Fidel Castro, he’s a very misunderstood man. He’s not exactly a Stalin, Chair Mao or Hitler, but he’s certainly no Clinton, Thatcher or Sarkozy either. Yet, this communist revolutionary is clearly has more than just a thought in Tropico 4, where the aim of the game is to govern and develop a small set of islands as a dictator.
It’s not every day that a small Caribbean island goes from being a backwater island where the population is only 50 or so with no electric to becoming a super power. Yet, this is exactly the sort of thing that Presidenté manages to do, on multiple islands in the Tropico region. Playing as Presidenté the ruler of a small set of islands it’s only natural to create an Avatar that represents that sort of presidency that’s about to occur. Of course, the ability to be unique exists and things like personality can range from couch potato to superstar but there’s also a number of characters who are inspired from real life dictators.
Once the style and personality of Presidenté has been created, each of which will impact everything on the island, it’s time to actually understand how to play this PC to Xbox 360 game. Tropico 4 is a simulation cross city building game and there are few cases where a sim game plays better on a console than on a PC. After all, the simulation and RTS genres are designed for and around a mouse and keyboard. Yet, Tropico 4 plays easily on the Xbox 360 with little challenge. Naturally, there are some functionality challenges and it does take a little bit of time to work out the layout of the buttons. By default a map and general status of the country as a whole is displayed on the screen at all times. Yet, when developing an economy it’s important to understand imports, exports, what the general peasantry want, need, and let’s not forget foreign aid. This is all displayed in the Almanac, which is hidden away behind a few taps of the controller; yet, to build a farm, it’s an entirely different place.
To try to solve this challenge, Tropico 4 has an exhaustive four level Tutorial Mode, which teaches the player almost everything they need to know. From how to develop a small island, to dealing with the rebel scum who will organise coup d’état and this is all wisdom handed down to you by your old pal, Generalisimo.
The bulk of the game is made up by the Campaign Mode, which is 21 levels long and whilst it’s learning curve is fairly steep, it’s a very satisfying experience. Text and sporadic voice acting at the start of each campaign detail the main aim of the level. Throughout each island, there are further challenges; which range from getting one million followers on Twitter to ordering an execution of a criminal. Of course, these little extras are a great way of keeping the game fresh, but the main aim is to try and keep your populace from not only revolting and removing you from power but also to ensure that money is being made.
Making money is always the aim of the game, with very few exceptions, being in the black is the only way for an economy to flourish and each island that’s under the Presidenté’s rule will develop in a variety of ways. After all, this is the Caribbean so Tourism is always a big thing, but farms, industry and being a weaponised country can and will make a difference to the prosperity of the islands. However, with each decision comes and consequence and this is keeping the various political factions happy, the Environmentalists aren’t going to be happy with nuclear power; yet, the Nationalists aren’t going to be happy with souring immigration levels. It’s a fine line and whilst being an evil dictator sounds fun, this multi-layered game only goes to show how truly complicated being maniacal can be.
Whilst making money is important, the look and feel of the game is just as vital. Whilst on the PC Tropico 4 looks considerably better, if your setup is powerful enough to handle it, the Xbox 360 version handles the size of each level and the detail of the surroundings, buildings and characters with ease. There was no real slow down to see and even when zooming in and out at pace, the gameplay was smooth and the levels remained looking unchanged. Even when surveying the islands at large, the scurrying of the general populace can be seen and boats, cars, blimps and even planes make themselves known in pleasing ways. Not forgetting the various natural disasters, such as oil spills or hurricanes that destroy the island and look gorgeous in the process.
Musically, Tropico 4 feels like a cross between old Latin American music and Nando’s. Whether or not this was the feel that the developers were going for is unknown, but considering the islands are set in the Caribbean, which isn’t too far from Latin America and many islands used to be Spanish and Portuguese owned it’s probably safe to say that it’s intentional. Either way, the music is relaxing, up beat and adds an enjoyable extra dimension to the game.
Tropico 4 is an enjoyable, multi-layered sim game and will suck many hours of your life away and transplant it into a 1950s Caribbean island. Whilst the difficulty curve is a challenging and the controls take a few plays to master, Tropico 4 is a must have for all sim cross city building games.