gamescom 2012: Sim City Hands On Preview
I’m a big fan of Sim City – that’s no secret I know, but I’m also very cautious around it. Will it be some watered down version of a game we used to know or will it stray to far from its roots and become something a little too different? Every time I’ve seen it previously this year has been just that: “seen”, looked at and not played with, so when I was given the opportunity to finally go hands-on at gamescom I leapt at the chance.
I took with me another of the site’s Sim City fans in the shape of Ryan for our quick 20 minute playthrough. The first tick on my list was the visuals; Sim City looks exactly like it does in all those trailers. All the buildings, vehicles and people look tiny while detailed from the zoomed out god-like perspective. With a quick scroll of the mouse wheel, however, you’re there pretty much at street level watching the workmen build homes and mothers walking their children to school.
Our short twenty minute demo acted as a bit of a tutorial, with us first being tasked to connect our sleepy little town to the interstate highway allowing new residents to move in – bringing with them a need for new industrial and commercial zones. Hang on, we need some power to run all these new homes and businesses… so as a quick fix we turn on an old disused coal plant. My little town is now up and running.
There’s a few other things need to take care of though in order to make people want to live here; simple things like running water and a sewerage system. This is where Sim City changes slightly to what we are used to. Previously you’d find yourself running a whole mess of pipes all under your town trying to cover everything with a blue hue ensuring they have water – now this isn’t the case. You do still need to make sure all your zones have coverage but now all that pipework is handled by the road network you’ve laid out. In fact, in this demo any road you lay down acts as the conduit for units such as power, sewerage and water.
After the basics had been taught I was given pretty much free reign over my town with the aim of growing the population and increasing revenue, so it was time to get the zones expanded. As ever with Sim City you need to be careful what you are putting where; nobody is going to want to live next to a polluting factory after all so I opted for dividing up the residential and industrial zones with a healthy wedge of commercial. Laying out your zones is simple enough, requiring nothing more from you than a drag of the mouse next to a road then just sit back and relax as your newly founded zone springs to life with workmen and moving vans.
Then, just as I started laying down some police stations, bus stops and parks to improve my town encouraging people to move in disaster struck – the screen darkens as klaxons sound and boom! A meteor hits town, then another and another. My town… my beautiful little town! I wasn’t ready to start knocking it down yet but there was nothing I could do; my short but sweet twenty minutes was up and I just had to stand and watch as it was laid to waste and fires spread across town.
Sim City is exactly what I wanted it to be, sure there are a few changes to make it that little bit more accessible but I wouldn’t describe it as dumbed down. The depth, fun and lost hours are all still there which was always what Sim City was about.