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Publisher: Aspyr Media    Genre: Simulation    Expansion For: SimCity 4
Min OS X: 10.2.8    CPU: G4 @ 700 MHz    RAM: 256 MB    Hard Disk: 2000 MB    8x CD-ROM    Graphics: 32 MB VRAM

SimCity 4: Rush Hour
September 29, 2004 | Michael Yanovich

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A quick note on the somewhat bug-ridden release of SimCity 4 on the PC and the Mac: patches helped solve many of the problems, but even then performance was an issue with older machines, especially as a player’s city grew.

At the moment, I can’t find any bugs with this new expansion pack (other than that minor U—Drive It glitch mentioned earlier). In fact, the game has performed admirably over the past two weeks. I don’t know if the earlier patches did it (the previous release wouldn’t run well on my G4 800 so I gave up playing it) or if the fixes are part of the expansion pack. Either way, I didn’t crash once or encounter any other issues.

That said, I wouldn’t expect big performance gains (if any) if your machine is simply underpowered. (Note that my new testing machine is a zippy G5 with dual 2.5 processors, and the game ran as smooth as silk with all settings at their highest and a decent sized city.) In other words, the game’s rock solid, but don’t blame the developers if your computer just can’t handle the workload. This is a CPU intensive game with lots of calculations going on, so make sure your system is up to par. (Take minimum system requirements with a grain of salt. It'll work, but it won't be quick.)

Civics ‘R’ Us
There are a few more tweaks available. One of which has been needed for some time: a difficulty setting. Now you can start a city with minimal funds or overflowing coffers, depending on the level of financial challenge you’re in the mood for. There are also some expanded tutorials – I really don’t remember them being in previous versions of SimCity – that not only walk you through the new Rush Hour additions, but also can help you with money management and city building concepts. Even after a couple of decades of SimCity building, I found the tutorials invaluable in refining my game play and strategies.

So what’s the overall lowdown? This is an expansion pack, not a full game. You need to have SimCity 4 previously installed in your system before Rush Hour will work, and for the casual builder who has no interest in the multitude of new features Rush Hour has to offer, this expansion pack isn’t for you.

But for fans of the SimCity series who want to take their cities to the next level, who want the added depth that additional transportation options and informational menus have to offer, SC4RH gives you all that plus new unlockable buildings, the ability to drive through your own city for fun or profit, and a host of other new options that will definitely add hours of enjoyment to your game. I just think the price tag is a little bit high. SimCity 4 retails for about $50, and the expansion pack will set you back another $30. It’s not a rip-off, but it is over half the cost of the original game for a limited new feature set. Realistically, this could be the result of a small Mac market that needs to support the development costs -- and I can understand that -- but that issue aside I think $20 would be a much fairer price. Especially if you feel that many of the options should have been included in the original SimCity 4 in the first place.

So ignoring the price tag, is the expansion pack a worthy buy? To fans of the game, absolutely. I’ll certainly be playing it long after this review has come and gone, and the new tools will keep me entertained hopefully until SimCity 5 comes along and raises the bar once again.

• New informational tools help you analyze traffic flow
• New transportation options help you alleviate the problems
• U-Drive It missions let you drive through, fly over, or boat around your city (even if they are not as fully fleshed out as they could be)
• Play music from your iTunes library

• Difficult-to-build items from SimCity 4 are still as challenging as ever
• Slightly overpriced for amount of content

SimCity 4: Rush Hour
Publisher: Aspyr Media
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