Dictators are having a tough time of it recently. Perhaps you could do better? Given supreme control over a fictional Caribbean island and its populace will you be a benevolent ruler or a despised dictator?
Tropico 4 gives you the opportunity to prove yourself a worthy leader over twenty campaign missions with a variety of islands and hundreds of objectives to complete. Being thrust into power is an almost overwhelming feeling at first and this is one of the few games where the tutorial missions are a must-play.
Ruling a nation is a balancing act on dozens of levels. Your citizens (or comrades, if you choose) naturally have their own demands in terms of housing, jobs, food, religion, healthcare, entertainment and so on. Keeping every individual happy is pretty close to impossible so balancing the relative happiness and respect of each faction becomes a major factor and a real test of your leadership skills.
The most disgruntled people may protest, run against you in elections (should you allow them) or even become rebels and engage in terrorist activities on your cities. Your leadership style will determine how you deal with these incidents, either appeasing them (and losing the respect of some factions) or crushing them with a military response which, again, will please some and anger others.
Alongside all of these concerns you will have to manage your economy. Making best use of your islands natural resources whether that be mining gold, growing crops or encouraging tourism is the key to a successful income. As with all things in the world of Tropico everything needs careful balancing. Heavily mining your island will upset the enviromental faction, encouraging foreign immigrants will anger the loyalists and having a mardi gras festival in your city centre will not go down well with the religious faction.
Keeping on top of everything that requires your attention is a huge task and there is never a dull moment in Tropico. Each of the campaign missions have a large list of objectives that you must achieve and these are supplemented with optional objectives which might give you a boost with a certain faction, foreign power or a cash-in-hand deal to your private Swiss bank account.
Yes, that's right, you're a leader of an island paradise but you don't have to be above a little corruption. The freedom with which you can control your island is great, you can set up a secret police force to crush rebellions before they begin, put the unemployed in prison to keep them quiet, have them "taken care of" or just deport them to a US military base if they're too much trouble. On the flip side you can have open and honest democratic elections, appeal to your people with a campaign speech and try to improve your standing with tax cuts, social security benefits and free housing schemes.
Being a corrupt dictator can have a downside too (as can any leadership style) and foreign relations and diplomacy will always have an impact on your island. Upset a nation and you'll received less funding, imports and exports will suffer and if things get too out of hand they may even invade. Forming an alliance with one of the superpowers might help you out of these situations but the long term cost of a US military base on your island might be one you are unwilling to pay.
Suddenly, ruling an island of your own sounds like hard work but there is a wealth of information and statistics to help you make informed decisions. Everything from your standing with the USSR to the thoughts and happiness of an individual dock worker on their way to the pub are modelled here and this goes into the visual aspects of the game too. Whilst the graphics never have the fidelity or wow factor of other genres, being able to zoom in to see each citizen or building is still impressive and gives an added sense of connection to your island.
The downside to this amazing level of detail is navigating it using the 360 controller. Having been ported from the PC, Tropico shows its roots far too often and early experience of the user interface is one of confusion and frustration. Persistence improves things but the generally cumbersome nature of the interface and lack of customisation (no quick-action shortcut keys?) make it hard to get to grips with what is undoubtedly a great game. Road building in particular is a stupidly fiddly exercise and given how vital it is in the development of your island it is disappointing that more care couldn't have been taken over its execution.
Similarly, navigation through the pages of information contained in the game's almanac is a frustratingly slow affair and appears that no attempt has been made to port it to the 360 controller. Imagine navigating a complex web page using only the tab button and arrow keys and you'll get a good idea of how it feels.
Despite the shortcomings of its transformation from PC to 360, Tropico 4 is a rich and immersive city builder game with lots to keep you busy and plenty of replayability value.