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ups: superb gameplay, great music, replay value is through the roof, Leonard Nimoy
downs: in-game help book can be clunky to navigate, spearmen don't beat tanks!

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Civilization IV Review
game: Civilization IV
five star
posted by: George Holomshek
publisher: 2K Games
developer: Firaxis
date posted: 09:51 AM Sun Nov 13th, 2005
last revision: 05:12 PM Tue Dec 13th, 2005

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Sid Meier\'s Civilization series is one of the most renowned in the world of gaming, with each iteration being arguably better than the last. And this trend continues with the addition of Civilization IV, providing what is easily the richest and most streamlined experience yet. In this latest version, many things have changed but your mission remains the same, found and build a civilization that can stand the test of time. How you go about accomplishing that mission is up to you. Do you want to crush all of your rival civilizations with military might, charm them into voting you head of the UN, overwhelm them with your civilization\'s rich culture, or do you have something else in mind? The choice is yours.

This latest edition of Civilization has undergone some serious changes, nearly all for the better. The most obvious change in Civilization IV is in the presentation. Details are key. Sure the overall graphics have really been enhanced, though they are still not necessarily jaw-dropping. The true beauty of the game lies in the little touches which combine to make the game so much more lively and entertaining. Waves wash on beaches, windmills turn, carts run in and out of mines, sheep mill around in pastures, and so on. And strangely enough, one of the things that seems to bring Civ IV to life the most is that on the highest magnification the land itself has that \"board game\" look to it. Any improvement your workers build on a tile is represented by a rather simple model, a little farm for example, which holds little more detail than plastic houses in Monopoly. Other areas of graphical improvement are highlighted by more animation in your units, along with much better looking, and far more unique, character models for your opponents when you are trading with them face-to-face.

Audio-wise, Civ IV is absolutely fabulous. All of the music, from tribal drums to Bach, sounds terrific and is utilized very well. I could just sit and listen to most of the music in this game all day, which is perhaps why a soundtrack CD is being offered as part of a promotion. Other audio such as unit voices and explosions all tend to be well done, and if they don\'t immerse you even more deeply into the game, they certainly won\'t take you out of it. But perhaps the most impressive thing you will hear coming out of your speakers during your time with Civ IV will be the voice of Leonard Nimoy (that\'s right, Star Trek\'s very own Mr. Spock) who will recite an appropriate and famous quote each time you make a scientific discovery.

So enough with the ear and eye-candy, how does the game actually play? The short answer is smooth as glass, I would have to say. The entire experience has been streamlined and revamped to make the whole game more intuitive and, quite frankly, less annoying. Problems such as pollution and cites falling into disorder aren\'t necessarily gone, but have been changed to be more predictable and manageable. For example, instead of a city going into disorder and completely shutting down, now the upset citizens will simply refuse to work. This way your city will feel the pain but still not be completely stagnant while you get things back under control.

Settlers and workers have also been tweaked. It used to be that creating a settler or a worker consumed one population from the city that created it. In Civ IV, now the producing city will instead devote both its production and its surplus food to creating the unit. This makes it a lot easier for a city with low growth but high production on the outskirts of your civilization to help expand your empire. Figuring out exactly where you want to have a settler found a city is also a lot more convenient. Whenever you have a settler selected, every tile will display what it is currently capable of producing (food, production, wealth), eliminating the need to check each individual tile. Workers also have a basket load of new improvements for your land. Along with the classic roads, mines, and farms, you can now build cottages, windmills and watermills, workshops, quarries, lumber mills, animal pastures, and more.

War has also been improved, in spite of the fact that you will still occasionally run into the situation where a longbowman will beat a tank. First off, all units no longer have both an attack and defense stat, in lieu of a single power stat. This does not mean that units are no longer \"offensive\" and \"defensive\", quite the opposite. Instead of just receiving more health like in previous games, now units receive an actual bonus promotion that you get to choose when they \"level up\". These promotions range from bonus strength to extra defense when defending a city to additional movement, and these are just the tip of the iceberg. In addition, many units now receive special bonuses right off the bat. Archers, for example, have a built in +50% city defense. What this also does is make you think twice about sending your best units into combat after you have invested so much into them. Also changed in Civ IV is that a lot of the mystery of battle has been removed. When you prepare to attack another unit, you can see exactly what your odds of winning are. Hovering the movement cursor over the enemy unit will show you its strength + bonuses compared to yours, and give you your total odds of winning. But still, it shouldn\'t matter if I send a beat up helicopter against a full-strength pikeman with defensive bonuses, the pikeman shouldn\'t win.

Civilization IV also finally gives us a multiplayer mode that doesn\'t feel like it was just tacked on. Set up is easy and the service seems stable enough. Also, completing a large game in multiplayer is actually possible now. With the ability to save your multiplayer games, you and your friends can now take on week-long campaigns to conquer a humongous map with a large number of foes. But with the \"quick\" mode, you can also run though a sped-up game of Civ IV in just a few hours. And one feature I really liked was that if one player drops out of the game due to connection problems, Civ informs the other players and asks what they would like to do. Either wait for the player to reconnect or let an AI opponent take over their empire.

In spite of all of its improvements, the game still suffers from a few small, problems. One of these is that when an enemy comes within sight of one of your cities or a rival completes a world wonder, the game informs you in small text in the corner of the screen. While it is nice to be able to work without interruption, sometimes there is information you want put in your face so you don\'t miss it. Also, the civilopedia, the in-game reference manual, can sometimes be awkward and difficult to navigate. It likes to switch between a graphical and text interface for different entries. I would also enjoy better cut-scenes when you complete a wonder. When you do manage to build one, you are rewarded with a time-lapse CG animation of the wonder itself being built. Neat, but I am still a fan of the old Civ II movies where you got to actually see real-life footage of the wonder you worked so hard on.

The bottom line is that if you are a Civ fan or a turn-based strategy fan, you should be out buying this game instead of sitting here reading this. Civilization IV is definitely the most streamlined, best looking, as well as the most strategic Civ to date. If you are brand new to the series, then this is a great place to start. My only caution is that Civ is a game with a lot of concepts to learn and the learning curve is pretty long. But once you go through the in-game tutorial and try your hand at a few games by yourself, you will be very glad you did. Just make sure you stop playing every week or so to let friends and loved ones know you are still alive.

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