SimCity preview

QUICKTAKE: EA and Maxis revive the long dormant SimCity franchise and debut the new GlassBox engine. In addition to sprinkling in new features, the new SimCity allows friends to build neighboring cities. Friends can collaborate to make their cities better--or make their world worse.

THE DEMO: Public demo attendees watched as one of the EA reps constructed various parts of his city from scratch. Three other EA reps were building their cities simultaneously, leading to a collaboration on an international airport. New features included Sims (complete with Sim voices), day/night cycles, and the long-awaited addition of curvy roads.

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DETAILS: Many of the city simulation mechanics from previous games return with a modern coat of paint. Building residential neighborhoods is still a big part of the game, but players can now watch as moving vans and Sims migrate towards their town. As the city grows, Sims will live out their daily routines in full. Each Sim will have their own home, personal favorite shop, and place to work.

After building a residential and commercial neighborhood, it was time to build an industrial zone. The EA rep built the industrial district away from residential areas, where pollution effects would be minimal. Factories can be built to attract workers and can also be switched to serve different functions in order to to suit the city’s needs.

SimCity offers up a large world to play with, to help accommodate the game's new multiplayer feature. Friends that are building their own metropolises can interact with one another. For example, one friend can build power lines to a neighboring city to help supply them with power. Friends can also contribute all of their workers towards a common. In this case, all of the EA reps banded together to build an international airport. Each player donated workers to the project, which would in turn benefit all of them by bringing in new tourists.

Crime can be a concern in the new SimCity, which the EA rep demonstrated by building his town with little police presence. The GlassBox engine shined in this case, with graffiti and broken windows starting to litter the city. The demonstration peaked with a real-time bank robbery. Hooligans held up the bank with little trouble and made a clean getaway. The EA rep noted that these events can still happen with police in the area, but the odds of the police foiling the crime increase.

SimCity looks to be an enjoyable addition to the franchise, thanks to its updated visuals, multiplayer features, and subtle tweaks, like curved roads (something the EA rep noted was a long-requested feature). SimCity will arrive on PC in February 2013.