The Sims 3 PC, Mac
How the hell do you write about The Sims 3, or at the very least, squeeze it into around 800 words? At base level, it is ostensibly the same game as the two that came before it, and their many, many expansion packs, and it is only when you get into the nitty gritty – the real detail – that The Sims 3 really starts to show all of the wonderful, unique ideas that it brings to the table. It is still the same odd little “life simulator” it has always been, with your created Sim living and interacting in a town full of other Sims, either presets or of your own creation, until they eventually die of old age or in a catastrophic house fire.
Regardless of what I say in this review, a few of you are almost certainly going to end up with a copy anyway, because 1) You’re already a fan of The Sims, and to be fair, you were always going to like this or 2) You’re a girl who doesn’t actually play video games, but the Sims isn’t like the games those geeks play with their guns and their tits and stuff. Therefore, this review isn’t for you, and I’m sure you’re already playing interior designer whilst trying to get your lovingly crafted replicas of you and Sarah Michelle-Gellar to mate.
And to think us gamers are the weird ones? Jesus.
So, for the rest of us, is The Sims 3 worth any of our time and money, if at all? All of the tedious micromanagement that may have put people off previous games has been streamlined and all of the stuff that does require a bit more care and attention is now more fun, more detailed. For instance, you now spend significantly less time making sure your Sim doesn’t soil himself, or go to work smelling like the inside of an arsehole, but now get to decide exactly how to spend the working day, what to do on days off and the multitude of new ways to interact with all the different Sims. Each created character must select a lifetime goal, giving you something to work towards in the long run, but as they go about their life, they will gain optional short-term tasks that offer bonuses when fulfilled, giving you something to accomplish and gain rewards all the time. It sits somewhere between the classic PC versions of The Sims but including the best parts of the goal-orientated gameplay of the simplified console ports. It works well, creating more focused gameplay but without removing the freedom that The Sims has always been about.
It is this freedom that has been increased in this instalment. Want to do better at work? Call your boss and invite them over for dinner. Hell, try and seduce them if you want – just be prepared for the potential repercussions. What if you don’t want to work? Just head down to the park armed only with an acoustic guitar and a bunch of songs and watch your Sim busk himself to fame or a life of debt collectors, ready meals and the swift embrace of death, whilst sat all alone in his “apartment” – the one where you literally started selling the carpet tiles to make ends meet. The freedom is now there, whether you want it or not. If you find being a dull jobsworth tedious, then it is entirely in your hands to do something you’ll find more entertaining – such as populating the town with your own offspring, through a series of secret liaisons with the female populace.
Perhaps the biggest improvement is the Sims themselves. Obviously, they look better than ever, with vastly more customization options now, but it what is going on inside them that is truly impressive. Previous games had you choosing a “star sign” for each created Sim, dictating a few arbitrary likes and dislikes. Now, you can assign five different character traits to each one you create. These are split into four categories – Mental, Physical, Social and Lifestyle. Give your Sim the “Loner” perk from the “Social” pool, for instance, and they will be at their happiest when they are on their own. Giving them a trait such as “Slob” and they will gain happiness when lazing around on a couch, rather than getting up and going to work. Give them both of those, and you’ve created half the DarkZero team! Some of these cannot be used in conjunction with one another – you can’t add “Athletic” to a Sim with the aforementioned “Slob” trait, but through careful picking you can create some truly unique Sims with more control over what kind of character they are than you’ve ever had in previous games. Every Sim you encounter has these traits, and through getting to know them you can find out what they are like and what makes them tick. These traits can be passed on to offspring, who can even develop new ones all of their own, depending on what happens to them in their formative years. Without question, this new way of giving your Sims life is the biggest improvement in the Sims series, an invisible series of rules that make everything seem all the more real.
The only area of concern is EA’s new content distribution system. The previous games have all benefited from mountains of user-created content, as well as a slew of expansion packs, varying from genuinely excellent new things to do to the awful money-grabbing licensed clothing discs, and this new feature allows easy access to both, officially, through EA. Even at this early stage there is a lot of excellent, free user-created content available and being able to get it direct from the games launcher is a fantastic idea. What is somewhat more worrying is the amount of official haircuts, furniture and clothing, all costing ACTUAL MONEY (cleverly disguised as “simpoints”) for some stuff that clearly should’ve been in the game to begin with, instead of cashing in on a fair bit of their fanbase’s desire to play interior designer. In all fairness, if used as a convenient way of getting downloadable content to the customer, such as the inevitable expansion packs, I have no problem with that. It just seems that there is potential here for it to turn into microtransaction hell. The other aspects of it – the user-content, video uploads etc. – deserve nothing but praise.
So if you were ever on the fence about The Sims 3, you should give it a go. It is an improvement in every conceivable way from previous games and allows for much more scope that ever before. IF you find the game boring – you’re probably boring. Good luck with that, as the rest of us will find a great video game full of many unique ways to enjoy it – whether it be by creating an idealistic existence or one of extreme torture for your Sim – it is a very hard game to get bored of. Existing fans of the series will be glad to know that EA have clearly listened to the community, adding and improving features that they have requested for a long time now, from the improved A.I., the streamlined way of developing and acquiring user-created content all the way to things such as the video creating/sharing through the website, it is their best effort to date and should be an essential purchase. You already knew that though, didn’t you?