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Cities XL PC Review - -

Gameplay 6.5
Graphics 7.0
Sound 6.0
Value 6.6
Distributor: Namco Bandai
Review Date:
October 2009
Kyle Sudukis


Cities XL

Although I grew up with Sim City and various Empire Building games, I had big expectations for Cities XL and I honestly tried to like the game. Unfortunately from the get go, I was riddled with a rough gaming experience and whether it was Monte Cristo's attempt to create something bigger and better than its predecessors, something was severely missing.

At it's core, the game is a city builder that allows the player to micromanage their city, whether it's a realistic endeavor or something more akin to fantasy, the player is only limited by their imagination. The game can be played in single-player, however Monte Cristo have created an online virtual globe which allows players to join their cities with others which sounds brilliant on paper. More about this later though.

The first hurdle I encountered was the installation process which did not allow me to install the program in the background. Once I figured out that switching between windows was bad, I let the installer do its job and when I came back, the installation was almost completed.

Before you can play the game, you need to register the game and create an online account. Although a relatively easy process, it did not let me play until I downloaded several large patches. Once the patches were downloaded and installed, I was finally able to enter the game. Although the box states that online activation is required, games should work straight away without installing a patch of 100 meg or more.

Once I was in the game, I had to create my avatar which will also be the Mayor of your city and boy are there some ugly looking people in this game. Although the customisation options are quite in-depth, creating your perfect avatar is a frustrating and time consuming process and in the end, I finally picked a random avatar who looked like something out of a horror movie.

Funny enough, the random avatar before mine actually looked like Michael Jackson which is spooky enough. Avatar created? check! The next option was to engage in the lengthy tutorial process which teaches you more than just the basics of good city management.

Tutorials aside, Cities XL uses the traditional Sim City archetype created by Maxis those so many years ago, however if you're familiar with City Life, than jumping straight into this game should be no issue at all.

The amount of control over your cities easily surpasses anything out there at the moment as you need to create, roads, industry, buildings, hospitals, entertainment and just about everything and anything to do with a city has. You also need to ensure that your cities have adequate resources such as power plants and police stations plus other amenities.

Zoning plays a key part to city development and you really need to think about your layouts to not only ensure a happy and healthy city but ensure that transport does not become an issue. Another key concept of the game is the different "casts" of citizens that your city has from unqualified workers to executive worker that must be taking into consideration when planning and expanding your cities.

Economy and money also plays a strong role in Cities XL and you need to watch your economy carefully to ensure that profit and citizen satisfaction goes hand in hand. Your citizens will make requests of the Mayor which need to be managed before something breaks out.

The single-player mode contains a plethora of cities that you must create and are located in five different regions, each with their pros and cons such as cities by rivers or cities surrounded by woodland. As you do progress, you will soon discover that everything is available to the player from the get go and your dream cities are only limited by your imagination.

For fans of this genre, watching your cities grow and expand however is more than enough reward and this is easily the most realistic city building game to date. However unfortunately this becomes a little lacklustre as you progress because once you have successfully established your dream city, there's really not much more to do.

What Monte Cristo are using for hook, line and sinker is the multiplayer mode, more specifically MMO that allows gamers to create their own cities via the Planet mode. The game does come with a 7-day free subscription and if you're keen, you can pay a monthly subscription where you can build up to five cities on this online planet.

Where the online mode fails is the lack of interactivity or communication between your cities and your neighbours. Although the cool aspect of Cities XL online is the ability to trade resources and if you manage to find a boom of resources, your city might be quite a rich place. If the cities had more connectivity between them, this would have been a blast, however everyone is neatly divided by invisible borders.

Graphically, the game is quite detailed and features some interesting effects such as water and lighting, however even at the highest resolution, the cities look too perfect. The game makes good use of lighting, especially as it moves from day to night. At times your city is seems to be busy with people, vehicles and you can even explore the world with your creepy avatar.

It's almost like a Twilight Zone episode as everything is a little too perfect and you're waiting for those zombies or aliens to strike. The soundtrack of the game is also reminiscent of Maxis games and just quietly plays in the background and with the perfect city, the city is also ghostly silent. I still can't get over those creepy looking avatars or Cities XL people out of my head, wow... scary!

Kudos for Monte Cristo for aiming high, however unfortunately they missed that elusive mark with their latest city building game. It does feature some cool micromanagement and even some online features, however it feels like this game should have been something more. The replay value is also limiting when you've created your dream city and the online mode is lacking that true connectedness between players. With that said, it doesn't really offer the city building genre anything new besides creepy looking avatars, ghost towns and a really frustrating installation process that requires online activation.



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