Tropico 4 Review (Xbox 360)

Game Review: Tropico 4
Release: October 18, 2011
Genre: City Management/Building Simulation
Developer: Kalypso Entertainment/FX Interactive
Available Platforms: Xbox 360, PC
Players: 1
MSRP: $49.99
ESRB Rating: T for Teen 
Website: Tropico 4 Official Site

El General Crusty was one of the most revered leaders that la great isla de Tropico had ever seen. He ruled with an iron fist but would graciously use only open handed slaps to help “inspire” his people to do better. He was a grower of sugar cane and a great exporter of the world’s finest rums but still saved a couple acres to grow food for his people’s daily rations. Under his rule, shanty housing was not viewed as a last avenue for the poor but instead was re-categorized as eco-friendly and a return to nature. His closed door policy was never meant to alienate his population but instead fostered a thicker skin that carried them through the public shootings, rioting, famine, earthquakes, civil war, poor labor conditions, and terrible political speeches. He was not the man we chose to lead, but you can’t really say no to a man backed by an army of hundreds.

That was one of the many poor regimes I created while playing Tropico 4 for Xbox 360. The game gives you full control of an island paradise and it is up to you on whether you’ll be a benevolent leader sent to rise your nation to new heights or a malevolent dictator bent on total domination. Tropico 4 gives you a variety of buildings  to utilize as you shape your country’s destiny and you choose how each one is placed. It is up to you on how you plot out the density of Government, Tourist, Housing, Infrastructure, and other buildings across your tropical paradise. While doing so, you will also need to keep in mind how each building interacts with those around it and the necessities needed to properly reap each respective building’s benefits.

Layered upon the city planning aspect of the game is a very intricate but easy to understand economic system that is based on industry, importing/exporting, financial aid from other countries, and internal government edicts. Any routes you take have both positive and negative aspects and will force you to make definitive decisions on what your nation’s focus will be. Will you focus on industry regardless of what the pollution will do to the environment? Or will you choose to take some extra time to better distribute production to ease the environment impact on your gorgeous island’s ecology?  These decisions will dictate exactly how your society progresses and whether or not your people praise or vilify your leadership.

The campaign within Tropico 4 will pose you with various scenarios that will force you to take on specific play styles to overcome what the game throws your way. You will be faced with simple goals at first but the game will slowly layer new challenges which can include natural disasters, civil wars, and even foreign espionage. During each campaign there are also random occurrences that can slow down your production, cause food shortages, and even take out whole neighborhoods in a blink of an eye. Along the way you will also receive random challenges to keep you busy as you work your way towards the ultimate goal within each scenario. Completing these goals will often result in better relations with your people, rises in your country’s income, or provide a distinct advantage within the game.

Tropico 4 does have a slick control scheme that tries its best to circumvent the limitations of the 360 controller while still remaining simple enough for anyone that picks up the game. While not perfect, it does simplify your choices with a radial menu that relies on your analog stick to choose what you want to build next. The ability to zoom into the action is essential when building some of the more intricate parts of your cities as failure to do so can lead to accidental placement of buildings and city features that will cost money and time to demolish. The inclusion of a quick travel system for pressing matters is a godsend as many cities can be spread over miles of property and you will be forced to go back to specific buildings to patch up any situations that may be occurring.

One of the things that immediately struck me about the game was the presentation. Without a doubt, Tropico 4 takes the Caribbean theme and infuses every inch of the game with my heritage. Being of Puerto Rican, I was truly digging the Latin tunes played throughout the game but I also recognized specific artists and music types. The semi-cartoon-y presentation also allowed for a tutorial that was equal parts informative and entertaining without bogging down the player with too many terms. The wide mix of choices and scenarios mixed with the game’s personality add much needed variety into a genre that is sometimes marred by stagnant gameplay. I don’t know how many time’s I’ve played a SimCity or Civilization game only to put it down after a few rounds because of the repetition.

The limitations of the Xbox 360’s control scheme did become apparent as I was forced to juggle multiple crises in the game’s later levels. While not an abject failure on its part, it can be quite frustrating when you know what you want to do but are restricted by the restrictions inherent to the 360. These restrictions coupled with the high difficulty found later in the game create scenarios where you’re hamstrung into fail-states that aren’t of your own doing. Another unfortunate drawback to the game is how little it does differently than its predecessors. Sure there’s been some tweeks to the gameplay but when it comes down to it, if you’ve played Tropico 3 then you already have a very good idea of what this game has to offer.

I wish I had more space to rave about how much I absolutely loved Tropico 4. Without a doubt it was one of the best city planning simulation games that is currently out on any platform. While some other games may offer a more in depth experiences, Tropico 4 offers you a unique look into what it’s like to raise a nation to new heights, or use your power to fill your satisfy your own advancement as a force to be reckoned with. The game also offers you to create rulers that have unique backgrounds that you can level up as you please which gives even more personality to the overall experience. When it comes down to it, Tropico 4 provides you with a varied campaign that can last for dozens of hours and includes a sandbox mode that will allow you to play out your own scenarios to your heart’s desire.

+Great Carribean atmosphere
+Variety in gameplay breaks up monotony of city building
+Consistent sense of humor throughout the game
-Restrictive control system hamstrung by Xbox 360 controller
-Not much of an improvement from Tropico 3

Final Score: 8 Out Of 10

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