SimCopter (Windows)

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100 point score based on reviews from various critics.
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Written by  :  WildKard (12987)
Written on  :  Sep 21, 2003
Rating  :  3.8 Stars3.8 Stars3.8 Stars3.8 Stars3.8 Stars

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Great Game. Poor Graphics.

The Good

This game is pretty amazing. The formula is simple. Take one SimCity 2000 city, make it into 3D and give the player the ability to fly around in it and then make it all "come to life" with people, traffic, radio stations, boats and airplanes that seamlessly integrate into the "city" feeling. All those gifts from SimCity 2000 show up too... the Mayor's House, the Arcologies (huge!), the Llama Dome... it's all here. And you don't need to view all this in daytime flight either, at the touch of a hotkey, you can be flying in the darker nighttime, where the city shines out.

As for the game itself, you play as an helicopter pilot under the city's employ. You fly around (or land and wait to save fuel ;) waiting for the city you're in to have some kind of emergency and then respond to the emergency ASAP for experience and $$$, having to land at the airport occasionally for repairs and refueling. Experience allows you to progress in campaign mode, and may activate more difficult emergencies in free flight mode. Accumulation of $$$ will allow you to buy additional rescue equipment for your helicopter (5 in all) as well as more advanced helicopters themselves which can handle better, achieve faster speeds and carry more passengers, depending on the model. Emergencies are varied... from a daring rooftop rescue to a simple traffic jam. From chasing down wanted criminals (by directing police cars to their location and/or carrying a police officer on board) to transporting individual Sims for medical attention (by directing an ambulance and/or carrying a doctor on board). From Taxi missions carrying VIPs to putting out fires (by directing fire dispatch to the proper location and/or carrying water in a bucket to drop on a fire or shooting it from a forward water hose). There's a lot of diversity in the old sim city and lots to do.

Additionally, persons aboard your helicopter respond negatively to excessive speed and G-Force. Quite simply, healthy passengers get sick and medical passengers get... well, their life signs grow more and more weak. Finally, Maxis has given SimCopter 5 radio stations including commercials to listen to on board your flight (with additional songs easily added by dropping them to the radio folders... WAV data only) and you can even choose your own movies (specific format of AVI) to play on the Drive-Ins. And it's not even all about Helicopters. You can get out of your helicopter at any time and go for a walk (or more likely, walk to an inaccessible-by-air area to rescue some injured person).

A lot of things happen in the old SimCity, many at once. It's quite often that you have to prioritize your missions to take care of the most life-threatening first. Letting Sims die or buildings burn down carries penalties to your money and your score.

The Bad

This game was created in 1996, the dawn of the 3D era. Unfortunately it has some fairly ugly 3D itself and does not support 3D acceleration (untrue... a patch from maxis does support Direct3D, but it's not done well and removes your cockpit HUD). For a game about flying, this game features some of the ugliest sky ever seen in a video game. The sky is a low-resolution texture which is placed "too high", directly above the city (i.e. 12 o'clock). What that means is that unless you're playing with the view controls to an obscure angle, you can't actually SEE this sky texture and so most of SimCity looks like it's perpetually stuck in a gray fog (daytime) or a starless nigh (nighttime). Continuing to bash the graphics, most "lights" that you see in the distance are block graphics... which means when a streetlight switches from red to green, you'll see one square block stop and another begin. Objects farther away tend to show off with bigger blocks.

The Sims in the city themselves are made up of a couple of polygons blocks which make every citizen of the city look like some kind of lego person. Additionally, it is all too easy for people (including your pilot character) to get stuck clipping inside of a building or simply end up in a place that is impossible to get to (a small roof for example). The AI for Sims is pretty stupid and will continually walk various Sims types into buildings while try to find the 'best route' to a location.

Also, due to limitations, emergency vehicles (ambulance, fire dept, police dept) can not access highways... which makes any "well thought out city" that uses them a pain to coordinate.... you must have an ample supply of roads. On the other hand, if one wanted to create a more difficult level, creating a SimCity with little to no road usage will do the trick. You'll be on your own.

Also Arcologies are a pain to fly around/over/near (and are the largest structures in the game)... but that's not a bad thing about this game, rather just a reason for a SimCity creator not to use too many =)

The Bottom Line

This is one of my favorite games. Quite simply it's a lot of fun despite it's flaws (which are mostly graphical in nature). Rushing from one emergency to another gets the adrenaline pumping! It's fun as a stand-alone game, but even better if you've worked on SimCity2000 cities and care about what happens to them.