Tropico 4: Modern Times
Reviewed by Didi Cardoso
Review Date Platform Genre Rating Production
2012-04-16 Xbox 360 Simulation T (Teen) Kalypso Media

After going through a series of Campaign stages in Tropico 4 and getting accustomed to the basics and occasional challenges, I moved on to download the Modern Times expansion. Soon enough, I felt like I was in way over my head, but in a good way, since that doesn't mean I didn't enjoy playing it.

Modern Times allows your islands to evolve from the Cold War period to present times and beyond. As you advance through the years, certain buildings become obsolete and their blueprints will be replaced by upgraded modernized structures. Some of the goals presented in the various scenarios will ease you into the new structures, for example, you will be asked to demolish all your farms, ranches and fisherman's wharfs and replace them with the newer biofarms, organic ranches and fish farms. The main advantage of these is that you can gather more than one resource from a single farm/ranch. Biofarms can grow corn, cash crops (tobacco, sugar and coffee) or food crops (banana, pineapple, papaya), and you will see how the circular area is divided into the different plants. Organic Ranches can have cattle, goats and llamas all in one place, and fish farms allow you to mix and match fish, shrimp and pyster production.

Likewise, mines will be eventually replaced with borehole mines, which are much better since they can mine two resources at once, and they will keep on mining even after the resource has run out, only gathering it at a much lower rate. New industries come into play to make more use of your metals, by allowing you to produce cars and electronics.

Healthcare was always free in Tropico... until now. A new healthcare building, the Sanatorium, allows you to charge for the type of care offered as well as change treatment types to the additional rehab and electro-shock therapy.

The downside? These buildings will be available to you sooner than you can actually afford them, so you must still rely on building slow and steady to build up your Treasury and eventually start upgrading structures, so don't demolish your old farms and ranches just yet! The same goes for the apartment buildings, which will require electricity and that means building power plants, so it's not a cheap venture. Getting your island industrialized shouldn't be done by rushing either. And what really bugged me about the upgrading was that the old buildings would no longer be available. I particularly like the "old" cabaret, and would have liked to keep building some of them. Unfortunately, once the modernization happens, they are replaced by the theater. Likewise, the cathedral is replaced by some futuristic-looking church that you can set as a televangelist center.

I noticed that some of the modernization wasn't consistent though. While the old cathedral and restaurant that I had built remain unchanged, the picturesque condominiums and marketplaces were automatically replaced respectively by blocky dark apartment buildings and a supermarket. I would really have liked to have the "older" city center remain unchanged, and only newly built structures reflect the changes.

The best addition - in my opinion, at least - is the subway. No, you don't actually have to build a network of underground tunnels for your people to get around the city quicker. Subway stations work a little bit like magic portals: citizens go in on one side and come out at the other end. Strategically placed, these help people get around the island just about instantly, allowing them to live wherever they choose and work in far away jobs without wasting time commuting.

Obviously, with a new era come new events, such as an oil market crash, China-U.S.S.R. split (affects relations), and massive sudden increases in the price of commodities. El Presidente must also deal with a secret nemesis organization and some bizarre series of events, including a biological terror that causes an epidemic of hiccups (particularly entertaining to see how your advisor Penultimo tries to scare the hiccups out of you by announcing all sorts of bad news), and panic situations that cause riots unless you fulfill certain requirements.

A new category of edicts becomes available, offering 12 new options such as hiring Chinese workers, modernizing the military, fertilizing crops via helicopter (fancy!) or starting a health reform, among others.

My favorite aspect of Tropico 4 is turning my island into the perfect tourist attraction. Now I can count with the brand new and massive Seven Star Hotel, a revolving restaurant, a museum of modern art that generates tons of revenue by selling masterpieces and gourmet restaurants as additional sources of income.

Even if there isn't much difference from Tropico 4, there's no question that Modern Times greatly increases the challenges offered, adding 12 new missions that give you a slightly different take on gameplay. Whether or not it's worth the 1200 MSP though, I'll leave that up to you. As for me, I got a space program to build so I can shoot Penultimo into space!

Special thanks to Ted Brockwood and Kalypso Media for providing a review copy.