EA and Maxis finally bring their life simulation game The Sims 4 to consoles having been available for quite some time now on PC. Now you can live out your fantasies or those of others in this time consuming game but having already been available on PC with a ton of extras for it does this version feel like it’s worth while?
To begin, if you are not familiar with The Sims series which started way back on PC in February 2000 then here is the gist of it. Basically players can create buildings, create characters which look like themselves or anyone else then place them in said buildings and watch them live out their lives. Players act as god in a way by not only shaping their looks and personalities but also their daily routines and habits. Things do get a little more complex but this is the basis of how the game works.
Building a home is relatively easy but obviously coming from PC using a mouse and keyboard the gamepad isn’t a great substitute. This has to be reiterated right away, and although after some practice you can get to grips with the console control method it still feels a little bit fiddly to say the least. There is quite a lot to choose from in terms of building one’s living space from scratch with plentiful options to add personality to each room and then upgrade as you see fit once some money comes in from the Sims work – yes they have jobs too. You can change floor coverings, wallpaper, build as many rooms as you see fit, have an office, dining room multiple bedrooms and multiple floors. It’s impressive how the game has advanced since its early days and now seems to offer many more items to fill your home. On the other side, if building is all too much effort – and it can take some time too if you wish to be precise – then there are lots you can send your sims to which contain pre-made buildings.
Character creation is quite detailed in The Sims 4 and if you have the time there are some close-up edits which can really make your characters unique. Hair, facial structure, body size and clothing choices are all here to tinker with and again there is an option to simply go with the default or randomized designs. You can opt for a couple, family, or a lone Sim if that is your choosing. The point of the game is to offer players a free-form experience where there are no in your face objectives per-se and you can just live out your Sims life without any interruption. That said, there are numerous pointers to help players progress which can be considered a constant guiding force. There are plenty of tutorials as you play which can seem a little overwhelming at first but given the time sink nature of the experience aren’t too intrusive and quite useful for beginners.
So, home is created, sims made so what do you actually do? Well, the main point is keeping your sims happy. They have needs just like real humans and need to be kept in tip top condition otherwise things can begin to go sour. Whilst many things are automatic such as going to sleep, using the toilet, eating and bathing, to get the most out of each day that passes requires a little bit of strategy. As your sims progress in life especially in terms of their working lives some managerial input is required. Simply leaving sims to their own devices isn’t a good strategy at all even if there are automated processes. For example, depending on the character traits chosen when creating your sims they might not be very tidy and will end up leaving dirty plates all over the house. Without a nudge to clean up this gets progressively worse and has a negative effect on the sims well-being.
In terms of work, there are several career paths to take, but again these require a little more management than merely letting the sims go out on their work days automatically. If your sims are going to get anywhere in life they need to work their way up the career ladder (earning more money to upgrade the home etc. for happier sims), studying might be required or performing set actions for several hours per day which usually doesn’t happen automatically. This is where the game aspect ramps up a notch or two because it becomes a balancing act between progression at work, getting enough food and sleep, social interactions against the studying aspects for promotions. One also has to be mindful that sims age and eventually die so it’s not a case of taking one’s sweet old time to get things done – and this includes having children to carry on the flame once your sims have passed on.
Visually, The Sims 4 looks great with some neat animations and a nice selection of locations to visit outside of the home, such as the Gym, a museum and bar to name but a few. Players can zoom in pretty close to see their characters perform their daily routines and feel a part of their lives. The only snag visually is the interface which can be a little fiddly. Whilst there is a lot to work with here it does a reasonable job of not filling the screen. It’s also a tad slow to navigate. Audio sounds like an overdubbed porn movie thanks to the sim speak being used and whilst this is great at preventing repeated phrases it does leave a lot to the imagination. There is quite a sparse audio sphere here other than sound chiming in when a task is accomplished or goal reached. In many ways this actually works better than having a constant sound track pumping through.
As mentioned, in terms of length you can spend many hours playing here and not even scratch the surface. If you become totally invested in your sims then the hook is enough to see your playtime nudge well into double figures. Completionists can opt to create several households experimenting with different career paths and character traits making for a game that will last a long time. The only negative about this console release is how much content is not included and needs to be purchased via DLC. Still, the core game does have enough to not worry so much about any extras especially if compared to the original PC release content.
The Sims 4 is an enjoyable game that is only going to appeal to a select audience who like to spend countless hours watching their creations develop and grow. It’s not a quick fix game, although there are options to goof around a little if desired. The only real negatives here aside from being not so accessible to the masses is the clunky menu which could be improved quite a bit. There are a few menu quirks that need ironing out such as backing out into a locked menu instead of the free pointer, or when building, the back-out button not working properly which at present simply grates and makes no sense. Once these issues are fixed then there is a solid, fun and likable game here to mess around with. If this is a first introduction to The Sims series, then it’s a good place to start even if a little overwhelming at first.