PC REVIEW: JOHN DEERE AMERICAN FARMER

I don't know any American farmers personally, but I sure do know a lot of Canadian farmers. As some of you may or may not know, I live in the middle of Saskatchewan, for reasons that are still very unclear to me. This is farming country, pure and simple. And many of the farmers here may not be pure but they sure as hell are simple. Yes, simple as in almost retarded. Not all of them are, mind you. Especially not the ones that have loaded guns in their trucks and know where I live.

Far be it from me to make fun of the farmer, they do that on their own. I'm simply holding a mirror to their social behavior. I have nothing against the farmer, I just don't care to see them or hear what they have to say. Speaking of having something to say, I can understand New York City cab drivers better than the pigeon English some of these farmers up here dribble out of their mouth. How come I never hear a doctor or a lawyer with one of these immigrant accents?

John Deere American Farmer is a sim. It's interesting and realistic in many ways except that when you get in trouble here in Canada the government will bail you out with subsidy checks not unlike the welfare system. I swear that all I ever hear in Saskatchewan is the farmer complaining about everything - especially people on welfare. I guess they don't like waiting in line at the bank behind welfare recipients when they go to cash their subsidy checks that they received from the government.

Farming is a business. John Deere American Farmer treats it like one. It's not the most perfect sim ever but it certainly teaches you about the dynamics of farming. If you've ever wanted to speed down a gravel road in your pickup truck with a dog in the back while counting how many teeth you have left by viewing your reflection in the your shattered side mirror, then this game is for you.

To make money as a farmer you have to sell something. But you also have to have money so that you can spend money to make money. That can take the form of crops or livestock or both. You have 2,000 acres in which to plant crops, maintain them and eventually harvest them. Crops such as corn, wheat, sunflower and soybeans may be planted but you'll have to consider your soil conditions, moisture content and whether to purchase cheap seeds or more expensive genetically engineered seeds.

Speaking of "whether," you will always be at the mercy of the elements. Weather plays an important role in the life of the farmer. It's can't be too hot, too cold, too dry or too wet - although if you ask a real farmer it's always one of them. You'll also have to contend with other nasty variables such as insects, plunging market prices and those crazy expenses.

Maintaining your crop can deplete your available cash. You will have to make decisions regarding pesticides, herbicides, fertilizers and aerial spraying. You want to protect your crop from damage or take measures to fix already damaged crops but you don't want to spend one cent more than you have to. It will eat into your profits and you won't be able to afford those nice brown shoes your wife pointed out to you in Wal-Mart that you can wear to your nephew's wedding instead of your crap-stained work boots.

You can raise hogs, beef and dairy cattle. As in the case of the crops you have to keep an eye on the market price. Always holdout until the price rises. Then take the one-hour drive into town with your left turn signal blinking for the entire trip. Also, don't forget to pull out onto the highway at the slowest possible speed regardless of any approaching vehicles.

Of course you can't run a farm all by your lonesome. You'll need to raise you a few kin and hire some help. Your family won't cost you in labor as long as you give them a place to live and let them have some interesting leisure time - perhaps shooting at old TV sets at the dump or at rural road signs. You'll also have to treat the hired hands well or they'll get disgruntled and leave. Perhaps you have a daughter or two that you're not using at the moment?

Now here comes the catch. You're going to need farm machinery and you can bet your ass it's going to be top-of-the-line John Deere products. You'll need more than a million dollars to get it all. A damn combine can be a quarter of a million - and you only use the thing for a few weeks out of the year. The game should give you the option of renting or at least buying older, used equipment which is what most farmers have to do when they start out. Getting in debt too early in the game is a dangerous development.

There are 10 different scenarios designed to test your strategy and management skills. There is even a map editor so that you can add a few options of your own. An overhead view of your farm lets you see what's going on so that you can make instant decisions on specific situations. Graphically the game looks every bit a budget title. There is no more detail presented than absolutely needed to get the point across. Most of the detail, obviously, is spent on the John Deere equipment which looks as realistic as a catalog photo.

You don't have to be a farmer to get into this game, but even if you are, you can probably get someone to read the manual and explain all the big words to you.

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System: PC
Dev: Jack of all Games
Pub: Globalstar
Release: June 2004
Players: 1
Review by Cole
RATING (OUT OF 5)
OVERALL
3.0
GRAPHICS
2.5
CONTROL
3.5
MUSIC/FX
2.0
VALUE
2.5