three unique cities as an example, we learned how a player’s choices might affect neighboring cities. Say a player wants to make a lot of money, in this case they focus on mining in an area rich with coal reserves — the player will earn a lot of income, but they may not put energy into their citizens or their well-being, allowing crime to run rampant and making Sims eager to live outside of the city.

Sims living in neighboring cities will now have to commute to work each day, causing traffic jams, and the resulting crime due to lack of law enforcement will potentially spill out into other cities. An el camino full of thugs might just visit another city and rob its banks. Where are the police? At the donut shop next door to the station, of course. Never underestimate stereotypes when planning your city.

SimCity E3 2012 Impressions Industrial City Maxis Electronic Arts

Having friends play along isn’t always negative, however. In fact, it can be just the thing to get out of a jam. Running out of power and can’t afford another power plant? Borrow some power from a friend for a small fee (or large if they’re feeling a smidge evil). Players can also band together to collaborate on projects they might not be able to complete on their own.

Three players might want to build an international airport in the middle between the three cities. Each city would prosper from the influx of new Sims it would bring in. An industry focused city would gain a valuable new workforce, a tourism focused city would see more visitors, while another might want to reap the benefits of unlocking and accessing new things to build, which is done by meeting sets of requirements such as finishing large projects.

How players can build has changed in all of the best possible ways. The first and most visually obvious change is placing roads, which can now be curvy (a highly requested feature) — adding a sense of realism to cities that were often limited by blocky, square zoning. Speaking of realism, this city functions just like a real one. Gamers will watch in awe as their Sims drive to and from work, hit the clubs at night, come home, and start all over in the morning with routines they follow just going about their tiny lives. Maxis’ Glassbox engine is something to behold and we have barely even scratched the surface. Let’s hope that this glass is unbreakable.

SimCity E3 2012 Impressions Curvy Roads Maxis Electronic Arts

Just looks at those curves.

SimCity was always an immersive, and addicting, experience, but this new title will take what gamers remember and amplify it tenfold. This new generation of city simulation will add a lot of new things to the franchise, while still maintaining the spirit of the original — packing plenty of the little touches and hidden gags that make SimCity such a freakin’ delight.

SimCity will be released for the PC in February, 2013

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