Here we go again: Traffic jams, rogue robot invasions and nuclear disasters are all out to shake up your utopian society.

“SimCity 4” looks prettier, takes over three times more hard drive space than its predecessor and requires state-of-the-art video drivers to make use of its incredible graphics, but Electronic Arts and Maxis Entertainment have put so much glitz on it that they’ve unfortunately transformed the game’s genre itself from simulation to strategy. The interface of “SimCity 4” has been completely upgraded from simple point-and-click buttons to an intricate maze of buttons, dials and rigs that must be used to build your city. Even after your metropolis is built, there is little you can control; gamers simply sit back and watch pedestrians walk back and forth across the streets.

“SimCity 4″‘s big change would be its focus on regional playing, where gamers build entire maps of cities, and each individual city can economically interact with one another. In other words, instead of yawning through the building of one city, players have the opportunity to doze off while building thirty more. While “SimCity 4” still has the addictive flair of the original “SimCity” released in 1989, it has become apparent that EA and Maxis have run out of ideas to make the series an ever evolving one.

The music, however, is surprisingly good including some beautiful mixes of both techno and classical and a few opera-like vocals. The background music is so well done that EA and Maxis could have definitely released it as an audio CD.

In the end, is “SimCity 4” worth the buy? If you’re looking to play another “SimCity” title that looks pretty, then go for it, but if you’re “Simmed out” for the time being, save your money for another title.

1 1/2 Stars

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