Tycoon City: New York

It seldom seems to matter these days whether or not the games industry's technology is building worlds too complex for its games.

Designs are drowned by details, ideas are pushed aside by economics, and the price of construction routinely undermines creativity. Except in the case of Tycoon games, however, where the building of worlds is the design.

Rollercoaster Tycoon 3, for example, has continued to demonstrate how both attention to intricate detail and a runaway sense of scale can combine to benefit the strategic model underneath.

Tycoon City, a game that lets you rebuild New York from the first brick upwards, is pushing that theory to its limits.

"It's a massive challenge," confirms Deep Red director Clive Robert. "We have to build a city with tens of thousands of buildings and populate it with 60,000 people. Every district is the equivalent of an entire map in Rollercoaster."

Like that game, City instils in you the belief that every man, woman and child in its world exists for every second that you play.

From an overview of your cosmopolitan domain, a flick of the mousewheel shuttles via a single unbroken zoom to street level, where cars back up behind traffic lights, pedestrians follow their dynamic itineraries, and life in the Big Apple continues as if viewed from a real-life window.

Predictably, the pre-polish, pre-optimisation build demonstrated chugs and grinds as if its host computer's video card were melting (it most probably was), and one look at the full skyline of a fleshed-out, shadow-casting New York makes you fear for your own PC when release day comes around.

In spite of our overall enthusiasm, we do have reservations that only proper hands-on testing can overcome.

The construction of Tycoon City's world is still your responsibility in terms of which buildings go where, how they look and what they offer, but it doesn't entirely feel like a place that, from a distance, you can look upon as your own.

The city's road layout will always be fixed, and unless you're playing in Sandbox mode, so will the positions of its landmarks.

Will this damage the player's vital sense of affiliation with the world they create? We shall see. Once the final product is in our hands, however, we'll hopefully be too busy building up to let such things get us down.