The difference between Tropico 4 and Tropico 3 is similar to the difference in yearly sporting updates – the graphics have been improved, the presentation has been tinkered with and there are a few new inclusions, but it’s still the same game underneath. We could have decorated this page with screenshots from Tropico 3 and we doubt even the developers would have noticed.
It’s lot more accessible this time round though, and that’s what counts. A series of optional tutorials gently guide you into ruling your own ‘banana republic’ from building farms and the like to checking on the welfare and demands of your citizens. Speaking of demands, there are a lot more randomly appearing challenges, natural disasters and favours from other countries to consider. These help to grab your attention from the off, which makes the whole thing a lot more engaging than before.
The initial bunch of challenges are pretty easy – export a certain amount of products, and so forth, and provide a steady flow of cash for the more exuberant purchases. Later though you need to pick and choose more carefully. There’s no point promising to get the respect of your religious faction up by a significant amount while at the same time promising that everybody’s liberty will be increased.
Like before, it’s up to you to choose how you rule. After creating your own Presidente, right down to their attire and characteristics, you can set about business. If you have a mean streak you can force your uneducated masses to work down mines and on oil wells and strike deals with the US to siphon money into a secret Swiss bank account. The downside of this is that you’ll constantly be nagged for churches, schools and better housing. If you’re feeling kind you can give your citizens all of these things, as well as higher wages.
If mines, farms and oil wells aren’t your thing then tourism is another source of income. As soon as building a jetty holiday makers start to arrive on the island and will start spending money on the aqua parks, ferris wheels and cinemas that you can build. You still need to keep your citizens happy while tending to the tourists, and if you don’t look after their needs they’ll become rebels and live in the jungle. Army bases, weapon factories and guard towers are at your disposal, but as you can imagine it’s best to keep these eyesores away from your picturesque rows of hotels and bars.
There’s a slightly dark sense of humour to be found if you go searching through the options for each building. Bars can be open to all, but on the condition that “no vomiting is allowed unless it’s really funny” while you can kit out fireman with “the latest in cat scratching protection” for dealing with cats stuck up trees. Some of your Presidente’s traits are amusing too – if you pick a Presidente with tourettes you get extra money from Pay Per View speeches. Just to show how little has changed since Tropico 3, this was also an option in the last game.
Get hooked on Tropico 4 and it’ll serve you well – there are twenty campaigns to play through, lasting an hour or so each, and you can choose to continue playing each campaign even when all your targets have been met. For those that just want to mess around, God Mode turns the natural disasters off and gives you loads of money to play around with but you won’t unlock any achievements. Apart from the one for finishing a game in God Mode.
Tropico 4 is a game that does very little wrong apart from being a little too familiar. With Tropico 3 easy to find for around a tenner, this does make it a little hard to recommend to those that are simply curious. Perhaps we should just be thankful that Kalypso had the balls to release a game like this on Xbox 360, because we’re sure a lot of publishers wouldn’t have given it more than two seconds of their time.