Some say it’s tough to get into property development, and whilst that may be true, they really ought to try the newest city building simulator to hit consoles, Constructor – believe me, you don’t know tough until you’ve tried to erect a house whilst being harassed by a gang of thugs.
Constructor was first released 20 years ago on the PC, being somewhat a favourite for fans of the genre, but now it’s had a complete revamp in order to bring proceedings up to modern day standards. Will this gritty city builder thrive in the current market, or could its stock drop quicker than a lead balloon?
Welcome to the shady world of Constructor; a place where success is just as much about your own construction prowess as it is about ensuring your opposition fails miserably. The general aim though is to grow from having a simple HQ, containing a handful of workers, to populating the surrounding areas with new builds and earning lots of dough from doing so.
To get to grips with the concept, the tutorial is the best place to start, and dare I say it’s arguably the best thing about Constructor. And that’s simply because it’s so darn in-depth and has a superb cockney voiceover provided by John Challis – better known as Boycie from the immensely popular sitcom, Only Fools & Horses. In this tutorial it’ll go through the procedures for placing houses, factories and Undesirables, whilst also explaining the need for tenants, how to increase your workforce and how any competitors can really throw a spanner in the works.
The whole thing can go on for a good hour, getting your input regularly and making sure you understand what each button on the UI does. Whether you remember it all is another matter as it isn’t very intuitive. It does its job for the most part, although as with many games, until you’re thrown in head first, you’re never quite sure how you’re going to handle the situations which may arise. And so, the real deal begins in what you would normally call a campaign mode.
In the main mode, there are a variety of end-game options such as having a set amount of cash after 40 in-game years, participating in all out war to take out the enemy and a mode without time limits – to name just a few of the six options which are included for anything up to four players/bots to participate in. There’s very little point in going over them all, mainly due to the fact that not an awful lot changes, aside from the method of winning. I found it increasingly frustrating to play the more ‘relaxed’ version, without time limits, only to see the ‘game over’ screen for not obliging the council’s demands within a certain time period. It became apparent in the other varieties of the mode that even on Easy difficulty and no opposition, I’ll never reach the finish line.
But it’s the taking part that counts, and there are tons of games where you can lose yet still have a jolly good time along the way. So, after building factories and renting out a few of my houses, I began to throw in extras like a place to build gadgets and a Police Station so I could have an officer patrolling the streets. I even sent an Undesirable thief across to enemy territory in order to bolster my bank balance. I was having a blast, until the same routine disasters started to occur.
For some reason, it appears that cockroaches are set to arrive and cause havoc on your streets. They are a pain to get rid of and it took me a while to figure out that in order for the critters to move on, all the houses in the area need a bathroom upgrade and you need to employ a few thugs, or general workers if that’s all you have, to give them a bit of a beating. Round two of predictable disasters come in the form of zombies. Yes, I do love the fact that the developers, System 3, are trying to make it very different from other games in the genre, but there’s enough to worry about in the way of enemy constructors, moaning tenants and the intruding council, without having to micromanage an area during a zombie apocalypse. And that’s just after I’ve built on a couple of pieces of land; I’d dread to think how overwhelming it becomes when you own half of the game world.
I think it’s tougher to micromanage in part because of the PC-like controls, using a cursor to navigate the map and a load of shortcut commands to try and remember. Even now I’m slightly confused as to which clickable button does what exactly, however this struggle is increased exponentially under the pressure of trying to put out proverbial, and often literal, fires all over the map. There’s barely a moment to gather your thoughts before another problem rears its ugly head.
Back to the gameplay though, and the Undesirables are a very neat addition to the city building world, meaning you can deploy a decent array of terrible types of people to do your dirty work. The hippies cause lots of noise and protest a lot, the psychos will actually go on a damage rampage and the thieves… well, we know what they do. They are great unless you’re on the opposite end of their antics, then you’re just waiting for the curtain to fall on your performance.
If the lengthy campaign style modes aren’t for you, then there’s a mission mode to enjoy. Except there isn’t, as it says the missions are coming soon. That’s terribly disappointing and I’m no fan of games releasing with modes which are unfinished. To have nothing in the missions section at all, and nothing added in the weeks since release, is just plain ridiculous.
What makes matters worse is that the online multiplayer aspect either doesn’t work, or there’s nobody ever playing it online. Despite it offering all the different mode variations for up to four players, I can sit in a hosted game lobby by myself for ages and no one will show.
So all we’re left with as the last remaining hope is the Game Designer option, allowing us the chance to configure our own options for a map, messing around with things like the budget and number of estates owned. The options are really basic and offer hardly any customisation in truth – at least not nearly enough to be worth bothering with. And whilst I’m on a moan, many of the achievements simply refuse to unlock despite hitting the requirements, which just adds to the frustrations.
In terms of visuals, Constructor looks a whole load better since its original release and is of an acceptable standard, but there’s nothing that’ll blow you away. The audio track grates on you after a short while, as do the random and bland outbursts of sound bites from workers and tenants whenever they are interacted with.
You’ll think I’m mad, but Constructor does start off as a rather enjoyable experience; plodding away, building little communities, experimenting with the Undesirables. It could be a great game, but then it swiftly all goes downhill. Repetitive scenarios throughout the campaign which cause far too much hassle, different end-game options which barely change anything and losing everything for simply not adhering to a pointless council task, all add to the frustration. That’s without taking into account the lack of any missions, a bare bones Game Designer mode and a completely dead multiplayer aspect.
Save your cash and spend it on something far more rewarding, because the seedy underworld of city builders doesn’t deserve your money!