"Get up, everybody's going to lose their seat You've got to lose your mind in Detroit Rock City". OK, so perhaps a very tenuous link with an old KISS song isn't the best way to start a review, but as it's has been swirling round and round in my head since I started playing the game. I just needed to tell someone about it.
After the success of Bullfrog's Theme Park, the buzzword at the moment is business simulations. Out the door go flight sims and combat sims and in comes accounts, marketing and producing consumer goods. Impressions already tried this a while back with their airline management simulation Air Bucks and didn't do too badly with it, but this time around it seems as though they have really hit the nail on the head.
BIGGER AND BETTER
Detroit is all about empire building (as opposed to Empire State Building - ha ha). More specifically it's about building an empire from selling cars a la Henry Ford, but there's a lot more to it than just that. You begin the game with one sales office, one factory, a small amount of money and the plans for a single car - the Model One. From this position you have to create the automated modern world, which isn't easy considering you actually start in the year 1908, when the roads are full of horse-drawn carnages and the car is a completely new concept. The overall aim is to make it all the way to the 21st century, developing new hardware and custom options as you go along, making more money all the time and generally trying to keep ahead of the other three car manufacturers, all of whom are fighting for that lead position too. I know it sounds horrendously complicated, and it seems like you'll just have too much to do at once, but bear with me while I explain.
There are really only five screens for you to work in. The first one you'll come across is the administrative office, where all your hiring and firing is done, among other things. In order to get things moving you will need staff and it's here that you recruit technicians and assembly workers (provided there are enough available) and assign them to various tasks. For example, there are seven major areas of design in a car (bodywork, engine, suspension, cooling, brakes, luxury items and comfort items) any of which you can assign technicians to design. Obviously, the more technicians you assign to a task, the faster you will get results. Similarly, you can assign assemblers to any of the six production lines in a factory, and you will receive a larger return from having more staff on the line. However, having loads of staff costs a lot of money, and you have to make sure you have a genuinely good product to be able to support such high overheads.
FROM A HAT
Once you have your office and factory up and running, you have to come up with a product. For the first year, you aren't going to be able to build anything new, simply because your technicians will need that first year to start developing new kit for you to play with. As a result, your first year in business is all about making loads of cash, and to do this you have to make and sell cars. The first real decision is where to sell the cars. As the game has been made as authentic as possible, you already know that there is little point in trying to sell your wares in places like South America and Australia in 1908, but there is a market in the more developed parts of the United States and Northern Europe, so that's where you open your sales offices. Then you have to set your marketing strategies, deciding how much you are going to spend in each sales area on advertising in magazines, newspapers, billboards, TV, Radio and any other media that might become available as time goes on. When selling any product you need to build awareness, so be prepared to spend quite a bit on advertising.
The last thing you need to do is set the price of the car, and to see how you should be pricing it, you need to go back to the admin office and check your office reports. Here you can view almost any aspect of the game, from how much profit your competitors are making to the estimated market demand for your cars worldwide. You can also find out exactly how much you opposition's cars are selling for in various parts of the world, and adjust your market strategy accordingly.
The real secret of the game, however, has to be the car design itself. Don't worry though, you won't need a degree in automotive engineering. At the start you are given a set of blocks to work with, from body shapes to the various internal parts of the car, from which you have to try and build the most exciting, inspiring and 'must have' vehicle ever seen. Once you have created your ideal car, you can choose the colour, give it a name and build a prototype, which you can then test for speed, braking and road handling, at the end of which you are given a percentage score for the car -the higher the better.
It all comes with the standard quality of Impressions packaging, with two game manuals, a cheat card to get you going plus a concise history of the motor car through the years, just to give you some idea of how the market has developed in real life, which you can apply to your game strategy. It isn't often that a company puts this much effort into their packaging, and it really does add to the quality of the game. Three cheers, I say.
Detroit looks great, as you can see, with watercolour images making up all of the screens. Unfortunately, the game doesn't have the animations of the PC version, but because the only part of the game that actually uses this is the testing screen, which isn't completely necessary, this failing is not much of a problem.
EASE OF USE
Playing Detroit is actually very easy. The layout of the program is logical enough to leave you with little reason to refer to the manual. Everything is accessible from the mouse or keyboard, and there are more than enough shortcuts to get you to what you want with the minimum of effort. One particularly nice feature is the fact that when you click on the 'next month' icon a screen appears with a checklist of all the available things you can do in the game, with ticks by all the things you have actually done. This serves as a handy reminder for things you may have forgotten to do, so that you don't end up losing the game simply by being forgetful.
Detroit is an excellent game. The nicest thing about it is the fact that Impressions have taken a topic which should inspire many, and presented it in a way which is satisfying enough to keep you playing while simple enough to appeal to the masses, not just the strategy buffs. If you want a game that will take up your days like very few others can, then this is the one to get.
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