Thursday, 18 September 2014

The Sims 4

When the original The Sims came out on PC 14 years ago I was absolutely hooked! Like everyone else on the planet, the amount of customization, choice, detail and humour packed into the game was truly stunning. Much like Morrowind, which was released 2 years later, I pumped hundreds of hours into The Sims. Though my obsession with it eventually died off, it hit me again with The Sims 2, a game I still believe is the best entry in the series. Much like the first game, The Sims 2 was a blend of the serious, fun, weird and, frankly, disturbing. From naming characters based on my own family members, watching the Sims version of myself die a premature death due to a faulty toaster, seeing my child grow up all the while being haunted by me, and witnessing my lineage dry up and literally vanish... I loved it. I didn't play The Sims 3 much, but from what I experienced it pretty much fell in line with what The Sims 2 achieved. So when EA announced The Sims 4 I was genuinely looking forward to it. However, this isn't the sequel I, or I think anyone else, wanted.

Developed by EA Maxis and out now for PC comes The Sims 4, a game that must break Will Wright's heart. You see, Will Wright is the chap who created The Sims way back when, among other games such as SimCity, Spore and the outlandishly overlooked SimAnt. When Wright designed the original Sims title it was an utter breath of fresh air. Giving near unlimited freedom to gamers, The Sims, after his previous successful efforts to the gaming industry, only further hit home how much of a true visionary he truly was. But The Sims 4 undoes this to a certain extent. Instead of unlimited freedom to players, EA Maxis clamp down on choice, cut back on creativity and hold back on many elements that were present in the previous 3 main Sims titles. What we have here is further proof that now and again EA is detrimental to everything you know and love.

On its surface The Sims 4 is business as usual. You'll create your own house, decorate it and populate it with sims; virtual gibberish speaking characters who will live their lives out in front of you. From having a career, hobbies, aspirations, friends and even chores, your sims will feel utterly unique. Much like the rest of the franchise, there's no story present here, instead leaving the player to concoct their own story through the natural progression and successes/failures of their sims. Will you knuckle down at work, get that raise and starting upgrading your house? Will you go right ahead and have kids? Or will you lose all your money, die a premature death due to a faulty toaster and leave your significant other to raise your kid alone? (It still hurts, man). Everything is possible. This time EA Maxis have seemingly focused on the A.I of the sims themselves, and in many ways it has paid off. Now sims will interact with each other far more realistically than ever before, even when in large groups. There's also a fantastic list of dialogue options and interactions you can pick from when chatting to other sims, many of which will help your sim change, grow and evolve. Forging friendships and relationships has always been a focal point of the series, and The Sims 4 arguably bests every entry in the series so far in this regard. On the surface everything seems peachy, but once your sim gets home and you start digging into the options available, the game begins to reveal just how much is missing that was previously available in The Sims 3.

There's no open-world. This was one of the best aspect of The Sims 3 from what I played, as it not only gave you somewhere to explore outside of your own house, but also breathed life and atmosphere into the neighbourhood, world and general lives of your sims. Without the open-world on offer, The Sims 4 feels hollow right from the start, and this isn't the only major feature to not make a return. Other game features to NOT make a return are the toddler life stage, pools, basements, create-a-style mode, terrain tools and law enforcement/medical careers. Some of these missing features killed it for me, especially the loss of the toddler stage for your sims. Kids grow up far too quickly, which essentially ends up sucking a lot of emotional appeal out of the game. I want to see my sims go from the cradle to the grave, not from a baby then BAM! a child! I want to see little Timmy slowly make his first steps... and not do his first drive-by shooting 5 minutes after being birthed. Then there's the little things, aspects of The Sims that directly impact the lives of our sims that just aren't here any more. Some of these features include acne, clothes shopping, food shopping, aliens, ghosts, restaurants, swimming, private school, fears, illnesses, and babysitters. The list of missing features is long, very long, and it amounts to a game that is a massive downgrade compared to its predecessor.

EA Maxis have gone on and on about why The Sims 4 is missing so many features, missing features that total up to over 80 by the way. But frankly none of their excuses are good enough. I completely expect that most of the missing features will turn up soon as paid DLC, as after all this is EA we're talking about! And yeah, The Sims have always gone down the Expansion pack/DLC route before, but The Sims 1, 2 and 3 all felt like complete games before any additional DLC was added. The DLC to those games were just icing on the cake. The Sims 4 feels unfinished. Never before has an entry in a successful series been so lacking, so castrated and so utterly set up for DLC that should be in the game than The Sims 4. While it excels in a few areas and delivers a gorgeous, intuitive and streamlined experience, it ultimately fails to deliver the Sims game we all wanted. EA may not have butchered The Sims like they did Spore, but there's still time for that, my friends.

The Sims 4 needs DLC to be a complete game and gets a 2/5.


Denis Murphy

The Sims 4 at CeX

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