Tropico 4 Review
The Chinese envoy sports giant buck teeth, and greets you at every opportunity by saying things like “Most Honowwable Weader” in a stupefyingly offensive accent. The envoy from the Middle East, portrayed as an extremely unflattering caricature of Yasser Arafat, is constantly making reference to his multiple wives and the extra “camels” he is going to throw in to sweeten trade agreements.
Why Haemimont felt justified in indulging these hateful stereotypes is a question only they can answer. The decision to do so while introducing a highly-touted new feature in the year 2011 is doubly distressing. I am sure they are not hateful people; perhaps cultural norms in Bulgaria are simply not well-armored against anti-Asian or anti-Arab racism. More likely, the game’s woeful missteps will be excused as part of the Tropico series’ consistent indulgence in very, very dark humor.
This is a shame, because when Tropico gets the black comedy right, it’s at its best. Though there are some dubious anti-Latino underpinnings in the original game’s decision to treat Spanish-speaking banana republics as a target of derision and a source of entertainment, the game’s “be the bad guy” approach helps it stand out from the strategy pack.
It’s hard not to feel a cynical glee when you’re fleecing put-upon Tropicans to top off your secret Swiss Bank Account, and indulging your cult of personality by building a giant statue of Presidente offers an interesting comment on the ego-stroking inherent to God gaming, in addition to being a fun thing to do.
Even when the game trades in literal gallows humor, as you’re ordering the execution of unruly citizens or selecting a heinous real-life war criminal as your in-game avatar, Tropico is saved by its sophisticated understanding of the realities of third-world dictatorship during the Cold War. However, when you’re being constantly bombarded by messages from a Chinese diplomat with an accent that would embarrass the creators of Team America: World Police, its hard to be forgiving.
In fact, it is often the bombardment itself that can rankle. Over the course of many hours with Tropico 4, you will hear the same greetings, complete the same tasks, and contend with the same crises, over and over again. The soundtrack, an assortment of amusing and well-performed Latin tunes, will eventually begin to haunt your dreams.
Even the natural disasters, well-rendered and much-promoted by the game’s developers, quickly succumb to the crush of familiarity. Once you’ve seen one unskippable volcanic eruption, you’ve seen them all, and the natural disasters pile up fast, thanks to their prime real estate on the back of the box.
It is this stultifying sense of sameness that eventually sinks Tropico 4. For all its multifarious features, buildings, and modes, you end up repeating things far too often. Being El Presidente may look like a lot of fun, but in the glinting style of the made-up medals gleaming on a dictator’s chest, a lot of it’s mostly for show.
- Beautiful, detailed world
- Clever adaptation of historical source material
- Easy-to-use controls and UI
- Repetitive missions, tasks, and gameplay
- Eccentric, unpredictable mechanics (freighters, imports, shacks, etc.)
- Racist content
Final Score: 65/100
Ed. note. The original version of this article was changed to reflect the fact that Haemimont Games is based in Bulgaria, not in Finland.