We take on the Caribbean in Tropico's foray onto the PlayStation 4.
Tropico 5 released on the PC in May 2014 and since then has been slowly rolling out onto consoles, with the latest being Tuesday's upcoming PlayStation 4 launch. Here's a quick summary of the game for those that haven't tried their hand at it yet.
You play as a dictator leading the island nation of Tropico, expanding your Dynasty and taking both a political and economic foothold, all while trying to keep the stronger world powers from becoming angry and decimating your lands. Build up your town, explore the island, claim resources, engage in sea trade, and attract voters to keep your reign. Research new technologies, establish a constitution to setup how you wish to rule and perform missions to earn rewards or prestige. Multiplayer breathed new life into the Tropico franchise as you compete head-to-head or go co-op while striving to make El Presidente's dynasty the greatest.
The PlayStation 4 edition of Tropico 5 will go live globally on Tuesday, April 28, 2015. I went hands-on this past week to see how the strategy city-sim plays out compared to its PC counterpart.
While playing through the campaign, both framerate and core gameplay felt pretty solid, with no noticable lag and decent load times. All of the features available on the PC seemed to have been carried over to the PS4 port. Graphics looked stellar on the TV, and once I turned off inverted camera I was happily on my way to building my Tropican empire.
There were a few control things that bothered me when playing Tropico 5 with a controller rather than keyboard and mouse. The worst was navigating the choices on the construction menu. Only the left joytick scrolls through these, and on the tabs with a lot of choices it was very easy to accidentally slide past your intended option too fast—or sometimes, to not even have the scroll select it at all. With the amount of time spent building, some tweaking needs to go into making the construction menu navigation more user-friendly.
The speed controls took a while to get used to. Your keypad controls the pause/play/fast options, and despite my brain telling me that you should be able to cycle through continuously by pressing the same button, that is not the case. Down always pauses, left will slow down, and right will speed up. It's a minor thing once you get used to it, but felt a bit awkward at first.
Other control options, like selecting citizens and flipping through menu/building tabs, took a short while to get the hang of, but overall are set up efficiently. The sub-menus for the Almanac, Research, Constitution, Edicts and so on are tucked out of sight by default and can be accessed with L2/R2 and the corresponding button. These could benefit from having labels, as otherwise you're stuck with memorizing icons—some are easy as you use them frequently enough, but others less used can be a pain.
One of my favorite parts of Tropico 5 on the PS4 was grid placement. That probably sounds strange, but I will mass destroy buildings if they're misaligned on the PC version, and it felt like there was better visualization of grid placement on the console edition.
I didn't get the opportunity to jump into a multiplayer session, but looking through the setup options it appears to be the same as the PC. In case you were wondering as I was, you can't do local play with a split screen; I tried inviting my spouse to a game, and while he received the invite, the game didn't split screen for us. This would be a great addition for the future, though! (nudge, nudge)
If you don't own Tropico 5 yet and have a PlayStation 4, I definitely recommend picking it up when it launches next Tuesday (if you're in the EU, it already launched today). While the construction menus can be finicky, overall the gameplay is still the great Tropico experience fans of the franchise have come to love. Multiplayer is sure to be hopping once the game launches, so there's a lot of replayability in store for El Presidente.
Ann "Cyliena" Hosler, Managing Editor