Tropico 4 has managed to deliver a mix of addictive gameplay and very likable characters to the Xbox 360 and do so while losing none of the functionality that gamers expect in a deep strategy game. And trust me, Tropico 4 is deep. Developer Haemimont Games has managed to map out the controls on the cramped Xbox 360 nicely enough that with a little practice, players are able to micromanage El Presidente’s world with ease. Issuing edicts, building roads and structures is all done with simple button taps that pull up easy to navigate menus. It will take time to learn your way around, but Tropico 4 provides you with all the tools needed through a hefty tutorial level to kick things off.
Everything in this sequel is up to you. You control how your citizens live, the layout of the roads they’ll travel, and even the crops they’ll grow to feed your bank account. The amount of responsibility thrust upon you will seem overwhelming at first, but in no time you’ll be placing your military and police around the island and imposing your will without a second thought. This leaves your mind free to think about and make real decisions like whether or not to accept money from communists or try to please the United States. Tropico 4 is packed full of decisions that all impact the next choice you’ll have to make, but as I mentioned you won’t get overwhelmed.
You could look at this real-time strategy title almost more as a sandbox game because of how easily it is to get sidetracked and distracted. Despite a lot of similarities to Tropico 3, veterans of that game will find that this sequel is far more engrossing and time consuming. While the last entry in the saga of El Presidente was more progressive based – requiring you to do this or that before moving on, Tropico 4 is wide open and allows you to basically do whatever you want. Sure there are goals and tasks that you can accept from various parties that want something from you, but you don’t have to accept them. When you do, you have plenty of time to complete them while messing around with fine-tuning the rest of your coast-lined paradise. In order to keep you on track the game only allows five tasks to be open at a time. It helps keep you from jumping around and converting your farms or factories every few seconds.
Keeping with the theme of the game, the music is actually pleasant to listen to. Usually when playing a game for hours on end the soundtrack will begin to grate on a player’s ears. That’s not the case with Tropico 4, which sports enough subtle background tracks to keep you relaxed and managing your small country. The graphics are equally nice and everything is visible by use of the analog sticks. Using these provides players with the ability to pan around and zoom in or out to get a full view of villagers or focus on a lone soldier standing guard at your palace.
The pacing in Tropico 4 might be the game’s best attribute. Things move along nicely and you rarely, if ever, feel rushed. Missions can take hours to complete the main task at hand, but during that time you’ll get distracted with all the fun of managing minor requests. There aren’t a lot of games like Tropico 4 out there and even less when you’re talking about consoles. Fans of the genre would be hard-pressed to find a better game on the Xbox 360. I’m not just saying that because El Presidente has guards posted at my door. If you’ve put off picking up a deep strategy game on consoles due to concern about convoluted controls then you can stop waiting. Tropico 4 delivers the goods. Now I’ve got to get the goods delivered to China so I can get more money in El Presidente’s bank account.
Tropico 4 is available now on Xbox 360 for $49.99 and Windows PC for $39.99.