As far as city-building games go, City Life has been the best replacement for the SimCity series. After SimCity Societies shook up the series’ core gameplay foundations (mostly for the worse), City Life stands as the only modern city-builder that lets you cultivate barren expanses into urban, populated cities or throw yourself into the middle of scenarios that require your hand in saving cities from dissolving away into rural wastelands. With Monte Cristo’s latest entry, City Life 2008 Edition adds new buildings to build and new scenarios to take part in. It’s the definitive version of City Life, but it’s also devoid of features that change anything, which makes City Life 2008 Edition a purchase for newcomers only.
If you’ve played a City Life game before, City Life 2008 Edition is exactly like the City Lifes before it. That’s the main problem with City Life 2008 Edition; it’s hard to justify 2008 Edition’s existence for veterans. It doesn’t introduce anything dramatically new for the franchise. It just adds sixty buildings, new scenarios, and maps rather than adding new gameplay wrinkles into the core framework.
For the City Life veteran, there really isn’t much to say at this point other than download the 2008 Content Update Pack located at City Life’s official site, because it’s absolutely free for owners of the retail version of City Life and it contains everything the 2008 Edition contains. For the newcomer, who hasn’t owned or played a single City Life game, 2008 Edition is for you.
City Life 2008 Edition puts you in the role of mayor and it’s up to you to develop the residential, commercial and industrial sections of your city, so it grows and prospers. It’s a daunting task for sure, but it’s also an alluring and addicting one. The satisfaction of watching your city develop and turn into a massive metropolis is a rewarding and visually attractive process, which is key for city-builders.
For someone who hasn’t touched a City Life game, there’s a lot to see. You’ll start off small, setting residential lots for your citizens, developing the commercial and industrial aspects for jobs and a revenue stream and then eventually moving onto a sprawling city. Taking care of medial, security, educational, and leisure aspects of your city is key for the happiness of your people and balancing everything – all while keeping your finances out of the red – is what the game’s about. You can also try scenarios with objectives and requirements to meet if you like, but sandbox mode is where most time will be sunk.
As much as City Life 2008 Edition borrows concepts and gameplay features from previous SimCity games (before SimCity Societies), it does enough to differentiate itself. For one, handling finances is strangely simple. Building buildings that generate revenue will generate revenue (ex. power structures) and building buildings that don’t (police buildings, medical facilities) won’t. It’s way too simple, and while it streamlines finances, it doesn’t let more hands-on players really tweak taxes and the general economy the way they want.
However, unlike Monte Cristo’s take on finances, the execution of classes is well-done and it’s what makes the City Life franchise unique compared to its competition. Six classes – elites, suits, blue collars, have-nots, fringes, radical chics – inhabit City Life’s cities and while a certain class can be next-door neighbors with other certain classes, some classes downright despise the other. For example, elites despise have-nots and vice-versa, while elites can tolerate radical chics and suits. It’s a fun dynamic and having to separate classes from one another puts a nice twist as to where you build certain structures, because commercial buildings provide jobs for a certain classes and leisure structures provide R&R for only certain classes. Not separating classes might result in riots and loads of economic troubles onto your city, so it’s a core gameplay feature of City Life. It’s what makes City Life standout and that’s no except for 2008 Edition.
Graphically, it’s good. The game uses a 3-D engine, which lets you zoom into nitty gritties of your city. It’s nice to take get a close-up and personal view, but it also exposes a lot of technical drawbacks. Low-resolution textures and blocky NPCs and vehicles become evident, but since you’re going to play the game in a zoomed out, isometric perspective, it’s not that big of a problem. Generally, the game is decent to look at, and while it won’t consistently impress, it certainly won’t offend the eyes.
Audio is a slightly different story. The music repeats. What’s there is very good, but listening to the same tracks over and over again starts to get grating. It also overpowers any ambient sounds, but therein lies another problem; there isn’t a lot in terms of ambient city sounds. There’s odd, disturbing silence once you turn off the music, but once you turn on the music, it starts to, again, get grating.
City Life 2008 Edition isn’t much of upgrade, and that fact seems evident to Monte Cristo, since they’re giving it away for free on their City Life website, if you own a retail copy of the original. For any newcomer wanting get in on suitable replacement for SimCity, or just wanting a solid city-builder, 2008 Edition is worth a purchase. It’s fun, addicting, and satisfying, but nothing about 2008 Edition makes it a substantial update or upgrade.