Review: Tropico 4 (360)

Review: Tropico 4 (360)

I was primarily a PC gamer growing up. I had consoles, but my first choice of game and game type was generally on PC. From the memory match games I’d play against my father on our Tandy 1000 to the wide variety of games on my grandfather’s Commodore 64, and from the multiple 5-1/4″ floppy games like Blue Max to hard drive installed games like Rise of the Triad and Sim City, I’d play, play, play. Sim City 2000, especially, was a favorite of mine. I defeated aliens and Godzillas and rebuilt after tornadoes and earthquakes. I achieved arco exodus and populous cities on varied terrain. City building and maintenance is in my blood, and Tropico 4 fits right in.

You must develop and rule the island(s) of Tropico.

In Campaign you can choose between several historical “dictators” like Fidel Castro, Eva “Evita” Peron, Juan Peron,  Antonio Salazar, Manuel Noriega, Che Guevara etc. There are even some funny ones like El Pollo Diablo and Voodoo Pizzaman. Each pre-made dictator comes with different stats such what their background is in, how they rose to power, and three traits. The traits can range from ones containing positive bonuses like Well-Traveled and Diplomatic, or they can have some drawbacks like with Compulsive Gambler and Cheapskate. There is also the option to customize your avatar dictator, but it isn’t as fleshed out as one might like. Sure you can choose the gender, and then between a small handful of different outfits, complexions, headgear, hairstyles, and accessories, but it would’ve been nice to be able to customize body type, hair and eye color, and then given more options between what is offered in-game. On top of appearance customization for your dictator you are able to give them a name, but unfortunately it doesn’t allow you to have a first and a last name. It made little to no sense as to why every pre-made dictator had a full name, with some even having their nicknames listed (hello Evita), but despite multiple attempts trying to put in a space it just wasn’t happening. Like the pre-mades you get to assign a background, a way in which you rose to power, as well as the traits which is great because you can finally see what each one does as far as how it impacts the game and influences the different factions. It was a bit of a drawback that I was unable to see what it meant for Evita to have the Compulsive Gambler trait while viewing her personality profile. It wasn’t until I custom made my own that I finally learned about all of them. Should deciding on all of that become too much, there is always the trusty “random” option.

Campaign has 20 “missions” to play through. Each has different objective. Mission 3 for example has you needing to focus on tourism and earning your island income that way since exports are heavily taxed. Mission 4 is a complete 180 where you can’t build any farms so importing is a must, with heavy reliance on it to not only feed your citizens but to have any form of income. Ranches are okay, but it isn’t nearly enough to keep things afloat. Campaign also has you starting on a different island each level – great for variety, but then you get thrown things like islands that have active volcanoes.

Prior to each mission starting you consult your journal that has an overview of what you will be doing, the difficulty level, your Presidente stats, and a couple of press quotes that also give some additional insight. For Mission 4 one quote was that the pricing for raw resources was expected to drop. You also revisit the journal once the mission has been completed and the stats become more fleshed out, giving you a breakdown of points for your city budget, citizens, Swiss Bank account, and more.

In addition to campaign there are extra missions (DLC) that you can easily access from the main game menu, as well as sandbox mode and challenges. With Sandbox you first start off choosing your island. They can range from easy to hard. Each island is beautiful and is unique. Once you decide on your island you can then customize the political stability, world economy, game length, population and much more. Pro-Tip: If you want to have an easier time, especially in the beginning, set the Random Events to none, ensuring no surprise tornadoes, volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, or tsunamis. There are even further options to toggle such as if you wish to have a prominent faction, zero immigrants, or if you wish to rock through in God Mode. While God Mode gives you a ridiculous amount of perks, like starting off with $500k, you’re unable to earn achievements aside from the one which is given after completing a Sandbox game in that particular mode.

Challenges gives you the option of choosing between things like trying to get back in the good graces of Miss Pineapple, one of your saucy inhabitants, or trying to survive on an island under Chinese control that you and some others have become shipwrecked on. The difficulty for these is higher than the normal Campaign or Sandbox, but equally as fun.

Regardless of the mode you play in, there is a common theme to the game. You have to be able to provide for your citizens, keep them happy with the conditions you provide to them, keep all of the various factions happy, and then finally keeping your international relations as a healthy level (invasion isn’t as fun as you might think). While it sounds a bit overwhelming, you just have to be good at juggling. Fortunately the game lists what must be done to keep each faction happy, and there aren’t things that would require you to lower the respect of others just to gain. Of course the Environmental faction would be pleased as punch if you didn’t have any mining or deforestation on the island…. but we can’t please everybody. To keep foreign relations healthy you’ll occasionally be given quests you can decide to do such as exporting beef to the Middle East or canned pineapple to Europe. There are also times where you will have no choice but to make a decision that will end up impacting your relations with one various country. These instances don’t happen too often, but they consist of things like one country wanting to execute a journalist from another country simply because they were speaking out in opposition. From there you have the choice to either side with the country wanting to pull the trigger, or saying that what they are wanting to do is wrong for whatever reason. On top of that you can construct a building and set it to who you want it to build relations with. There are three choices that cover the US, USSR, and then everything else that is out there. Foreign relations is important because, like mentioned before, it helps prevent invasion and also increases the yearly aid you receive from the US and USSR.

Like other similar games you have your island resources to draw from, the ability to import from other countries, to earn revenue from tourism, and even attractions. Being the benevolent dictator that you are healthcare, education, and food is always free. Wages start off low, but so does the cost of housing at just a buck a month. Starting off from what would be seen as destitution, you can build yourself up pretty nicely provided you mastermind your finances. There were a few strange bugs that I did encounter during my playthrough and while with some bugs you can turn a blind eye, these actually ended up crippling my game a couple of times. One bug was where I was to export 500 units of canned pineapple and I had about 4 pineapple farms along with a cannery and a teamster building, which transports throughout my island, nearby. For some unknown reason years passed and not a single unit was exported yet the pineapples had been harvested several times. Obviously I was unable to complete that quest, however the most recent bug was far worse. During mission 4 I thought I was well situated with a couple of canneries, a factory to roll cigars, rum distillery, and then my jewelry factory. I was importing in from two docks that were placed next to each other that cost between $20-30k and exports totaled around $80k. Out of nowhere imports stopped coming in even though my foreign relations were perfect, my dock workers were well compensated, and everything was ideal. Needless to say that error resulted in me having zero resources to work with so my factory activity came to a grinding halt and I quickly found myself in over $100k of debt. Since the game doesn’t allow you to purchase imports if you’re even a dollar in the red (even though the World Bank allows you to keep spending up to $10k in the hole) I was thoroughly screwed and all of those hours I just spent was all for nothing.

Another element of the game that was a little frustrating was how the auto-save feature worked. Prior to doing anything in the game you’re shown and told that when the red star is on the screen you’re being auto-saved…. but that wasn’t the case. Our Xbox is set to auto-shutoff after an hour of inactivity and, since I was under the impression that auto-save was popping up throughout my campaign, I didn’t mind when it shut off. Upon starting up again later on that evening I found that not only did it not work as intended but I was all the way back in the previous mission and had a ways to go. One would naturally assume that after constructing a building, completing a quest in a mission, or even being given one that the auto-save feature would kick in. Hell, even after winning your re-election or finishing one of the campaign missions! This “error,” if it can and should even be called that, did put me off a few times since many hours of gameplay had been lost, but I will admit that it saved my ass when I had that import bug happen.

The amount of detail that went into the game is fantastic. The flashes of cold, white lightning, gorgeous sherbet sunsets, and the soothing waves…. you really are transported to the Caribbean. Obviously if you wear headphones you hear more of the sounds, like the pounding of hammers on buildings that are being constructed, the moos of cows at your ranches, and more. The overall soundtrack is fantastic, with my personal favorite being  Fuego De Pasion  by  Alex? Torres & His Latin Orchestra. It really makes you want to just sit on a beach with some arroz con pollo and a tropical drink. Graphically it’s great, especially with how far in you can zoom but when you do you will see how certain textures, especially with the foliage, are flat. Thankfully when zoomed in at a normal level it isn’t noticeable at all.

In spite of the occasional game-breaking bugs and the inconsistently functioning auto save feature, Tropico 4 is a fantastic experience, especially if you were ever a fan of the Sim City style of game. If you’re obsessive, detail oriented, or just plain picky about things, Tropico 4 caters to you, and it does it with visual appeal, a classic style, and comedic dialogue. Long live El Presidente, and long live Tropico.


Great management mechanics
Incredible depth and replayability
Sharp graphical detail
Occasional, yet consistent, game-breaking bugs
Auto save does not work as it should
90 out of 100

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