The aim remains to build up a winning theme park, with a special emphasis on building and designing its premium rides. And this is where the games most obvious improvement kicks in. Whilst its predecessors were undoubtedly engrossing and enjoyable strategy games in their own right, neither was graphically anything special. Rollercoaster Tycoon 3 however features significantly improved visuals, that make a surprising difference to the game itself. Thats because youre now able to get virtual first-hand experience of your creations, and can zoom in on any part of your park, and the overall effect is one of added depth.
Elsewhere, the challenges have been tweaked and refined, and are just as much fun as they always were. Whilst you can play at different levels, the long-term test lies with the career mode, where you must beat the numerous scenarios the game has to offer. Suffice to say, to succeed at that you need to be fully versed in resource management, park design and, crucially, keeping your customers happy. Its not easy, but it is tremendously immersive, and given the games steady and cultured learning curve, you never feel out of your depth.
Rollercoaster Tycoon 3 is ultimately a steady evolution of a formula that works exceptionally well, and it does so here again. Sure, the mechanics have evolved at a slower rate than the visuals, but that doesnt stop the game being that rarest of things--a strategy game that the whole family can enjoy.--Simon Brew
First there was Transport Tycoon, then Theme Park (from Bullfrog) and then came Rollercoster Tycoon 1 - which pre-empted many of the other tycoon style games. It was innovative, it was addictive, and most of all it was fun. Next came two expansions - which certainly increased your choices and did improve the game. It looked like nothing could go wrong.
But then came RCT 2 and its two poorly developed and thought out expansions - which despite all the hype did very little to improve on the original. In fact many fans (including myself) thought much of it was a backward rather than forward step.
Now, after many months of waiting comes RCT 3. With a totally new engine and new approach to the look and feel of the game. Whilst attempting to keep a lot of the favoured play style elements firmly rooted in its core.
This time it looks like they sat back and listened to the fans - they have included both night and day, fireworks, and a sandbox mode (free build).
The game still follows it's tycoon ideals, taking you through Theme Park management, almost to micromanagement levels. Rides are placed in a similar fashion to the old games, and you still have to think where you want to place each item in relation to park management (A hot dog stall next to the the whirley vomit spinner is just asking for a plethora of pavement pizza). You hire and fire staff, but now you can also train them up, and determine their payscale (Sorry Bob, no pay rise this year).
And now, you not only place your money grabbing side stalls, but you also control details down to the extras given with each item. (you want ketchup on that hot dog? You got it, but I reserve the right to charge you 20p more for it).
But it is the coasters that everyone wants in this game. (Isn't it?) And you can either plonk down ready made ones - or design your own, (including a nifty auto complete function, if your getting fed up) Then test and run them - If you don't know how to do any of this, a series of step by step tutorials are present to guide you through, until you get the hang of the new controls.
But now, thanks to the new 3d engine, you can also ride your rides and see just how that 'Looping Demon' you just created is from the peeps perspective. And not just the coasters you can jump in for a 1st person view of anything from the Teacup Merry Go Round to the Latest Dive Bomber Spin Frenzy. Each with its own customisable theming, and music - including MP3 import - so now you can not only terrify your guests with Dive Bomb Frenzy, you can finish off your latest evil design with Limp Bizkit or Donny Osmand (now that should really get them regurgitating their lunch)
And talking of guests, thanks to Frontier's involvement on this development, you no longer have 200 little clones of Johnny B, you have parties of Male & Female in every ages size and colour you can think of, bringing with them their own preferences.
Park theming appears to follow full park methods, including triggered events and objects that animate as you coaster reaches a certain point.
And if you get fed up with all that, you can spend your time using the inbuilt fireworks creator, trying to synch a display to 'Ride the Lightning' or the 1812 overture.
All in all, it looks like Roller Coaster Tycoon has returned to being what it was best at, A fun Game. The only reason I did not give it 5 Stars - Is because (as I said at the start) this is on the demo, rather than full version, so overall limitations etc., were not aproachable. (i.e. just how much I can cram in one space without my PC falling over).
Lastly, to take full advantage of the many wonderful 3d textures and camera actions in this new game, is naturally going to demand a lot from your PC, namely, if your box is a couple of years old and straining at the seams, you are going to have to turn off many of the higher features to get it to run smoothly, but such is the price of modern gaming tech everywhere. Personally I found it to run as smoothly as a heavily greased sausage down a soap sud slalom, even on max, but then I have a PC that it should've done, and even the demo appeared to have a selectable config that would backtrak in resoloution and feature in an attempt to accomadate all but the new dinosaurs in the PC world (which is about 18 months these days).
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