Last week saw the long awaited console release of the fourth installment of the PC’s juggernaut series the Sims. Given its casual laid back approach and fun game-on-the-sofa vibe, it should in principle be a natural fit for consoles. It is easy to see why so many console gamers were eagerly anticipating it.
For the uninitiated, Sims is one of the original strategy game classics. Up there with the real time strategy games of the nineties and your Theme Parks, and your Theme Hospitals, Sims was untouchable as a life simulator. Sims also had its imitators and it is fair to say that the online life simulators took a trick or two from the game in their development. While most games of that time tailored themselves toward a male teenage audience, by its very nature Sims welcomed girl gamers and over the years since has generated a passionate community. In Sims 4, as with the others in the series, you control the life or lives of a person or persons and see to their every need and whim. You start with some cash and must set them up in the world. Rather than grander city builder games like Sims’ cousin Sim City, where you control thousands of lives and bigger building projects, Sims focuses on the mundane and the personal. You buy land, build houses, get jobs, and develop relationships. You manage resources and wants. It is such a detailed simulation of modern life, I literally lost time deciding on the location of a plant pot.
All of the great new features that EA included in the PC release of Sims 4 is included in the console version. The Sims you create have personality and specific traits either good or bad. The entire world of Sims was upgraded from Sims 3 and includes more animations and believable interactions with the physical world. The new Sims 4 user interface focused on radial bubble menus also makes its way to console. The console version also features deep Sim creation options as you would expect from game all about the characters you make. I was able to swap and change parts and generally craft all types of Sim, both monstrous and normal. Apart from the overriding sliders for body size and height, it is a dynamic process that feels like you are actually sculpting. Previous versions of Sims I certainly felt more attached to the Sims I had created and generally the process binds immersion into their artificial lives as it should do. The environments they live in is made more believable for beginners by the inclusion of pre made rooms that you can drag and drop. Not only do these save time for those not focused on building but they also serve as a guide of sorts for how things should look.
For the console the game features a number of updates and includes the Christmas themed expansion objects. Sims as a franchise still does life strategy better than any game. Saying that, it is not a genre that has exactly exploded over the years. With that near monopoly EA has developed Sims and its various expansions extensively. I still had fun setting up my Sim and giving him a story and skills to develop. You actually make decisions on money that influence your Sim’s development. For instance I had to decide whether to drop serious cash on a computer so that my Sim could develop his skills and follow a career. Funnily enough the career my Sim seemed best suited for was as an eSports gamer. A job is the way to make money to expand your house, buy more objects, and unlock more gameplay options. Each Sim has objectives and uses these to develop their skills to higher levels. In turn, career development leads to feature and object unlocks that expands your game further. It is fair to say that despite the numerous expansions, Sims 4 is not short of content.
At launch, the controls for the console port of Sims 4 are absolutely dire. The game is significantly less playable than its PC counterpart. Clunky and glitchy are not sufficient. It also takes a significant amount of effort and time to understand and remember the controls. Even then I found myself in menus mashing buttons to escape. I am not someone who jumps on the mouse on console bandwagon at each and every opportunity but I do feel that if you are going to port from a keyboard and mouse setup it requires an entirely rethink on the new user interface and not just a brutal attempt at controller mapping. Sims 4 features the laziest of all in the addition of a Menus, options, and dialogues need to be reordered and optimised for a controller environment. The developers also have much work to do post launch to reduce the massive amount of bugs and crashes that are present in this build. As with the PC there is a huge amount of DLC content to be purchased if you want the full Sims 4 experience. While optional, it is hard not to feel more of that content should have been added to the console version as part of the package. The port does not seem the most stable and while I was not affected by the numerous bugs reported online, the game is in need of many fixes as soon as possible. Changing between the build and play modes should not almost crash the game for instance.
After EA deploy a few significant and much needed updates and control tweaks I would be able to recommend this game more freely. At the moment I only see its potential as an excellent addition to gaming on the consoles. As it stands currently it is one for massive Sims 4 fans who can see above its problems and enjoy the classic content.
- Great amount of content
- Classic strategy experience
- Buggy and prone to crashing
- Controls are substandard for a console release