Review | The Sims 3
Format: PC | Genre: The bloody Sims | Publisher: EA | Developer: Maxis | Out now: £29.99
By J.D. Richardson
It gets me every time. It grabs me by the balls and doesn’t let go for at least a month, by which time I’ve managed to prise its lusty electronic fingers from me and escape its grip of addiction – until the inevitable expansion packs come out. I am, of course, talking about The Sims.
So here I am taking a short break from taking care of my virtual people – making sure they get enough to eat and that they remember to go to the toilet, keeping their social lives and careers healthy. All the while I’m sitting here, emaciated from lack of nourishment, stinking of my own piss with no real-life friends left and almost certainly no career. I’ve started living my life through people that don’t exist.
Luckily, I have figured out a way to escape from its clutches. I’ve introduced The Sims 3 to my girlfriend, which means I can pass this thing on, kind of like a gypsy curse. She spent three hours creating a Sim and a house for it, a look of pure joy and wonder on her face as I watched on over her shoulder, rubbing my hands together and smiling craftily to myself.
Eventually, the withdrawal symptoms kicked in and she was ordered to go feed the cat. My position in front of the PC was reclaimed, hand re-fused back into the mouse in a Cronenburg-esque amalgamation of flesh and machine.
It felt good.
So as you may be able to tell by now, it’s pretty good. Actually, it’s brilliant. The recipe for electronic crack has been improved yet again here, and the most important of those improvements is the seamless world in which the game is set. Instead of the focus being on your Sims at home, with tedious loading screens whenever you want them to venture out, the whole town is rendered right there outside the living room window. Want your Sim to go and buy some groceries? Just zoom out to the aerial view, click to go to the grocery store and your Sim will travel there in real time in a car, bike, taxi, whatever. If you change your mind on the way, you can just get them out of the vehicle and wander round the town, freely interacting with other Sims and locations. It works perfectly, opening the game up with so many different possibilities and evolving the Sims concept light-years ahead of the jump from The Sims to The Sims 2.
The scope for creating your Sims has also become much more versatile, with more powerful editors for manipulating the physical appearance and also the personality settings, which include sixty different traits with which to shape your characters’ behavioural patterns. You can literally create versions of anyone you will know or can even think about. So far I’ve been playing with the political destiny of a Mr G. Brown, of which you can follow the adventures here, and even recreated the entire family of The Sopranos – during which, impressively, due to the personality traits I selected for Tony Soprano, the game suggested his first aspiration be in the criminal career track. Characters can now even age and die, although if this bothers you, you can actually slow it down or turn this feature off completely.
Remember in the first two Sims games where you would get the living environment spot on in the house and the Sims’ mood would be high, then the carpool would arrive, your Sim would go outside and because the environment was wrong for them outdoors the mood meter would plummet as fast as a lead balloon? Resulting in a bad day at work? That’s gone now, thankfully. The environment and comfort meters have been removed from the game completely and been incorporated into Moodlets, which are temporary attributes that have an effect on your Sims’ day-to-day mood. For example, if your Sim takes a bath or shower until the hygiene bar is at maximum, then a Moodlet will appear in the interface panel that would improve your mood by, say, +30 for being squeaky clean. Maybe your Sim has left some dirty plates on the dining room table – when they walk into that room a Moodlet will appear that would give them -20 mood for being exposed to a bad environment. This works so much better than the old system and is a little more forgiving to boot.
Even the building tools, which were powerful enough in the previous game, are now even better, with more features to play around with. Simple things like being able to rotate your household items to whichever angle and position you want really make a difference. One of the most important and welcome additions to the creative customisability is that every object, paint scheme, wallpaper or item of clothing can be customised in its colours and patterns. This makes up for the slight lack in variety of objects this time around.
//Breaking the bank
It unfortunately leads to my only real criticism of the whole experience – and note I said “experience,” as there’s nothing wrong with the actual game here. I refer to the Sims Shop, which is accessible from the launcher or your internet browser. Here you will have to pay real-life cash for extra furniture, clothes, hairstyles, items. I’m sorry, but if there was ever a contest to see who could come up with the most blatant money-grabbing exercise, then this would win hands-down with honours. It’s the best selling game series of all time – couldn’t you just put that Tiki-themed furniture set or that quilted leather jacket in the game from the get go? How about rewarding your loyal Sims fan base, who have lined your coffers to busting all these years, and just put all this stuff in the initial release? I don’t like it one bit, but as it’s not strictly part of the game I won’t be marking it down for this travesty. Better, though, is the Exchange, where players can upload anything they have created in the game and allow other players to download it. For free.
The previous Sims games have been described as virtual dollhouses. The Sims 3 is the ultimate virtual doll town. If you hate the Sims then you won’t be converted by this addition to the series, but otherwise you will love this, I guarantee it. There is a wealth of stories waiting to be told in The Sims 3 – stories you create yourself, rather than ones the game creates for you. That’s its brilliance. It’s gaming interactivity at its finest.