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Posted on May 8, 2006 in Electronic Games, Front Page Features

City Life – Recon (PC)

Armchair General

OK, so enough of the theory, what’s it really like to play? Well, having eschewed the option of building in a canyon or on mountains (seriously, who’s ever going to decide to do that?) I opted for the super-easy option of building in a lovely temperate zone on some nice flat land. If I were completely insane and/or masochistic, I could have built on swampland had I wanted, but deeply ingrained mental images of sinking castles meant that the huge tracts of land were ultimately more appealing – boring perhaps, but safe. There was a bit of a shocking moment when I was informed I had to buy my first plot of land since Sim City normally gives you land for free, but I soldiered on (like a real city planner, any expansion to your city has to be paid for with land purchases before you can even think of laying the first brick).

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cl1.jpg
Some day, all this could be yours…

Laying zones and building roads is essentially the same as similar titles in this genre, the art of course is in zoning correctly so that the different social groups don’t end up brawling in the streets – and this is harder than you might think. Aside from the fact that you don’t have any fine control of who is initially attracted to your city, you don’t even get the option to install any kind of education facilities or Police stations until a critical mass of people is reached. This is particularly unhelpful when dreaded red messages flash at you warning of an impending riot or that no-one is able to advance up the social ladder, but I suppose it does at least prevent you from over-reaching yourself in an enthusiastic frenzy too early in the game by installing one of everything. In fact, every type of building needs to be unlocked as you progress through the game.

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Yeah, it’s cool, he’s sat there reading the paper, but it also means he’s
unemployed, alas however, I can’t afford to build any more businesses for
him right now…

Having established the basics, I pondered on how far down the zoom level would go. There’s nothing quite like mixing it with the people under your control, but alas, similar titles stop rather disappointingly short of allowing you to get any more than a general impression of what it might be like to be at ground level. Imagine my delight then when I pushed the scroll wheel on the mouse as far as it would go and found myself actually "in" my city, and able to walk the streets like one of the residents. This is a really great feature.

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Actually walking through your city adds immeasurably to the experience

City Life looks great, with some lovely little details such as advertising hoardings covering construction sites and overflowing dumpsters on roadsides (or maybe that was just me…). But, the in-game music is annoying as hell and was switched off after about ten seconds of game play. Seriously, there are more humane methods of torture…

cl5.jpg
I felt a certain amount of pride to see my first high-rise
apartment block spring from the plain

In summary, City Life looks like an exciting addition to the city management genre, and I look forward to many wasted hours proudly wandering around my pristine streets. Well, until some Wargamers find a way of integrating combat features into the game anyway and it all gets trashed…

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