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Tropico 3 GamesCom 2009 Preview

The basis of Tropico 3 is formed around the role of "El Presidente", whereby the player rules a lush and resource-rich island during the Cold War era, with an amusing layer of tongue-in-cheek humour throughout. The level of depth to the gameplay and the detail of the graphics are both equally impressive, with this being the most advanced game of its type on the Xbox 360. Tropico 3 is comparable in style to SimCity, but the differences between the two are in favour of the former.

Tropico 3

The player starts by either selecting a pre-made tyrant or creating their own dictator avatar, choosing gender, appearance, qualities and flaws. You are then whisked away to your tropical paradise, given a presidential palace, a few workers and a dock. Money is made in lump sums by collecting various resources, such as through agriculture and mining, which are then exported abroad via the abovementioned dock. Cash can also be generated by way of attracting tourists to the island or there are shady deals you may wish to partake in.

It isn't all plain sailing though; this island is full of workers, residents and tourists who all need to be kept in check to make sure they don't dare start a protest or even a revolution. Happiness levels are primarily improved via conventional factors such as providing power and reducing pollution and unemployment, though your dictator can influence problems by performing public speeches or introducing edicts such as martial law and arranged papal visits to name just two. Relations with the US and USSR will also need monitoring, though each superpower has its own interests in your country. They will provide you with additional funds should you play nice but may blockade your vital port with warships should you irritate them.

Tropico 3

There is a tutorial to get you into the swing of how to be an efficient totalitarian which is followed by 15 missions to progress through, each with individual goals and targets to reach. Or, alternatively, there is the main attraction: a randomly generated never-ending sandbox mode which is set-up to meet your needs, where the sole aim is to grow your banana republic island into a thriving and unique city. This mode was surprisingly addictive to play, and I can see many hours being poured into keeping things ticking over while trying to continually expand.

The new 3D visuals of Tropico 3 demonstrates a vivid and impressive level of detail - the environmental setting looks calm and lush, while each of the 80 buildings are so varied and detailed that every city will look lovingly different to one another. Every resident of the populace can be seen going about their daily business on the streets and each can be selected to see their individual statistics and wants, with several interactive options - such as assassinations and bribes - available should the need arise.

Tropico 3

Day and night cycles, dynamic weather and god ray lighting all make this a pretty paradise. The Xbox 360 version, though not as sharp as the PC, still looked smooth and impressive, and we are promised that low specification PCs from years ago will be able to at least run the game. Two online features to speak of are high-score leaderboards and the ability to upload and play other player's islands, both of which should provide a continued reason to play. The PC version will also benefit from a challenge editor.

From my play-test I was able to pick up the controls fairly easily, and the various menus were well integrated into both PC and Xbox 360 control systems. The ability to force your island's citizens into doing something they may not initially want to provides a strangely satisfying and efficient gameplay style. I am unable to ascertain how well balanced and overwhelming Tropico 3 is going to be without a longer play-test, but this alternate take on city building has the potential to be more enjoyable and accessible than the older in-depth SimCity generation. With the recent SimCity titles faltering, Tropico 3 may not have to bribe or assassinate its way to triumph; only time will tell how successful and long-lasting Tropico 3 will be, but with a September 2009 release date, we won't have long to find out.

POBmaestro | 23rd August, 2009

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