The Sims 3 Review

The Sims 3 Review
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Today has been a very eventful day. This morning, I woke up, read the newspaper at breakfast, searched the internet and had a quick chat with a few friends. Then for lunch, I thought I’d venture into town, have a quick swim at the local swimming pool, buy a book, shop for some tea... that sort of mundane thing. You know, tease a few people, shout obscenities at them and forcibly urinate myself so that I was a laughing stock of the town square. I took a more laid back approach to the afternoon though... having “woo hoo” with the maid, stealing ornaments from the neighbour’s garden and venturing out to find a ghost in a local cave. To wind down this evening though, I played The Sims 3 on the Xbox 360. To say it was an eventful day is an understatement. Plus, my pants are completely soiled now and the maid is taking me to a tribunal for something or another. Talk about over-reacting...

"Woo Hoo for some... "Will you shut the hell up" for others."

If I start by casting my mind back - way before the traumatic events described above - to the last version of The Sims franchise that I got my mitts on, my internal clock would tell me that was way back in 2003 on the PS2. I get the feeling that like myself, the intended audience of this latest iteration is me and my other like-minded compadres: console gamers. More importantly, console gamers who haven’t played a Sims game in quite some time. The truth is, if you come to this off the back of the PC version of the title of the same name looking for an improved experience, you won’t find it. For those like myself however, who haven’t played a Sims game in well over 5 years, well, the progression is somewhat staggering... and the controls, well, they’re as good as you’re going to get on a console... which is pretty damn great, all told.

As always, the name of the game in this latest iteration of The Sims is to... well, there is no name of the game. You have complete control and freedom over what your Sims do; that’s kind of the point. After spending longer than we probably should have creating our one man family, choosing a wide range of different outfits and even ambitions and traits for our Sim, it was time for us to roll into town. If you’re interested, out of the 5 traits we had to select – incidentally, there are 64 to choose from – yes, we did choose ‘good sense of humour.’ Figures, huh? These traits ultimately guide your Sims’ autonomous decision making when you’re not in control, but not only that, they also drive the ‘wish’ aspect of the game.

Every Sim adult will have one lifetime goal to work towards – which you choose from the character creation screen or from the transition from teenager to young adult – as well as many ever-changing short-term goals. The long-term ambitions can range from making a huge amount of friends to climbing the ladder of a certain career field, while the short term goals are driven by your traits and the wishes of your Sims; including going to work, socialising and expanding their encyclopaedia of knowledge.

By accomplishing your wishes – both short and long term – the lifetime achievement points can then be spent on a number of perks that improves your character in a certain way. Of course, this is still The Sims, and if you want to ignore all that, build a room with no doors or windows and watch them go mad. Yes, that option still exists.

The Sims 3 also welcomes a wide range of challenges as well; some easy, some lofty, and the points you gain from completing said challenges can then be spent in the ‘Challenge Store’ on a wide range of items or other beneficial pieces of kit for your Sim and their household.

"Just one of the many cruel games you can play with the locals."

Whether you opt to work your way up a certain career ladder, sleep around the neighbourhood or cause havoc with as many neighbouring Sims as you like, again, it all falls entirely on your shoulders. Should you wish to start a family, the option now exists to shape your young ‘un from the off, giving them a head start in life by teaching them valuable lessons at a young age that will blossom in their transition to adulthood, like how to play an instrument, to talk, walk and even use the potty. There also now exists a whole town to explore, whether you just want to take in the sights at the local beach, visit the library or pump iron at the gym. Unfortunately, not all the buildings are explorable – the career ones mainly aren’t – but should you feel the desire to venture over to your friend’s home across town, you’re more than welcome.

The game as a whole has made leaps and bounds since I last played it, in everything from the amount of dialogue options that are context sensitive, to all the random tasks you can do, like write a book, grow plants, attend various town events and such. I was a little taken back to start with at how far the series has come since it was last on consoles. All the usual stuff returns as well if you’re interested, like kitting out your pads with a whole host of furniture, building multi-storey houses on differing plots of land and so on.

The Sims 3 also welcomes a new aging option into the proceedings, meaning you can build an extensive family tree if you want and take your Sim from birth to their inevitable death. This however is only an option, and the ability still exists to turn off the aging – as well as the story of the town, which sees neighbours move in, die, grow old, etc – or for the best of both worlds, you can dramatically slow it down.

Where the console version suffers slightly from the PC version is the underwhelming number of furniture options. Because of the ease of modding items and sharing with relative ease on your PC, the console version misses out on that here. Incidentally, moving the furniture around your house is a complete doddle though, although don’t expect the same ease when you’re looking to create ponds or soil beds for your flowers. It’s a little finicky to say the least.

Where the console version does one-up the PC version though, is with the console exclusive “Karma Powers,” which allow you to bless or curse your Sims with a whole variety of amusing/devastating incidents. It’s time to literally play God. You can bless your Sim with the temporary luck of the Irish or conversely condemn them to hell with a fireball attack from the deepest farthest regions of evil. With more than a handful on offer and Karma Points getting thrown around like candy, there’s some fun to be had here. It’s essentially an integrated cheat mechanic, but as always, the choice on whether you use them ultimately falls to you.

"True to life: Just another night in the Webb household."

The Sims 3 is another one of those titles that only goes to prove that games like these – and RTS games – can easily be pulled off on consoles regardless of whether or not you have a keyboard and a mouse to take control of. Decorating the place and building homes can be a tad awkward at times, as can moving the camera to a comfortable position, but thanks to a ton of shortcuts that will soon become second nature to the player, there will rarely be any “Oh man, I wish I had a keyboard and mouse” moments.

Now the only hang-up that did smack us in the face like a ton of bricks was its compatibility with certain Xbox models. Kicking my experience off on a first generation Xbox, the game suffered frame-rate issues and on more than 10 separate occasions, it crashed on me. That meant that I was saving every 5 minutes and watching my step as I flicked back and forth between menus. In direct contrast though, being played on the Xbox 360 S, the gameplay and overall experience was flawless, and in some 10 plus hours on that console, it never crashed once. Unfortunately, this situation reared its ugly head with Fallout: New Vegas recently according to various reports around the internet, so whether this is a sign about the impending death of those consoles remains up for debate.

Speaking of achievements... What do you mean I didn’t mention achievements? Sure I did. Look...

The free-world mechanics and sheer amount of things to see and do have set The Sims 3 up to have one of the best achievement lists of the year. With only a couple of achievements similar to one another, players will literally have to exhaust every facet of the game if they want the full 1,000G here. In truth, while the balance and variety is spot on, it could really have done with a bit more originality considering the source material. There is some, but not nearly as much as we were hoping for. Don’t think it’s a short 1,000 points either, oh no, this will take a ridiculous amount of time – I’m guessing fifty-plus hours easily based on first impressions – especially fulfilling 1,000 wishes, but it’s an enjoyable one, and a fairly easy one to tackle as well.

With the console version of The Sims 3, EA have successfully recreated the addictive popular life-sim that’s undoubtedly had a popular life on PC, and they’ve done it with relative ease. Sure it may not be as detailed and have the same community-creative outlets that the PC version does, but it’s clear that the console version is for those that don’t have an affinity towards PC gaming and haven’t otherwise experienced it... Like myself. Ultimately though, the quality of the console version of The Sims 3 is brought into disrepute with what seems to be huge issues with the earlier generation Xbox models, with it bringing my launch console to its knees on more than 10 occasions. Whack it in the new Xbox 360 S though and you’ll rarely have a problem. That right there is a bit of a pickle and is the only noticeable mark against this otherwise excellent console version. It’s a bit of a big mark though. It’s almost like a crater.

It’s traditional Sims stuff in the audio department, with their nonsensical dialect and weird noises being cute at first, but soon growing old. The same applies to the accompanying musical score.

There are a few issues with a lack of anti-aliasing at times and things aren’t super attractive up close, but they serve their purpose more than adequately.

Whoever says that these games can’t be played without a keyboard and a mouse seriously need to wake up and smell the coffee. With shortcuts galore, it won’t be long before you’re doing 100 actions a minute.

It’s incredible how such a simple premise can be so addictive. With plenty to see, do, learn, experience, the only thing holding The Sims 3 back on consoles is what seems to be an issue with the early generation of Xbox models.

The achievement list boasts a great amount of variety that covers pretty much all the bases. It’s a list that’s got balance, a little imagination and even some long-term goals for regular players. If only it could have incorporated a ton more originality and a certain uniqueness about it then I could have sat here and slapped a 100 on its ass.

The laid back nature of The Sims 3 transfers to consoles almost effortlessly in this new age of HD gaming, and if it wasn’t for some serious issues on the older generation Xboxs, it’d be scoring much higher. If you have an Xbox 360 S however, the road is open for good times, as it boasts a great control scheme and will give you hours of hours of addictive fun. What more can you ask for?

Game Info
The Sims Studio
Electronic Arts


US October 26, 2010

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