Cities in Motion Review (PC)

No. You can't build anything but transport. Yes. Cities in Motion (CiM) has a semi-deceptive title. Now that’s out of the way we can crack on. This isn't a game about urban planning or utility management. Rather it’s concerned with the core business of helping miniature commuters navigate their meaningless lives. Combining a strong economic base-game with a wonderfully realised graphics engine, you’re tasked with solving a gigantic transport puzzle. There's no redrawing roads to get around a problem - you're stuck with what’s already in place.

CiM can of course be compared to Open Transport Tycoon Deluxe, the community project that’s continued the development of Chris Sawyer's classic game. In that, much like Cities in Motion, you have to consider how to get people from A - B. It all sounds deceptively simple – pop down infrastructure and watch the masses come. In CiM this is achieved through a selection of transport types. However, it quickly becomes apparent that this isn’t really about the transport at all, but rather it’s the player trying to solve a large-scale logic puzzle. In oTTD it was train signals and how to keep cargo flowing, in CiM it's the transport stops and where they’re positioned.

I Choo Choo Choose You

Yes, it’s a tiny insignificant detail that is indeed the most important feature. Their relation to surrounding buildings, lines and economy can make or break a transport company and often, sadly, you have no idea why. For example, one minute your line's chugging along without a care in the world, the next your newly constructed stop sends chaos rippling across the network as people crowd around trying to pack onto a bus. Transport breaks down, queues form, unhappy smiley faces start cropping up all over town – it’s all gone a bit wrong.

This is where most will find issue – while accessible, (a helpful tutorial holds your hand through the basics), it's also entirely unforgiving. Despite your best efforts to alleviate congestion, you'll just end up exaggerating the problem. This is a thinking man's game - much like oTTD is. The satisfaction is the same when you miraculously get something right - a well oiled interchange of trams, subway and bus is a marvel to behold. All those individuals scurrying around, filling your coffers - it's a wondrous sight.

And how is that achieved? Getting people around is done via 5 different means, two of which (boat and helicopter) tend to be overshadowed by the rest. The cheapest, and therefore most popular, is by bus. Stick down some stops, link them together as a line and reap the rewards (capacity willing). Never mind the traffic, regular breakdowns and small capacity of the vehicles – this is by far the most used form.

Next is the tram - that distinctly European mode of transport. The majority of the time they'll coexist on the roads, sweeping through back streets sending people on their way. This is where Cities in Motion struggles again.

The crowds were overwhelming…

Public transport is supposed to alleviate issues of congestion. By overloading the already crowded streets with electric trams and supplementary buses, your pride and joy will often sit stagnant as the city's cars hem you in. There aren't any bus lanes and you can’t demolish buildings to make space for alternate tram routes. Like we said, it’s a big puzzle and up to you to solve it.

Bypassing the streets is rail. Whether underground as a Metro, elevated like in America or a combination of both, the subway is costly and effective. Carefully planning the route will take the strain off your road transport, but throw around track and you’ll quickly find yourself out of money, requiring a loan from a bank. Hopefully they release a replica of London in the future – it’d be great to have a crack at running the unstable London Underground.

Desires aside, supplementing all of this is a competent business simulator. After all, the aim of the game is to make money. A fluctuating economy forms the lynchpin on your efforts and it’s up to you to capitalise on market drops, increases in car usage and ever-changing electricity bills. The ability to micromanage is astonishing and those with a keen eye will do much better than those who simply want to play with the pretty transport.

Advertising campaigns complement detailed maps and graphs – it’s all there and ready to be utilised in the name of your transport company.

Get To The Chopper

But perhaps the saddest thing about Cities in Motion is that while this is all going on, you’ll be too engrossed in your planning to notice the gorgeousness of the game’s engine. While the choice of cities is a tad slim (there is an advanced Map Editor for your own creation) – Vienna, Helsinki, Berlin and Amsterdam – each is painstakingly recreated through the ages. It can easily be described as city-porn and makes Cities XL / Sim Cities Societies look abysmal.

With 100 buildings, twelve scenarios and thirty vehicle types, we’re hoping that the game will be well supported by an active modding community as well as post-release DLC. At the moment actual content is a tad sparse, but at a knockdown price of £14.99, you’re getting a lot for your money. The game, while difficult, is undeniably addictive. If you’ve ever dipped your toe in the city / transport simulation water, then you’ll find yourself right at home.

Top Gaming Moment: Actually getting a profitable network working flawlessly



By Nicolas19 (SI Core) on Feb 18, 2011
I've played the demo yesterday. It is very promising, however I sincerely hope they manage to iron out some irregularities before release (0-day maybe?). One of them is the lack of timetables - even if you try to alleviate an overused bus line by adding more buses, they don't keep their distance, so after a few rounds you'll have three buses behind each other, while at the other end of the line an angry mob forms. This can be a game-breaker.
While the issues you've described can be considered realistic, they didn't bother me that much.
Can't wait to see the real cities. I hope there will be more soon - London, Barcelona, Paris... and of course, Budapest:)