Probe's other hot new title is Constructor for the PlayStation, a game which has been in development for two and a half years and takes the Sim game idea to its Noth degree. Fergus states: "It was a project that we'd been after for a long time, but it was originally with Warner. When they were going through some problems, we jumped in and snapped it up. We've been working on it ever since. It's a single or multiplayer game, kind of like SimCity crossed with Command & Conquer whereby you've got to build up neighborhoods. In the process of building them up, you've got to keep all the families that live there happy."
Robert O'Farrel, the game's producer for Probe, gave us a quick run-through. "You start off with an empty screen and build your houses from scratch, opening a lumber yard and bringing in the wood before you can do anything else. Once your wooden houses are up, you get grade-one tenants, with the idea being that you constantly upgrade tenants. But while you're doing that, the computer player (or your opponent) is building, too. However, your opponent can send in the Mafia to smash things up, or even put ghosts in your houses to haunt and drive out the tenants!" Probe is already at work on not one, but two sequels!
The City Council wants your construction company to build housing for them. They want it done with efficiency, and without complaint from residents. In order to achieve this goal, you must make sure that the good tenants are kept relatively satisfied, and the bad tenants are evicted -- by any means necessary. To top it all off, the competition is fierce, ruthless and will go to any means to bring your company to its knees. Whether they have to send a militant clown to burn down a building, or fight your workers in the street -- they'll do what they have to do to take you down!
So begins the violent and witty Constructor, a builder sim by System 3 and Acclaim. You take on the role of a Land Developer, a Landlord, a Teamster (you know, those union guys connected to the gritty underworld of crime) and a Financier. You must manage resources, cash, tenants, hired thugs, mob relations, political relations, and many other aspects of gameplay. The ultimate goal: Keep the council happy. Keep the tenants happy. Bring the competition to their knees. Though this might sound like a lot to handle, it isn't; but it may be too much fun to handle.
Constructor goes where no game has gone before -- the world of construction and land development -- with all the dirty details included; but it doesn't put a serious face on it at all. As a matter of fact, I found myself laughing at some of the things that popped up in the game -- and they were supposed to be obstacles to my advancement.
In Constructor you take on the role of a "Developer", hired by the city council to build housing -- for the most part. You must do this to the specifications of the Council. Once you have built a lumber mill, and your first "flat," you will be able to rent to tenants. Tenants are fickle creatures indeed, and the main cause of many headaches for your would-be construction company. You are in essence, their landlord, after all....
Being a Landlord might seem like fun. But if you are thinking along the lines of: "I'll just evict them, or raise their rent," you might want to re-think that strategy! While you certainly can do those things, they tend to have consequences in the game, such as black marks on your record (tenants complain to the council if you do not do as they ask, in a timely manner), tenants destroying property upon eviction, or going "rogue" on you and squatting on your land.
To wit, a good portion of the game is keeping your tenants happy. There are a number of items you can make that will do just that. This is done by creating a gadget factory, which you get after building the required structures. The gadget factory is capable of producing various items, including trees, subway stations, garden gnomes, double-glazed windows, computers, doghouses, etc.
Tenants will ask for these things randomly, which appear as a flashing icon on the left side of the screen. It is important that you give tenants what they want, so that you can improve their quality of life and create higher-class tenants. Higher-class tenants produce special characters such as cadets -- which can be trained to be policemen.
Building structures is another cool aspect of the game. You build decent housing to create decent tenants, who in turn create special characters, and additional higher-class tenants. By building newer structures, you also procure the use of various henchmen (the third aspect of gameplay) such as hippies, policemen, clowns and mobsters (there are many other psychotic and diabolical creatures to choose from as you advance). Building new structures has the same effect as advancing a tenant to the next class -- it allows you to build improved structures, new factories and upgrades to existing buildings.
The third portion of gameplay, character management, is the best in my opinion. When playing against a computer-controlled opponent, just send out a hippie to invoke a party or picket a factory. If your opponent has an empty house, send him there to take it over. There are many other characters who do nasty and violent things. There is the pawnshop fellow that will steal materials, appliances, etc. from your opponent. There is a policeman to take care of the pawnshop guy's activities, and handle hostage situations caused by mobsters. The mob is handy for all your killing and maiming needs -- and let us not forget the psycho clown, who has a fondness for playing with matches. But specialty characters aside, the workmen, foremen and repairmen are handy for out-and-out violent acts against an opponent. Armed with nail guns and tools, they do a darn good job on a picketing hippie or an enemy workman. I may be somewhat demented, but I enjoyed beating up the hippie!
Merging all these elements together, Constructor plays like SimCity on acid. The whole idea of building is enhanced by the Teamster-like violence and British humor. Throw in four-player multiplay capabilities, and you have the makings of a wacky online buildfest worth hours of decent and devious fun.
Graphics and Design
The interface is very localized and easy to get to in Constructor. All the resources, info screens, and data screens are a mouse click away. Constructor also has a "tool tips" interface -- hold the mouse over an icon and a brief summary appears. Everything is easily accessible. I enjoyed the interface. It is very important to figure out where everything is in the game. The quicker that one can navigate in Constructor, the better.
The graphics in Constructor are quite decent. Every activity inside a building has some sort of animation; for instance, if a house gets infested by the 8-foot-tall cockroach and you go into that house, lo and behold you see that cockroach, staring back at you (boy, is he ugly). The characters themselves are miniaturized, similar to 7th Legion or X-COM: Apocalypse. A lot of detail went into the game -- as evidenced in the wide usage of animation in every aspect of play. The buildings and maps are also crisp and nice to look at. Explosions and fight scenes are animated with great detail as well.
The sound in Constructor is awesome. Every character has something to say when you click on them. They also make various noises -- footsteps, construction noises, explosion noises, party music, catch-phrases, etc. The sound doesn't get in the way at all, which is important to any game that you WANT to play for long periods of time. The sound serves another purpose as well: by going into a house and listening, you can get an idea of how your tenants feel. If you have displeased them because you didn't fulfill their requests, there are sounds of fighting, yelling, and crying (both children and adults). If a tenant is happy or content, sounds of joyful laughter flow from the house. This adds a unique touch to gameplay. The sound effects can also clue you in on buildings burning, parties and other strange and dangerous happenings. All in all, I was very pleased with the audio in Constructor, which didn't get on my nerves -- even after many hours of play.
Documentation & Controls
The copy of Constructor that I received did not include a manual, as it was a Gold Master CD. While having a manual probably would have helped me get into the game play a bit quicker, lacking one did not hinder me from learning the interface relatively quickly.
Constructor's requirements are pretty vague. Below is a suggestion of what should be a decent configuration for this game:
Required: DX4/100,16 MB RAM, DOS 5.0, or Windows 95, 4X CD-ROM drive, 30 MB hard drive space, SoundBlaster or 100% compatible sound card, SVGA graphics
Recommended: Pentium 90, 16 MB RAM, 70 to 200 MB HD space, 6X CD-ROM drive, SVGA graphics, SoundBlaster or 100% compatible sound card
Consult the box before purchasing this title, to ensure that you have proper configuration required to play it.
Constructor may be in a long list of decent real-time strategy titles coming out this year, but it holds a unique style of gameplay that I would recommend above many other highly-publicized games of the same genre. The humor in this game is actually funny. The style and content are odd and interesting, setting it apart from many games available. If you like real-time strategy builder games, you are going to love Constructor. One thing is certain: it has the best slogan I have ever heard for a game. "It's your city. Deal with it!"
Snapshots and Media
- A Train
- Microsoft Train Simulator
- Shoot em Up Construction Kit
- Sim City 4
- The Sims 2
- The Sims Bustin' Out
- Castle Story
- Children of the Nile: Enhanced Edition
- City Life
- MindRover: The Europa Project
- Populous: The Beginning - Undiscovered Worlds
- Sim Earth
- Zeus: Master of Olympus