The SIMS 4
Somehow I’ve managed to largely miss out on all “Sim” games since SimAnt on the Amiga in the early 90s. I’ve happily played a variety of simulation games just not a “Sim”. So I was quietly excited to have a look at The Sims 4 when it was announced on the Xbox One. I hadn’t realized that the Sims 3 had been previously available on the 360 and so my review is purely from a “Should I buy this game” perspective, it’s not going to be a comparison to previous versions.
So the latest installment of the hugely successful “The Sims” has made it to Xbox One about two and a half years after it was released on the PC. Umm, what? So I’m being asked to pay new AAA title prices for a game that is currently retailing for half that on PC including a bunch of expansions? Obviously that’s only a better deal if you already have a PC and it should mean us console plebs get a polished product but the price seems steep to me.
Whilst I’m not going to compare the PC and Xbox version I will just say that this game is a port from PC and it is glaringly obvious it was designed for use with a keyboard and mouse. No matter how much you may think a controller can mimic this it simply doesn’t work and is the biggest (or possibly second biggest) issue with the game. The control mechanism is just awful. Moving the pointer around is horrific. There is something about the acceleration of the pointer that makes selecting things constantly frustrating. There is a button to only move the camera and another to jump to menu select but none of this works intuitively or makes up for an absence of keyboard and mouse.
The second biggest problem with this game is the constant glitches and crashes I experienced. At least once every time I sat down to play the game I encountered a glitch that caused the game to have to be shut down. It seemed like it got stuck in the menu mode and left the game unable to correctly interpret controls. It didn’t seem to matter what I was doing (playing the game, building or designing characters) the game would, sooner or later (but usually sooner) become unplayable. The other glitch that was utterly frustrating was that every time I loaded the game all the save games had been renamed to the same Sim, date and time. It didn’t mess up the save there was just no way to tell which save was which and so early gaming sessions started with loading and reloading saves to find the right game (although I quickly learnt to write down my own save list).
So the game is pretty broken, some of this can be addressed with updates but some things (the control system) are definitely a “feature” and either you accept it or you don’t play the game.
The game itself is really quite fun but personally I find it a bit weird and had some very odd “video game imitating life” moments where my character was playing video games whilst his girlfriend made dinner, whilst I played The Sims 4 whilst my wife made dinner. And to be honest this, along with the constant questions from my friend about why am I playing a video game about going to work was what stopped me playing it any further. Don’t get me wrong all video games are essentially pointless they are, by utter definition, a “pastime” but there was something confronting about The Sims that made it feel more wasteful of my life than other games.
The purpose of the game is to lead a Sim or group of Sims, through “life”. There is a surprisingly large amount to do and you can actually fill quite a lot of time with micromanaging your Sims every bodily function. Alternatively you can spread your attention around or just crank up the speed and leave the Sims to wipe their own bottom. One of the difficulties I had with the game was my desire to micromanage one character and make every day “perfect”. Looking back this was really the wrong way to play it, although it was satisfying it meant it took a very long time to experience much of the game.
The game is essentially about managing the emotional wellbeing of your Sim which is actually really sweet. There is quite a bit of customization available in the character building stage so you can build a Sim whose desires are fun to play with (or mess with). And although you could in theory “min/max” your character as some character traits work well together, because there is no winning it really doesn’t matter what you choose.
The other part of the game is essentially about building your Sims environment. It’s pretty standard stuff with numerous (but not too expansive) options on your house, garden and interior design. Again the controls make this more frustrating than I wished but it did easily swallow hour after hour of my life. To be honest I busted out the cheats to have enough Simolians to do some fun stuff, for the purpose of reviewing of course! The basement boudoir I designed was awesome and gave a somewhat alarming insight into my character but too frequently it seemed like an accidentally button press had me repeating things I had just cancelled.
So The Sims 4, should you get it?
If you own a PC capable of running the game then you definitely want the PC version. The game is the same but the gaming experience will be vastly superior. If your only gaming option is a console, well it’s a tricky decision. The game itself is enjoyable and addictive but the control system is just so frustrating and I can’t recommend it at full price. You could splash the cash on a XIM4 (then you can also pwn n00bs in your FPS of choice) or maybe pick the game up on special, that way if you find (like me) the flaws outweigh the fun you have at least paid a fair price.
Rating: M Contains sexual references.