Review by Reiji Kido99
"An excellent sim that, with a few fixes, could be perfect."
The music industry. Yeah, you know how it works...or do you? Sure, you may know that commerciality is key to selling records, or that the right look can mean everything. But do you really know EXACTLY what goes into running an actual record label? Do you know how to pick bands to sign, how to manage their careers, or how to get that number one spot on the Billboard charts? Well, now's your chance to find out! Rob Cooper's cult hit game series continues with Chart Wars 3...well, okay, so maybe that's a little deceiving, considering that Chart Wars 2 was never officially released in full. But, hey, Chart Wars was a decent game, and I can definitely say that Rob's attempt to modernize the series was hugely successful. CW3's premise is very basic: run a record label. Sound easy? It all depends. The music biz can be very unpredictable.
Starting a new game is very easy. With some games, especially simulations, merely beginning a new game can be complicated. CW3 is easy to begin. When starting a new game, you are prompted with the "Start New Game" screen (fitting). Here there are only a few things to fill out. Enter your name, first and last (enter an alias if you wish), as well as your birthdate and nationality. Next you must select what kind of game you want to play: do want to start your own record label, or do you want to manage an existing label? If you choose to take over an existing label, you are prompted with a very large list of real life record labels. All of the major ones are there: Sony, BMG, Epic, J, RCA, Island, Columbia, Interscope, Geffen - heck, even Psychopathic is there. The list goes on and on, which is a definite plus. You even get the added bonus of seeing which artists are on each label when you choose it. Awesome. If you choose to start a new label, everything is fairly simple to fill out. Be warned, though, that choosing to start your own label can be very dangerous unless you know what you're doing. It can be very difficult. It's probably better to choose an existing label and allow yourself to get used to the mechanics of the game.
Also, one more thing you need to realize: this game can take a VERY long time to load when you start a new game. This is due to the huge amount of information in the game. It only takes me two or three minutes, but I've heard of it taking upwards of an hour with different computers. I guess it all depends on your computer. Sometimes it'll even say that the program isn't responding - ignore that. It's still loading.
Anyway, once the game loads, there is a TON you can do. But first you must familiarize yourself with the game's timeflow. The game uses a realistic in-game calendar and you move on to the next day by choosing that option. You can view the date at the bottom of the screen. I believe that it begins on August 9th, 2004 - so realize that all of the music charts at the beginning will be from that date. All albums and singles are released on Mondays, which is also when you can view the weekly charts. It should also be noted that during the first 6 months or so of the game (up until about February) the game can run slowly on certain machines, due to artists shoveling out singles and albums. This slows down though eventually.
Okay, so now it's time to manage your record label. You have a lot of options. You can hire and fire staff, view music charts, track down and sign artists and bands, build studios or factories, check out the latest news, work with some of your currently signed artists...there's a lot to do. It may be a little overwhelming at first, but don't be afraid to get your hands dirty: try stuff out! The options are nearly endless and you can only learn by experience. Because of the size of the game I am going to break up some of my explanations into sections based on some of the stuff you may be trying out.
The music charts in the game are divided into two types of musical merchandise: albums (example: Usher's "Confessions") and singles (example: Usher's "Burn" (not that I even like Usher...gag...but he comes to mind first)). These two categories are again divided amongst four areas: the United Kingdom, the United States, Europe, and Australia. All of these four locations have their own charts. Of course, you can release your discs "worldwide" (which includes Canada, Mexico, Japan, etc) but as of now these locations do not have their own in-game charts. The only one I would've even considered would be Canada, but if you're Canadian then don't worry about it too much, the game is still very fun. On the charts screens you can view the hottest songs and albums as well view upcoming releases. You can also see what percentage of weekly sales a particular record label has, which is shown on pie charts, and I thought that was very cool. There are also two very nifty screens on the charts screens: a screen which shows what music genres are currently popular in specific areas, and a screen that shows weekly statistics and info such as "Youngest Chart Topper" and "Highest Percentage of Weekly Sales."
Bands and Artists Signing Them
Signing artists and bands is a huge part of the game, especially if you started a new label. Pick the right artist and you can end up rich; pick the wrong one and you could be irreversibly ruined. So, it's always a good idea to get a talent report on a band or artist. Depending on the quality of your staff, you can get different results. To be safe, it's always good to start off with one or two teeny bopper pop chicks to get some quick cash before signing some of the stuff you really like (no offense if you like that kinda stuff). Hilary Duff comes to mind as a real artist that's unsigned at the beginning of the game (although the list of real life bands and artists is pretty extensive, there are also a ton of randomly generated bands/artists that are unsigned at the beginning). Another would be Kimberley Locke, who you may want to consider signing (and the fact that she's an excellent artist in real life is comforting).
Once you find an artist or band that you want, you need to offer them a contract. A screen will show up with the artist's MINIMUM requirements. Note that if you decrease any of these things, there is a HUGE chance that they will sign with a different label and you'll lose them. This isn't always the case, since some bands may just be desperate for a contract. Usually if the artist is getting a lot of offers, you will probably need to stretch your bank account a little and give them more than they ask for. Usually artists and bands respond to your offers within a week or two.
Bands and Artists Managing Them
Once you have a band/artist on your label, you have a few decisions to make. You can work on a new album, which is always good especially for new artists. If the band contains a songwriter than they've probably already begun writing material, and if they have 10 songs you can choose to release an album. One thing I loved about this game was the ability to choose the tracklist. There are two numbers assigned to each song in the game: a quality percentage (how "good" the song is) and a commerciality percentage (how "radio friendly" the song is). Both of these affect sales of albums and singles. For an album, you can choose anywhere from 10 to 15 songs. If your band does not contain a song writer, than you have to pay songwriter fees to have songs written for your band or artist. This isn't uncommon in real life, but in the game it can slow down the album process a bit. It's also a VERY good idea from a reputation standpoint to release one or two singles before releasing a full length album. Singles will bring in some revenue, yes, but the albums are the ones will will bring in the real money, and you need to get your bands' foot in the door before sales begin.
Another way to manage your bands/artists is by touring. You get to customize your tours to a certain degree: choose what areas and venues they perform at, who will support them, and what company will sponsor the tour. Touring can greatly raise artist/band reputation and is very good right after releasing an album and some singles. If your band/artist is hugely popular, the tour can bring in HUGE amounts of money. I've seen anywhere up to $100,000,00 or even more for a single tour. That's huge. Unfortunately, touring has it's drawbacks - you can lose large amounts of money if tickets don't sell, and you can't make them do anything else while they tour.
You can also promote your bands/artists by putting them in news magazines and on TV shows. Currently you can only promote your artist if they have 60% reputation at least in one area, unless you download one of the many add-ons available on the internet. This can also be very helpful in raising album sales.
This Review is Concluding...
Okay, so I'm cutting this review a bit short - but I did cover most of the game's aspects (don't be surprised to find that there's a lot more). I'm now going to go over the positive and negative aspects of the game...
The game is just awesome. It's text based but still manages to be an amazing game. Signing artists and bands is very cool, as well as the many things you can do with them. Charts are fairly realistic, and it feels amazing when an artist you've supported from the beginning FINALLY gets a number one record. One thing I forgot to mention was the news articles you receive throughout the game. During the game, random events can occur and you will be notified about them. These can range from anything like Britney Spears and Adam Levine dating, to Bruce Springsteen having a drug addiction, or even to Beyonce dying in a plain crash. The game also comes with an editor, which is cool, although that comes with some negatives as well. For the most part, the game is not only addictive but very open ended and the possibilities are ENDLESS in Chart Wars 3.
Although, to me, the game is amazing, there some problems that kept it from getting a 9 or 10. For one, the loading times. Yes, they can be excruciating in some parts, but to me the long loading times aren't as annoying as how inconsistant they are. One day can take less than a second to load while another can take minutes. Mondays and Tuesdays are the worst. There are also a few glitches that are annoying. Cancelling tours can cause some errors, and sometimes errors with events can occur (One talked about a vocalist being unable to drum because they broke their arm, another talked about Britney Spears dating someone even though she died a month earlier). These event errors are extremely rare but they're there. One thing that really bothered me (although it doesn't really affect the game) was on the discography screen when it showed the list of released singles and albums, if the single or album wasn't released in the UK, it says it's "Unreleased." You still get the money for selling it and it appears on the charts in the areas it was released in, but it just kinda annoyed me. Another thing, the editor. This took me FOREVER to master! I personally recommend not using it at all, or using it sparingly. Because a single mistake in using the editor can completely ruin the entire game, it's very difficult to use. Rob has spoken of releasing an updated version of that so hopefully he will in the future. God knows how much grief this editor has caused me.
In closing... The game is great, especially if you like sim games or are interested in running a record label. It's both realistic and unrealistic at the same time, and that may not make sense now but it's definitely a good thing. There a few things that can be improved, but Rob has acknowledged just about all of them and will probably fix them in the next update. He's a very hard worker and, as far as independent game designers go, he takes the cake as my favorite. I've played this game to death, and I'll keep playing, but I'm still patiently awaiting the next version...as well as Hollywood Mogul 3 (damn, that's taking forever..but it looks brilliant). So, 8/10 for Chart Wars 3. Hope that my little review here helped your decision to get the game. www.osirisgames.com is where you need to go to get it. So...go do it! Thanks for reading my review. I hope I've been helpful =)
Note: This review was written based on version 1.2 of the game.
Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 05/16/05
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