The Sims has always been an interesting series of games and it tends to play out in one of two ways. You either love it or hate it and from that comes the interesting choice of how you actually play the game. Do you subconsciously imitate the life you currently lead and after fifty hours plus of playing, forcefully pull yourself away from the screen due to heartbreaking self awareness? Or do you build a life of pure fantasy and unrealistic expectations limited only by your dreams and a virtual cash flow, where the employment opportunities are always at an all time high?
Starting the game with a friendly introduction being led from it’s loading screen the Sims 4 presents itself as warm and friendly, giving the player a sense of enjoyability before even getting in to the actual game. Moving straight in to the character creation menu where players assign their Sim a name and an appearance, the choice in what’s available to the player in terms of clothing and accessories feels like there’s something missing.
The choice in clothing is fair to say the least but appears as if their should be more available as well as being more customizable with the items themselves. Divided amongst upper and lower body along with items for your Sim’s head and feet. You’ll find plenty of different garment types available for that section but not so within the amount that’s in that category. Jeans for example had only three pairs to decide from with the only customization being there to play with to that of its colour. Everything feels basic in a way almost unfinished. There’s enough to get you started but not enough to hold your attention.
"Do you subconsciously imitate the life you currently lead and after fifty hours plus of playing, forcefully pull yourself away from the screen due to heartbreaking self awareness?"
The real enjoyment of character customization comes from the outfits you can assign for your Sim in reference to certain social events. Party wear, athletic wear, formal clothing, clothing for sleeping, and everyday clothing can be created for quick change situations. But the majority of the player’s time in this menu will most likely be spent within it’s bodily features and the customization that lies there. As expected preset hairstyles, eyes, nose, height, weight and gender traits are there to decide from.
But taking it further to not only picking between the individual choices of the body and facial features, but the ability click and drag specific sections of your Sim’s body to increase and decrease it’s size. This allows you to accurately mold the visual appearance of you’re Sim till happy with how he or she looks. As well as the physical traits for your Sim there’s also the emotional and psychological traits to decide from.
The personality traits available will help determine how your Sim interacts with friends and family members. As well as how their skill level will increase in reference to the task and activities they undertake, which are all in direct relation to how well they do within their careers. The way in which Sims interact with each other via the means of a chosen speech bubble divided amongst a fair number of options such as being funny, rude, sarcastic, or complimentary, aid in their emotional levels which must be maintained in order to stop yourself from feeling like an awkward prune and attaining the status of “Embarrassed”.
"This allows you to accurately mold the visual appearance of you're Sim till happy with how he or she looks."
The level of immersion that the Sims 4 manages to deliver on is as outstanding as it has always been, and being someone who hasn’t really dabbled in the series since the release of the Sims: Bustin’ Out way back in 2003. This return to the series managed to hold my attention more so than ever before. The Sims 4 manages to pull this off in a great number of ways. Just like every other game that emphasizes character customization you can expect to find yourself within this section for around thirty minutes to an hour, before you actually enter the game.
You can also expect to be revisiting this section a great number of times during your play due to the creation of other Sims, and your own built up obsession with changing the way things look in the game. And this extends in to the appearance of your Sim’s home. Upon starting the game and deciding which neighbourhood you wish to live in you’ll be a given a small number of choices. I found this to be somewhat of a problem, the game dangles candy over a baby’s cot by teasing the player with a variety of homes and areas which the player cannot afford or doesn’t have the necessary skill level to obtain.
The way in which the neighbourhoods are divided for social activities and outgoings in the way of museum’s, libraries, bars and so on don’t blend well together with how you actually play the game, and it would be nice if the visits to these places had a more seamless and immersive feel to it. Rather than telling the player “Hey here’s a set of buildings in one location, and here’s another group of buildings in the other”.
"Upon starting the game and deciding which neighbourhood you wish to live in you'll be a given a small number of choices."
It feels and looks like the world you inhabit is divided in to small islands, and your Sim’s freedom and navigation is limited in the way they make their way around the world. Sandbox Sims is the term I’m looking for here, and being someone who’s last venture in to the series was just under eleven years ago, this aspect of the game doesn’t seem to have changed all that much.
Parted by the use of loading screens that inform of you of the level geometry and technical details of the game’s design breaks the player’s immersion. It reminds you once again just as to why the game is called the Sims, and you’re just another unplugged human entering the Matrix.
While this use of loading screens could be down to the technical design of the game itself, having to be detailed on what’s going on in regards to it’s technical aspects is off-putting to say the least. And would be better replaced with something more gimmicky or gamer friendly, such as ridiculous animations or screen shots from the game.
This partitioning of the game’s world also eradicates the need for vehicles. There are no cars available to use and this proves to be a real downfall as is further makes you feel constricted within the game’s method of getting around and furthers its push in to reminding you that’s it’s just a simulator, which vastly contradicts how well it succeeds in player immersion when engaging within other parts of gameplay.
"It reminds you once again just as to why the game is called the Sims, and you're just another unplugged human entering the Matrix."
The one thing in particular which seems to be the universal trait for how and why the Sims takes hold and grips the player’s attention lies within it’s means of conversational tools and interactions between others.
As said previously the game uses a system of speech bubbles that further divide in to conversational topics such as funny and rude, or romantic and mischievous. While this is just a teaser for the other options available within the actual game, these few options that I have mentioned open up visually like a skill tree so that the player can be more in-depth for what they mean to say.
These also tie back in to your Sim’s emotional and personality traits. Picking traits of artistic, romantic, outgoing, and ambitious had an effect on the NPCs within the game that despised or shared common ground between my Sim. There’s an incredible amount of synchronization between everything your Sim does in the way that he or she says, acts, and behaves, that ties back in to your Sim’s feeling of emotion and comfortably with the world and people around them.
Just like previous Sims games this is represented through status bars positioned to the bottom right corner of the screen that notifies the player of how their Sim is feeling both physically and mentally. The random nature of my Sim rudely leaving a room and detaching himself from conversation to “Pee like a Champion”, while the guests next door react in a natural and repelled way can only get funnier the more time you spend with the game.
While there’s a huge sense of focus on how your Sims are feeling and how often the player must attend to their needs, there’s certain things that take place in the game that have been fixed to prior games and finally feel natural. Rather than standing their to pee himself out of the socially constraint needs of hearing what others have to say, he left to go use the bathroom. Waking up in the morning and making a cup of coffee to get over his grumpy attitude was all done automatically.
"As said previously the game uses a system of speech bubbles that further divide in to conversational topics such as funny and rude, or romantic and mischievous."
This is great as the player no longer feels like they’re simply making sure their Sim doesn’t starve to death or forgets to go to work. It feels natural, and dare I say it “Realistic”. In other games one would think of this as some kind of easy mode or in-game assists, but in the Sims it’s common sense and it makes the player feel more relaxed and not constantly checking up on the Sim’s needs or status.
Everything feels free-flowing and it works superb. Something that the game nails so well and enhances its enjoyability is the way that it captures parts of our own world, and the way we interact with each other as people. Ironically enough the game proves to be more social with it’s use of NPCs than we do with each other.
What am I talking about here? Well although it’s titled under a different name the game has FaceBook, amongst many other relatable social networking tools. Unlike the “Real” world however you’ll barely be using them, its funny to watch your Sim browse and chat as the computer screen imitates headlines, pictures, and barely readable posts. But after the first time round this gets old fairly quick and doesn’t add anything in the way of real progression or enjoyment from the game. It’s almost as if the game is implying some kind mockery or satire towards its own audience, and it makes you realize just how much things there are to engage with outside of the computer screen.
That’s what I took away from this feature of the game and I’m sure many will relate. And if they don’t. They’re lying. Along with this acknowledgement of our own self-securing independences on virtual communication and technology is the use of smart phones and tablets. By default your Sim is equipped with a smart phone which can be used for a whole variety of things. Playing games, socializing, texting and calling other Sims…yeah phone things.
"Everything feels free-flowing and it works superb. Something that the game nails so well and enhances its enjoyability is the way that it captures parts of our own world, and the way we interact with each other as people."
I wasn’t to keen on my daughter having one though and I would have personally liked the option of spitefully taking it away from her just to see if she reacts as one would in the “Real” world. That being tantrums, insanity, a false sense of sudden boredom, and the great classic of “What am I supposed to do with my life, now that I don’t have a phone?” It’s easy for your own self humour to make its way in to the game and for the game to create its own, and it lies behind every corner of every choice and action you take.
Moving on to the customization aspects of your Sim’s home and the options of decoration that the game provides. Many veterans of the series have already noted how much the game has been decreased in terms of what’s available to buy and build within the homes. Most noticeably the Create-A-Style mode from the Sims 3, which aided in the design and structure of customizing your Sim’s home, which is now absent.
However, with this now gone and detracting from the initial experience of what made the Sims 3 so great my experience with this section in this game was still enjoyable. There are plenty of objects, furniture, accessories, electronics, storage equipment, outdoor ornaments, and so on. This can also be browsed by categories such as the kitchen, living room, bathroom study, children’s room, and all those in relation to a home.
With each category being subdivided further by furniture type and purpose along with an option to manually type in to a search box to find exactly what you’re looking for. The game matches certain items alongside each other with make actual sense in terms of being practical and what one may use together. Computers and computer desks, or toy boxes and stuffed animals for example.
"The game matches certain items alongside each other with make actual sense in terms of being practical and what one may use together. "
The game also gives the player options to auto-design certain rooms in the house similar to what you would find in a catalogue. Bedroom suites and pre-built kitchens with a variety of preset styles that hold a sense of luxury of class do well in delivering the player a feeling of progression in how well they’re doing in their careers and making money. And while adding a certain level of realism players will still most likely design their houses from scratch, due the game’s focus on customizability.
Players are free to build their houses in almost any way they want only restricted by the dimensions of the lot in which they live. Walls, doors, roofs and so on come in many shapes, design aesthetics, and so on. But the game takes this one step further by allowing the player to increase the lengths and widths of said objects to the exact measurement that the player’s are attempting achieve. This is done by clicking and dragging on the mouse, and as simple as this feature sounds it gives the player more precise and accurate control to design things the way they want.
The way in which the game deals with its control scheme is fairly standard to the past Sims games with the only exception being to any features that are new to the game. As it always has been as always should be, a mouse and keyboard is a strong and personal requirement and recommendation. Past games in the series that made their way to consoles have never felt or even worked effectively, and opting to use a controller over a mouse and keyboard when playing on a PC proves to be a fairly stupid idea.
There’s no other way to put it, the Sims needs a keyboard and a mouse in order to experienced in a clever and satisfying way. Not doing so can only damage the player’s experience of the game and to be quite frank, it just doesn’t feel right. It wasn’t designed that way regardless of the input options the game provides. Camera navigation is set to the mouse with options to zoom in and out, rotate, and side scroll, while everything else is basically set to the keys. Rebinding is optional as standard, and off the bat functions fine to it’s default settings.
"As it always has been as always should be, a mouse and keyboard is a strong and personal requirement and recommendation."
The game’s visuals have increased ever so slightly but this is limited to character’s customization options that lie within the tweaking of facial features and body sizes. The Sims has never been a game directed to pushing the boundaries of realism within skin textures, water reflections, or clothing physics, and nobody expects it to. With that being said the Sims 4 is a visually good looking game, as good as previous Sims games that is, and aside from the one time it crashed it performs as well as one could expect.
As much enjoyability that the game provides which is ultimately defined by how much the player actually engages with the game, there’s a severe lack of actual content within the game that makes it feel like a stepping stone to something bigger. And with expansion packs that are highly likely to make its way in to the game at some point in the future, which the series is known for doing, this may be the solution to fill the void.
The Sims 4 does everything that past games in the series has done and as usual expands upon the content that’s there, while adding something new and adjusting what didn’t quite work as efficiently as before. But seeing as the Sims 4 has detracted in some ways from what the Sims 3 had to offer, the game can only be enjoyable and deliver a sense of something new, for those who passed over the previous game.
This game was reviewed on the PC.
The Sims 4 is a unique and interesting game in that it delivers and expands upon what made the previous games such a charm to experience.
A lack of content in the game's character clothing selection in exchange for an increase is physical distinction is not worth the trade off.
The term "You get out what you put in" is best defined by playing the Sims 4. It's an enjoyable game that fans will without a doubt love, but minor idiosyncrasies spoil what fun, can be gained from the experience.
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