Tropico 4 Gold Edition Review

December 6, 2012

/ by Tin Salamunic

Developer(s): Haemimont Games
Publisher(s): Kalypso Media
Platform(s): Xbox 360, PC
Review Platform: Xbox 360
Release Date: Novermber 13, 2012

In a market saturated with FPS quadruples and copycat cover shooters, Tropico 4 is a welcome novelty. It’s a management and construction simulation that has you govern beautiful tropical islands from the comfort of your couch…a rather rare experience for Xbox 360 gamers. Kalypso has done an extraordinary job of giving console gamers a unique gaming venture that’s typically reserved for the PC. The Gold Edition comes with Tropico 4 as well as the fantastic Modern Times expansion giving players hundreds of hours of deep, complex, and remarkably immersive gameplay. Playing through Tropico is absolutely captivating and gamers with even the slightest interest in strategy should give this title their undivided attention.
  • Unlimited replayability
  • A great sense of humor
  • Deep and complex, yet never overwhelming, gameplay
  • Near flawless transition from KB/Mouse to gamepad
  • Stellar visuals
  • Steep learning curve
  • Occasional frame rate stutters
  • Camera can be annoying
You play as El Presidente as you work towards reestablishing power after averting a nuclear war. Placed on the communist side of the Cold War, it’s up to you to lead your people to either democratic prosperity and tie the knot with the western world, or rule with military might as a feared dictator. The main plot is comprised of three acts: Rise To Power, The Revenge, and The Comeback. Don’t mind the politically skewed premise, Tropico is a historical parody that embraces the ridiculous. The game’s humor is unprecedented. In a way, it reminds me of Sacha Baron Cohen’s Dictator, but with a little more sanity.  

You’re presented with four ways to play the game. There’s the original Tropico 4 campaign that consist of 20 massive challenges, the more recent Modern Times expansion that kicks up the difficulty and adds an additional 12 missions, the glorious sandbox mode, and Challenges, which allows players to exchange custom made missions. But before tackling any of the maps, it’s crucial that you visit the tutorial mode. Here you’re tasked with smaller responsibilities that teach you the basics of agriculture, healthcare, military, and politics. With only a few shacks scattered across a massive island rich in various resources, it’s important to learn to set your priorities. It might seem overwhelming at first as the game thrusts large amounts of information from the get go, but once you learn which basic needs have to be fulfilled first, it becomes significantly easier to handle the constant flow of incoming assignments.

Each chapter focuses on one predominant goal with several side-tasks popping up as you play along. Some challenges have you exporting precious resources to foreign countries, while others have you build the ultimate tourist resort. It’s up to you how many of the side missions you want to complete, but every successful outcome increases your score and grants you greater rewards, so it never feels like random busywork.

It can take hours, days, heck maybe even weeks, before you’re able to construct large, prosperous cities. Much depends on your play style. A more democratic approach that encourages elections, balances the economy, and preserves the environmental quality takes more time, but is considerably more rewarding. Foreign aid can oftentimes pull your island out of a financial crisis, but keeping foreign relations intact is no easy task. Then of course there are gamers that prefer the more sadistic approach to dictatorship. Instead of meeting protestors’ demands, you might send the military to clear the streets and even kill off a few citizens to send a message. This route might give you faster temporary results, but will make your leadership crumble in the long run. Oftentimes, balance is a must in order to establish a strong island economy. You can’t always rule with pure benevolence, nor can you continually ignore the nation’s needs. It’s a bittersweet portrayal of politics, particularly when you’re forced to make sacrifices for the greater good.

Keeping an eye on your almanac is the best way to keep things harmonious. The almanac is your best friend in Tropico 4 as it gives you a stat overview of everything that’s taking place on the island. You can monitor peoples’ happiness, the factions’ demands, as well as your political standing with foreign countries. It’s cleanly laid out, easy to navigate, and incredibly useful, making all the micromanaging really fun.

This is not a game that you can play for a few minutes here and there, nor is it recommended for occasional gamers. It requires critical thinking and a good chunk of time in order to make any progress, but it never feels cheap or unfair. Tropico truly shines in that its visuals provide as much information and aid as all the numbers and percentages. You see everything that happens on your island, which helps the immersion as well as the understanding of unfolding events. When there’s a riot, you witness citizens swarming the streets and hear the gunshots as small protests slowly turn into chaos. Seeing which buildings are at what stages of construction helps you set architectural priorities for faster results, and if you have enough cash, you can even quick-assemble buildings with a click of a button. It’s all the little visual clues that make Tropico such an engaging experience, unlike many other strategy games that rely too much on dense chunks of text.

The feeling of progression in Tropico 4 is unparalleled. You’ll go from a struggling leader that can barely feed his people to an industry giant exporting jewelry and reaping the profits of tourism. Seeing a poverty stricken village transform into a skyscraper filled metropolis is extremely satisfying. There’s a great sense of cause and effect as you shape your nation with each difficult decision. When something does go wrong, you’ll know exactly where you faltered so that you won’t repeat the same mistake. But even when everything runs in sync, natural disasters can easily ruin your flow of success. A devastating tornado can put a huge dent in your wallet as you try to restore damaged property and the devious droughts can quickly ruin your crops. It’s this unpredictability that puts your leadership skills to the test and learning to deal with such disasters can determine the success of your city.

Running your island with the gamepad is a breeze. Every action can be accessed quickly and easily via simple to use menus and the button layout is absolutely perfect. My only gripe is with the zoom in/zoom out function of the camera. To zoom in you have to pull the analog stick back and pushing forward zooms the camera out. It feels unnatural and there’s no way to change it in the options menu. But other than that, Tropico 4 is a perfect example of how to port a PC game to consoles.

Visually, the game looks beautiful, especially considering the scale of the island and the microscopic details throughout each city. You can zoom in all the way down to the street level and even see the people’s faces…it’s quite impressive. You can observe everything that’s taking place on the island, from the construction workers arriving to the site and taking lunch breaks to the farmers working in the fields and gathering food for their families. Tropico 4 feels alive, looks stunning, and sounds hilarious. A rather uplifting soundtrack serves as a perfect backdrop as you loose days and weeks managing your city, and the various voice actors that deliver the chapter challenges provide a perfect comedic tone.

If you’ve been craving a solid strategy/city management title but are stuck with a console, Tropico 4 Gold Edition is one of the best packages money can buy on the Xbox 360. It is massive, has top-notch presentation, a fantastic sense of humor, and is a perfect example of how to port PC games to consoles.

Final Score “The Best City Simulation Ever Made” 9.0
The game looks stunning, especially once your city grows into a prosperous metropolis. The attention to detail is astounding and there are only minor frame rate hiccups that interrupt the otherwise superb graphics.
A perfect example of how to port a PC game to consoles. After spending countless hours with the Xbox 360 version, I actually can't see myself returning to the KB/Mouse controls…there's just something about running an island from the comfort of your couch.
You can play this game for years and never run out of things to do. Tropico 4 Gold Edition is not only an incredible value, but it's one of the best city/management games ever made.
The voice acting is hilarious and the music is catchy, although it can become repetitive and slightly annoying after the hundredth hour mark.

Review by Tin Salamunic

Tin Salamunic is the founder of The Game Scouts. He is a Video Game Journalist during the day and illustrator by night. He's been obsessed with video games since the early NES days, collecting every major system and game on the market. Video games are the reason he pursued the illustration career and he hopes to be creative director for a video game company one day. All Artciles by Tin. 

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