If someone had originally plonked me down in front of Transport Tycoon and told me that it was the latest game from Maxis, I wouldn't have doubted them for a moment. You see, everything about Transport Tycoon screams Sim City 2000... from the art nouveau title screen, to the music, to the graphics (incredibly neat and detailed and with a beautifully implemented Windows system for all those submenus and graphs and whatnot). But, of course. Transport Tycoon isn't a Maxis game - it's from MicroProse. But the really amazing thing, and my mouth is truly agape in astonishment as I say this, is that the entire game was written, coded and drawn by a team of two. Yup, just two blokes. Talk about pioneer spirit. And don't for even a pico-second think to yourself "Yeah, but if it's just been done by two people, there must be something a bit shonky about it somewhere along the line," because there's not a creak in sight. I'll say it here, at the beginning of the review, that Transport Tycoon takes Sim City 2000 and... well, it doesn't piss on it exactly, but it does sort of slap it around the face a bit. Let's say it's about one and a half times better than Sim City 2000: but, of course, that's simply the aesthetic side. For the actual gameplay itself we will have to make comparisons elsewhere....
It's not a Sid Meier game
Railroad Tycoon (RT). What a blast from the past, eh? Yet another one of those classic Sid Meier games that have never been bettered: until now, that is. It's completely obvious that the geezers behind Transport Tycoon (TT) played Railroad Tycoon, loved it to bits, and decided to take things a stage further... and exactly what "a stage further" translates into is as follows.
The graphics: RT was a simple and rather dull "top-down" affair, in lo-resolution. As you can plainly see, TT is a gloriously hi-resolution, isometric orgasmo-blast from the planet Boing.
The vehicles: In RT you controlled the railroad: you built stations and track, trains and wagons, and you transported stuff around. And you do in TT, as well. However, in the latter you don't have to just do it in trains. You can build a bus and trucking empire, or you can do a Richard Branson, or even dabble in the shipping mogul trade, a la Onassis.
The competition: In RT the computer-controlled opponents sort of cheated... they weren't bound to the same rules as you, the player. What's more, you couldn't see what they were up to, because all their equipment - trains, depots or whatever - was off limits. In TT, not only are the computer-controlled players faced with exactly the same challenge as you, but you can also check them out in detail. (Even to the point of clicking on one of their, say, aircraft, and finding out what's on board).
The towns: In RT the towns simply grew in size on their own as you shipped goods and passengers between them. While the same sort of thing happens in TT, you do have a bit more control. You can pay for advertising campaigns, for instance, to tempt people to move in. Or you can finance house building projects. And so on.
Link up: In RT there was no head-to-head, link-up option. In TT there is: and I can imagine head-to-head play on TT would be as brilliant (in its own way) as head-to-head play in Doom.
A rip-off hybrid?
So let's sum up thus far. Transport Tycoon is a bang up-to-date version of Railroad Tycoon, with sonics and visuals that are straight out of a Maxis game. Does that make it totally unoriginal? Er, yes, but I think the point here is that it doesn't matter. It's beside the point. For starters. Railroad Tycoon has always been a game in need of a sequel... so who cares that it hasn't been produced by Sid Meier? (Especially as he and his posse wouldn't have done half as good a job as these blokes.) (Probably.) For seconds, if you are going to do a sequel to Railroad Tycoon, then what better approach to take than the Maxis one? First-person perspective, guru-shaded polygons would not have worked, after all, and I can't really see it as a platform game. So there you go. Seeing as a second Railroad Tycoon was bound to exist eventually, rather than say "rip off, rip off", I reckon we should all be glad that it's been done in the way that it has, and with such panache.
Get on with it...
Okay, so back to an explanation of the actual game itself, and essentially it's quite straightforward. At the beginning of a game (after you've set the difficulty and scenario options, which can only be described as extensive), you're faced with a gigantic landscape. And believe me, it's enormous: don't quote me on this, but it "feels" about four times bigger than the one in Sim City 2000. But anyway, so there it is. Scattered about randomly are numerous isolated communities. Some are villages, some are small towns, but as I said, they're isolated. They each have their own internal road systems, but are miles away from one another and not connected in any way. Then there are the farms, factories, coal mines, ore mines and whatnot. They're randomly scattered about too, and are also isolated... to greater and lesser extents.
Your mission (should you choose to accept it) is simply to "join everything together". Or something like that. Actually, it's worth mentioning here that simply "joining everything together" isn't simple at all. In fact, it's bloody hard work and requires intense concentration, patience, planning and logic. Not to mention a near photographic memory. It's also worth mentioning that you can play this game as a sort of giant train (car/plane/ship) set. In other words, you can turn the opposition off altogether and tackle the empire building process as a monopoly. (A good move when first learning the game... it means that your three-mile long railroad isn't scuppered at the last moment by some computer-controlled opponent, placing an airport and three loading bays in exactly the same spot your superb station was going to go.)
Windows, Windows, Windows
I briefly mentioned the Windows system earlier, but I'll reiterate anyway. It's excellent. Far superior not only to Sim City 2000, but to any game you care to mention. (Not that there are that many dos games with Windows systems, sure, but you know what I mean.) For instance, every single window is fully interactive at all times. Here's an example. Let's say you build a bus and send it on a passenger service between town a, town b and town c. And let's say that for some reason you want to check up on its progress for its first month in service. You can either follow it in the main game view, or, if you prefer, just click on it and a small, draggable window with the bus in question centred, will appear. Now you can go elsewhere on the map and continue, say, with work on your rail link between town f and town g: and all the while your bus is in sight. And then, let's say, you notice a different coloured vehicle overtaking your bus. (Things do overtake, by the way.) You are rightfully alarmed. It's a vehicle owned by one of your competitors. So what's it up to? Easy to find out, because you simply move the mouse pointer into the small window in question, click on the "enemy" vehicle and a new window appears. It's the enemy vehicle window. Exactly the same as your "bus" window, but this one contains the enemy details. You discover that it's, say, a goods truck, and it's fully loaded. You can even find out where it came from and where it's going to. Further-more you can either act on the information now, or you can just leave the window onscreen (drag it out of the way somewhere) and continue with your railway. When you have finished you can zap straight to the enemy vehicle with a click of the button. The same goes for planes, trains and ships. And even better than that, it also goes for newspapers. Yup, in traditional Railroad Tycoon and Sim City 2000 style, newspaper headlines appear every so often: "Enemy Bastard Competitor Builds Airport At Croydon", for example, and there's a picture of it. Click on the picture in the paper, and voila... a window containing Enemy Bastard Competitor's Airport. Click on the "location" button and you're in Croydon. Quick, build an airport yourself, and a railway while you're at it. And so on.
Oh for more space
Transport Tycoon is one of those games that can't really be fully explored in a four-page review. I'd need ten to get you right up to speed and even then I'd have to leave out something. Suffice to say that it's, without a doubt, absolutely massive in scope and a total corker... and if you're at all into Sim City/Railroad Tycoon style games then this one is the most essential purchase yet. The attention to detail throughout is phenomenal. It's obviously been a labour of love. When you first start playing you can't help but find yourself being constantly impressed by this little touch and that little touch. And where as Sim City 2000 was a bit stingy on player "rewards" (statues and suchlike), the mere fact that time chugs inexorably on in Transport Tycoon is enough to keep you satisfied... because you never know what's going to be invented next. Will it be a passenger jet to replace the dodgy old 1930's Dakota? A hydrofoil passenger ferry? A monorail? And so forth.
If I've got one problem with Transport Tycoon (and it is only one) it's that the landscape is sort of too vast. The one option they left out was a size customiser, for crap people like me.
Download Transport Tycoon
- PC compatible
- Operating systems: Windows 10/Windows 8/Windows 7/2000/Vista/WinXP