Review by BigCj34
"Another instance of the old 3D doesn't guarantee success cliche."
Rollercoaster Tycoon has always been a personal favourite in my experience with business management games. Before I ever played such a game it was always chancing it with Bullfrog's cumbersome Theme Park game, however Rollercoaster Tycoon was one of the founders of the now much-milked Tycoon franchise, where you could design roller-coasters and parks the way it should be done. The original two were released in 1999 and 2001, but were only in isometric 3D graphics and the second was too similar to the first. For the first time ever, you're playing Rollercoaster Tycoon in real 3D, eliminating all the problems of the 2D versions of limited viewing angles and you can awe at your creation in full 3D, any angle and at any distance you like. But does that make a better game on its own?
You'll notice from the start that RCT3 is radically different in design, from the menu layout to how all the options are presented in-game. Menu options are far more detailed and in-depth, RCT3 features an in-game tutorial to assist you with the new features and familiarise yourself with the menu's and camera controls to get you started. The career mode scenarios have returned to the game along with other expected options, whilst the new sandbox mode allows you to build your own dream park with infinite resources, or you can have a crack at designing your own improbable scenarios for your mates. If you have any by the time you're into this, (ok, the game isn't that good.)
The career mode aspect of the game appears to be quite vast, with a whole plethora of themed levels with others that are initially locked until you've beaten some scenarios. Each scenario has three objective tiers, ranking from apprentice, entrepreneur then the tycoon levels as the hardest objectives. Scenarios vary from disused castles and Hollywood scenes to Wild West ranches or tree-ridden islands, all requiring your services to turn them into a thriving park from a quiet tourist attraction or scratch. In the reality of the game however these are somewhat faddish scenarios as the objectives are often similar throughout albeit slightly harder. Despite their themes the scenarios are often uninspiring with many simply being effectively flat land that wants a park built upon it, whilst the scenario objectives are easily loop-holed, making the career mode rather dull with scenarios taking less than an hour to complete usually.
As one can expect, the amount of customisation options are simply vast. Shops allow you to fully customise what's sold, whether ½ pounder burgers are on the menu and how much cheese you put on, staff now need to be trained in order to keep up their productivity and happiness, finances need closer monitoring since you can't set entrance fees on many scenarios, whilst the tools for landscaping have been revamped so we don't have to put up with horribly geometric hills all the time, the list dwells on. Whilst all these options seem intimidating at first and you may end up yearning for the simplicity of its predecessors, it actually does prove to be beneficial and pay more attention to how the park is monitored. There's a little more micromanagement than what you were used to before, making sure staff are happy, that guests aren't too scared to enter your corkscrew monolith and that your VIP is in your oh-so-fancy Sci-Fi area.
As always the choice of things to build is not in a short supply, from shops to scenery, it all comes in the masses. The variety of rollercoasters is staggering, plenty of coasters varying considerably in price, the Wild Mouse Rollercoaster and Wooden Rollercoaster are relatively cheap but don't give particularly high speeds, for extreme corners and corkscrews at high velocities then you'll be paying much more for added steel and thrust to the ride, but makes for higher excitement ratings. Casual pre-built rides from the Merry-go-round to the enterprise wheel are vast and certain rides have different themes should you wish to create a themed area, for instance adventure or sci-fi, same with the shops. As usual there is a huge array of scenery to choose from, from trees to constructing themed buildings around rides and paths at your discretion. The choice can be intimidating to those who were used to the more down-to-earth choice of rides of the predecessors, but you'll soon learn how to handle the choice on offer.
The 3D graphics engine certainly doesn't fail to impress, but certainly does take up a lot of system juice making the game rather sluggish once your park is fully built, on an ordinary PC anyway. The graphics give a rather cartoony feel with some shiny environmental effects but low-polygon peeps, and the full 3D makes it far easier to build your own roller-coasters and actually see what is in the way of your ride when rollercoaster supports begin to obstruct your view. Despite many of the facelifts the rollercoaster-building part is instantly familiar, using the same fundamental menu system from before, but some useful niches such as the auto-finisher (remember how awkward finishing rollercoasters was sometimes?) and the coaster-cam, allowing you to view your creations first person. Just remember to have a bucket handy. Path building unfortunately is a little more cumbersome to be frank, trying to level land and build a path only to find they don't link from uneven squares is a pain to fix, but on the whole those returning to the series shouldn't find the learning curve as steep as expected.
RCT3 may look all new and shiny with what looks like a meaty career mode, one of the real shortfalls of the career mode and consequently the game is that it is just too easy. Unlike the objectives found in the original there is no time limit to the scenarios and they cannot be failed, whilst being very easily loop-holed and on the whole objectives feel awfully samey. Take it for instance that you have to repay a loan, this is easily done by selling most of your rides to give enough funding to repay it, then claim back the loan again to rebuild the rides. Building a ride of a certain rating is easily achieved by building a readymade ride for cheaply, whilst keeping a high reputation is a winner as long as you have a clean and tidy park. In comparison to the original the career mode objectives is just bite-sized affair, getting 900 guests in your park after 2 years is much harder than building two rollercoasters of a 7 rating and making sure the VIP sees a fireworks display. While the endless customisation and the sand-box modes are great, RCT3 feels more of a casual mess-around than hardcore action and doesn't have the same sense of reward, even an online component could've added much more. The satisfaction of building a thriving successful park from its predecessors seems to have oddly disappeared.
All-in-all, Rollercoaster Tycoon 3 does deliver to what it anticipates, but only to an extent. The amount of things to build is amazing, plenty to customize, whether it's music on your ride (use your own music collection if you want), how much cheese to put in those burgers to designing your own peeps. However, while most of the glitches of the initial release versions are now patched up (although peeps and staff do still occasionally make odd decisions) a career mode that you'd expect to be the core of the game falls significantly short of acceptable and leads this game to emphasise on sandboxing action, great for slapping together an awesome looking park, it just doesn't give the same satisfaction as that built from a tough objective. The 3D graphics are much-needed and certainly makes the whole park-building more convenient and does justice to the parks you spent ages building, for mainly that reason RCT3 is worth checking out for fans of the series, along with it's expansions Wild! and Soaked! but for those who like a more hardcore challenge, this is a disappointment.
Reviewer's Rating: 3.5 - Good
Originally Posted: 10/23/07
Game Release: RollerCoaster Tycoon 3 (EU, 11/05/04)
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