Tropico 4: Modern Times is the first major add-on for Tropico 4, which was released about six months ago. As its name suggests, Modern Times takes your Caribbean island out of the 1960s and throws some modern advancements at you. The good news is that these additions -- including 27 buildings and 10 edicts -- are integrated well into the game. The bad news is they make the game even easier than it was before, which was pretty easy.
Modern Times comes with a 12-scenario campaign. As always in the Tropico franchise, the campaign doesn't take itself too seriously. This time, you find yourself hounded by a mysterious group called the Conclave, which seems intent upon ousting you from power and taking over the world. Since the Conclave doesn't fight in normal ways, that means you have to deal with things like clones, hypno-frogs, and an epidemic of hiccups. The campaign is fun and silly and might take you around 35 hours to complete.
Another addition in Modern Times is 27 new buildings. These buildings include a solar plant (for clean and cheap power), a metro station (so people don't need automobiles as much), a business center (where people can work and make money for you), and lots of modern versions of some of the older buildings, including farms, ranches, and banks. In general, the new buildings are more powerful and convenient than the old buildings, and they make it easier to keep your people happy.
As an example, the new bio farms take a fixed amount of space (as opposed to the old farms, where farmers planted fields wherever they wanted), they don't deplete the soil, they generate way more crops, and they can grow multiple types of crops (including all cash crops or all food crops), meaning you don't need as many of them to feed your people and keep your economy rolling. Meanwhile, the new Telecomm HQ automatically improves the housing and job quality of all nearby buildings by up to 15 points. Because of the new buildings, a lot of the "quality" ratings can now exceed 100, where in Tropico 4 they were pretty much capped at 100.
To dole out the new buildings, developer Haemimont Games added a "timeline" to the interface. With it, when the date in your game passes a certain threshold (such as 1981 for metro stations), new buildings become available, and old versions (if applicable) stop being available. There isn't an "update" option for old buildings since most new buildings aren't the same size, so to replace them you have to destroy them and then build the new version. There are also events in the timeline that can affect your game. For example, during the Mad Cow years, beef exports earn less money since there isn't as much demand for them. Sadly, the timeline is only available in the Modern Times campaign and in sandbox games. You can't go back and play the original campaign with the new buildings.
Finally, Modern Times also adds in 10 new edicts. These edicts include things like "Fertilize," which improves the soil quality of your island, "Healthcare Reform," which increases the number of people who can visit your hospitals and clinics, and "Ban Social Networks," which increases productivity by 5%. The new edicts don't require a minister to enact them, but they do have other requirements, such as a chemical plant for "Fertilize."
The quality of the additions is pretty good. All of the new buildings fit in well with the old buildings (although the taller buildings can block your view, and so you have to be careful where you place them), and they change the game enough to make it feel like a new experience. Plus, all of the voice actors for your advisors are back, and they do a nice job adding new comments and radio broadcasts for your listening enjoyment. But on the downside, there is some sloppiness to the add-on. Maps get re-used in the campaign, some achievements don't save, objectives sometimes break, the new diamond cathedral is three times as big as the old cathedral but only fits 25% more people, and for some reason the shopping mall is still guaranteed to lose money. Fortunately, all of these problems (except apparently the shopping mall) should be easy to patch, and they aren't much of a detraction from the game even now.
Overall, I enjoyed the time I spent with Tropico 4: Modern Times. The add-on is lighthearted and breezy, and with all of the new buildings and edicts, you now have even more ways to build and run your perfect Caribbean island. Plus, since the campaign takes about 35 hours to complete (with sandbox mode adding more time to this), and since the add-on only costs $20, Modern Times is even a good deal, and so it's an easy game for me to recommend.
This review is based on a digital copy of Tropico 4: Modern Times for the PC provided by Kalypso Media.