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Cities in Motion 2 Review (PC)

Frustrated with the lack of transport options in Sim City? Then I have the answer for you! Enter Cities in Motion 2, the second instalment in Paradox Interactives transport simulator.

Unlike many other simulators where you take control of a single network type and build up your empire, perhaps competing with rival companies, in Cities in Motion 2 the mayor has given you the keys to the city in terms of public transport. You can build any combination of networks you please, just keep an eye on that budget! You have the choice between Buses, Trolley cars, Trams, Metros and Ferries. Each type has its associated costs, from setting them up to running them, but also has its payoffs.

Deciding what and where to build are key decisions in Cities in Motion 2. To assist you in making these decisions there are a variety of data panels. The most useful is the buildings data layer, which highlights all the buildings on the map according to type (accommodation/workplace/leisure). This can be further categorised by “user class” (blue collar/white collar) so that you can judge the standard of transport people expect. Other useful data panels include: Company Value, Customer Satisfaction, City Population among many, many more.

There are a few game modes in Cities in Motion 2. The main three are Campaign, Sandbox and Multiplayer. Campaign mode has several scenarios. These scenarios will be held in different cities within the region, and when you revisit a city again in a later scenario, your previous work will still be there. Knowing this fact might make you change your mind about taking that $1,000,000 loan to help you complete a scenario. During each scenario you will have one main objective to complete. Something like: provide X% coverage to the city, raise your company value by Y%, or grow the cities population to Z. That’s right. You can help influence how the cities grow. You can’t decide or choose what grows where, this isn’t Sim City. But by laying roads out you can encourage growth. And when the city grows you have new areas in which to build your transport empire.

You will also receive random objectives from time to time. The majority of these are “Build a transport link between Building A and Building B.” However the majority of these objectives are broken, unless there is some hidden feature that they have to be of a certain type that it doesn’t explain to you. Half the time you will probably already have a line that covers the two buildings in question, and the other half of the time, when you build a route to cover them it makes no difference. All of the other types of random quests behave, and give you a bit of structure to what can otherwise be referred to as “hit and hope” gaming.

2013-04-21_00003Sandbox mode lets you off the leash. You can choose which city you want to play in and can also toggle off city growth and random objectives. Your final option is if you want to play with unlimited money or not. This is an ideal start point for beginners (after the tutorial), allowing you to get to grips with the controls and mechanics of the game without the restrictions of finance.

One thing that Cities in Motion 2 has over its predecessor is Multiplayer. There are a few options here too. You can play cooperatively with your opponent, or competitively against them. Each method also has an option for teamplay if more than 2 players are playing. When hosting a match you can choose which type of game to play, and the win condition. These are limited to either raising your company value to a set point, and/or a time limit. If both goals are selected, whichever happens first triggers the end of the game, and if it was the timer then the winner (if you are playing competitively) is declared by whoever has the greatest company value. You can also fine tune your multiplayer experience by disabling city growth and removing the option to take out loans.

Colossal Order Ltd. have listened to their community, and gone to great lengths in adding the multiplayer component of this game. They ensure that competitive multiplayer is still fair by preventing you from being destructive towards your opponent. For example, you cannot bulldoze a piece of road that has a competitors line running on it. Normally you wouldn’t say this about many games, and certainly not a simulation type game, but the multiplayer is another good place to start. The majority of players online are nice, helpful and will provide guidance for new players. Cooperative play also relieves a lot of the pressure from you as the players will generally divide the map up into zones to each work on. Its a good idea to sit back and watch the others play for a bit and learn a few things from them, unless of course they are even bigger n00bs than yourself.

2013-04-25_00002If all these ways to play the game still have you wanting for more, you can try your hand at the Map editor. An excellent set of tools that allow to generate features randomly (using different “noise” algorithms) and then to fine tune by hand. If you are really patient you can do the entire landscape by hand if you so choose. Once you have your land set, you can go about creating the road and rail networks you want to have as the base for your city, before finally hitting a “generate buildings” button which will auto populate your city. Not happy with it? Well then you can paint on more if you so please. The editor has everything you would want and expect from it, and those with a creative touch will be able to build unique and beautiful cities to play with.

And the cities really are beautiful. At first you might not notice just how much as when you are zoomed out they do just look like a load of grey blocky buildings. But getting up close to them you will see a much higher level of detail and some really nice reflections. You can also see how traffic flows and where there are high levels of pedestrians (potential customers). Doing this can be key to understanding why your buses are taking so long to get round their route, and identifying bottlenecks on the roads. By upgrading roads to include the new bus lanes or even just extra lanes you can dynamically change how traffic is managed in the city. The simulation is pure real time so you are guaranteed to get exactly what you see in terms of numbers, and it’s day/night cycle. Like with most simulators there are three speed settings, although the faster speeds really  aren’t all that much faster. If you are waiting for your cash to pile up so you can make your next build, you might have to wait a long time, even on turbo speed.

2013-04-22_00002The lack of speed can be further amplified if your PC struggles with the game. Even though the minimal requirements are quite low, the simulation can be quite demanding on your PC, especially if you have high hopes of streaming your gameplay. Attempting this, I saw very little difference in running it at normal speed compared to fast or turbo speed.

Cities in Motion 2 is THE transport simulator. The amount of detail in the game from data representation to micro management of timetables is matched perfectly by a beautiful appearance and easy controls. You will lose whole evenings to this game, be it through the deep single player campaign, three day long multiplayer sessions, or designing your own maps. Cities in Motion 2 will have you coming back for more, learning from what you did the night before, and improving your techniques in your quest to bring order to the chaos that is a public transport network.

8 departures on time out of 10

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