Game Rant’s William Case reviews Tropico 4
There are just some days when a person wakes up and just wants to rule - which is the name of the game in Kalypso Media’s latest iteration on city building simulation (available for the Xbox 360). While Tropico 4’s PC version has the upper hand on “interface ease,” the surprising enjoyment that comes from developing and maintaining an economic goldmine is hard to ignore. That is, if that’s the sort of thing you’re in to.
Tropico 4 throws players into the mix by tasking them with creating and sustaining an island paradise. Spread over 20-campaign missions, the goals and objectives come hard and fast — on top of negotiating with internal and external factions — giving players plenty to stay occupied. Problems such as health care, pollution, food, and housing are all on the day-to-day checklist - along with additional curveballs like natural disasters and illegal immigration.
Blending these needs and staying attentive enough to focus on all of them at once is what makes Tropico 4 worth playing over and over: it’s a constant game of adaptation and management.
Where a game like the popular Civilization V holds a similar vein of “build till you’re the best,” the key difference is that each campaign level gives you the freedom to aim towards the major objectives - while working with the randomized (and often welcomed) secondary objectives.
To do that, players will have to depend on a well-devised toolbox - to not only micro-manage but perfect their territory. From building foundations to educational prowess, whosoever decides to build will have to dig in deep. Starting any excursion, players will begin by laying down building and road foundations, while giving their citizens cues: should the little sprites worry more about construction and economic maladies or education and import/export.
However, that’s just one small piece, as developing a ministry to help in the many day-to-day functions and fine-tuning the behaviors of your civilians is equally important. Finding the right patterns between your ministry and islanders is the difference between a migraine and bonus points. Plus, once a player starts to tweak things like job salaries, import models, resource dependencies, and everything in between, it brings a level of sophistication that other city-building simulations haven’t had the opportunity to explore.
Unfortunately, going through all of these options with just the 360 D-pad is where the problems start for the game. Creating more of a chore than a choice, it’s nearly impossible to find something that is going to have the same expandable read-through as its PC counterpart. The same is said as the player goes through the mounds of Almanac entries, user reports, and other useful tidbits. What’s worse is that the massive amount of information that comes up can slow down the Xbox 360 - and cause periods of stuttering (even when installed).
Which is odd, considering how each level is beautifully rendered and can handle even the largest and most robust custom maps thrown at it. There are moments where the game decides to catch a breath and not completely fill in every tree or rock - instead focusing on making sure that overall lighting and shadow effects are pristine.
That said, there was an issue with Tropico 4’s audio - where a bug would cause the music to freeze and fall into silence after 20 to 30 minutes (or worse, a complete game freeze entirely). Installing the game to the hard drive apparently mitigated the problem, yet Kalypso hasn’t said whether the issue is prevalent in the final retail copies of the game - or whether they intended to offer-up a quick post-release patch.
At least the bug didn’t affect the solid voice acting and character talent that players will experience throughout the game. From tutorial to final campaign, the added voices and snide comments really help bring the game around. However, there is an occasional lag between extended comments and the controller responding, but again installing onto the hard drive seemed to solve the issue.
All in all, Tropico 4 does a great job of delivering an immersive and expansive city-building sim to the Xbox 360 console. There’s plenty to do and for the person that enjoys to micro-manage even the tiniest of moments. There will be hang-ups from time to time (not including the audio discrepancies) - but, for the most part, the game is a solid offering for fans of the genre.