Voice Module








In Memory
Sean Pettibone

This intriguing simulator from Ubi Soft and developer Trevor Chan allows you to conquer the business world through one of two different scenarios. Players are cast in the role of an entrepreneur who must build a small chain of supermarkets into an empire which can encompass a variety of different industries. It feels a bit like Sim City and should appeal to those who liked that game. Playing Capitalism II makes you appreciate the complexities and nuances of modern economics but is it any fun? Read on and discover the answer.

Resembling in many aspects the early 90's classic Sim City with a financial twist is the excellent title Tevor Chan's Capitalism II from Ubi Soft. This is pretty in-depth llok at the cause and effect of capitalism and the many inter-related factors that come into play as you build a business. There are many variables that work either for or against you including supply & demand, supplier routes, population density, price and the overall economy. As you begin the game, the menu has several options available including a tutorial, and internet play. For single players, there are two main scenarios included in the game: Entrepreneur and Capitalist. In the Entrepreneur mode, you start with a single small supermarket and decide which products to sell and how much to charge, which can be adjusted. After you earn some money, you can open another supermarket in another side of town, and can build until you've made a chain of stores throughout town. Building the supermarkets depends on location, and if the land is already occupied expect to pay a lot for that location. You'll also need to select a good location in the city that has a lot of traffic and a dense population. Otherwise, you may be doomed to slow sales and losses. In the Capitalist scenario you begin with a pre-existing empire and your goal is enlarge it through buying, trading and selling properties. While the objectives in each scenario are quite different and each has it's own unique challenges, they both benefit from an excellent interface. You can also create a customized game with your own parameters and objectives if the included missions don't offer enough depth or challenge to your liking.

The menu based interface allows you to zoom in on your store and see the foot-traffic first hand. You can also view each store's overall profit-loss margins, see individual items sales and costs to see how well your strategies are paying off. The game also allows you to expand to other industries and become a supplier as well. Here you have to keep your profit-margins above your costs while making sure that you match the prices that rival suppliers charge. In the other mode of the game, your main task is to earn as much money as you can before the rivals take market share from you. To do this, you need to be in a large number of businesses and strategically buy and sell other businesses in order to enlarge your market share. During each game, the calendar is running but you can change the speed of the game which helps a lot during the early going. As your business grows larger, you can hire and fire managers who will help you run the various aspects of your business. Of course, there may be points when a business reaches the end of its lifespan, and it can then be sold to a high-bidder. However, there are some circumstances where the land a business is on is more valuable than the business itself, in this case you can demolish the business and sell the land for profit. To help you gain an edge during the game, you can purchase research and development (R&D) labs which help your business by innovating new products that you can sell. While you can get some good foot traffic, this isn't enough to really sustain a healthy business in the long-term. You will need to do some promotion in order to juice your sales. During the course of the game, you can also increase your business by buying advertising in radio, TV and Newspapers. Later on, you can use your vast amounts of money purchase and run these media outlets and become a mini-Murdoch.

In addition, the game offers the player the chance to buy and sell stocks on the stock market.You need to be careful, because as in real life, the markets can be quite volatile, and so it might be unwise to risk to much of your capital on risky investments. Of course, any real life economic simulator should factor in the risks and challenges posed by competition. You'll find that both the computer and interent rivals are much smarter and more aggressive than in other financial games, which adds plenty of challenge. For example, if a competitor takes over a supplier, they may charge you more for an item than they charge themselves, or may punitively raise the prices to drive demand for an item down, while introducing a unique item for their own best interests, not yours. There's a lot to keep track and the game may be a little confusing at first, the good news is that an extensive tutorial and well-written manual are included which helps you get the basics down nicely.

Capitalism II's interface is designed so that all actions are but a mouse-click away. Players will find several maps. These are all smartly designed. In the main window, you'll see the most important area which is the main map. This shows you an overview of the city, which you can scroll around and see the traffic and construction moving along the streets. You can then zoom in and select a smaller area of the map, and focus in on a small subsection of the action, so you can closely monitor the actions of a building. In a small window in the upper left of the screen, there are other maps that can be called up to see land values, population density and shipping routes. This can also be used to locate your properties when your empire grows large. The graphic presentation of Capitalism II is pretty decent. The cities are viewed from an angled perspective and there are a nice variety of buildings to see. There are also some decent sound effects that happen from time to time.

It's fairly comprehensive but not entirely realistic. While there are many different types of businesses you can run in the game, the depth for each is a bit suspect. For example, the supermarkets and drug-stores can only stock four types of items which is far from realistic. Players also don't usually have to worry about zoning regulations, anti-trust laws or cannibalistic big-box competitors. The game's interface can be a bit burdensome sometimes, and the many minor details you have to keep track of can become tedious in a hurry, especially if your not into this kind of thing. However, making this a complete simulator might have made what is already a relatively complicated game overbearing and instead the title makes a good balance, giving players enough realism to make the gameplay believable but not overly annoying and anal. While it's financial aspects may not appeal to everyone, Capitalism II is a challenging and surprisingly sophisticated title that offers entertainment and education. It's a nicely done package with enough depth to keep strategic players happy yet is still accessible enough to remain fun for the casual player.

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