It’s Simulation Time!
Throughout the series’ history, The Sims has had two very different (and not necessarily equal) versions: console and PC. The PC versions have always featured open-world, infinitely expandable, and customizable utopias where you could pluck in Sims and have fun in the game’s sandbox-style world. However, console versions have always been completely different, following a single sim through a linear progression of goal-oriented events. While the console offerings were always fun on a base level, they never had the scope of the PC version and players never got to experience the true freedom that came from the open world gameplay that was the PC’s hallmark. However, with the Sims 3 on consoles, console owners will finally be able to experience The Sims in its true form.
Let’s be clear about one thing. If you really liked The Sims 2 (or any of its expansions) on consoles and like your simulation-style games extremely linear, then The Sims 3 will bewilder you at first. The game basically throws you into the open world, with only a few pop-up tutorials letting you know how to move around your house and change modes to get you started. If you are used to jumping directly into the creation mode, getting a job, and spending your entire sim life at your house, the switch to the completely open world is jarring at first. In fact, I would venture say that big fans of the console iterations may even be turned off by the completely open world at first. But I would advise those people to stick with it, because the Sims 3 has plenty of rewarding gameplay under its hood.
Like all Sim games, the game’s beginning is a bit of a blur. Your first goal is to create a sim, and in the Sims 3, you can create up to six (which is quite ambitious but can be done in the span of a few hours). The lack of a creation option was a little disappointing. Perhaps I’ve been spoiled by the creation modes in sports games like SmackDown vs. Raw, but just having a few hairstyles and clothing options (with no customization options) felt hollow. Of course, you can unlock more clothes as you progress through a career and accomplish goals, but even the simple facial feature customization palette felt a little underwhelming.
Of course, the saving grace here is the online integration, which allows you to download content from other users while in the game. When I was dressing my character for the first time, I noticed a lack of basic tee-shirts (who wears long sleeves all the time?), but I was easily able to hop on the online community space and download a striped tee-shirt with no hassle whatsoever. Once your Sim’s look has been set, you can determine their personality. You can select five trait badges to create your Sim’s personality, and there is definitely a lot to choose from. Personality traits can be as vague as “Lucky” or “Brave” to very specific things like “Hydrophobic” and “Does not Like Art.” There are also a whole host of negative personality traits that you can use if you have one particular Sim that you have designed to be tortured (you know everyone has one). Once I was done creating my Sims (I made myself a roommate in addition to my mini-me), it was time to launch head-first into the world of Sims 3.
Initially, you’ll have a lot to do in the Sims 3. Buy a house, find some friends, get a job, and of course, take care of your Sims’ needs (bathing, eating, etc). If you have multiple Sims, this can feel hectic at first, but I noticed if you left them alone, they tended to take care of themselves. Well, except for going to work. It seems that even if your sim has the hard-working personality trait, they’ll still need a kick in the rump to get to work every morning.
Once you get into the rhythm of babysitting your sim, you can get to the business of planning out their life for them. Whether you want to be a career criminal and start stealing things from your neighbors (protip: the Kleptomatia personality trait works wonders if you are planning to go around thieving) or you want to work in the Simlish government (beware the corruption of others!) there are many possibilities for your Sim’s future. The game doesn’t have any overt direction, which gives you the freedom to do just about anything with your sim.
Of course, for those who crave structure, The Sims 3 has a goals system that allows you to accomplish certain “wishes” in order to gain karma points. The wishes are based on your Sim’s personality traits and evolve as he or she develops a career path and forms relationships with others. Once a goal is achieved, karma points are awarded, which can be used to activate karma powers. Karma powers are bonus stat-boosting actions that you can use to accomplish a lot in a little amount of time. There are karma powers that improve your luck, make you beautiful, and even clean your house instantly, so having some karma points saved up is certainly a good thing. Of course, if you are the torturous type, there are also plenty of negative karma powers you can use to make a sim instantly ugly, sick, or worse. Although the goals and karma powers add an interesting twist and direction to the gameplay, it is important to point out that you can ignore this aspect of the game altogether and just play through any way you want. The Sims 3 is all about playing the way you want, and while this aspect of the gameplay is certainly fun, it is by no means mandatory. If you do use the karma powers though, you’ll definitely get a lot more instant gratification out of certain situations, and if you don’t want to work too hard to get a certain other sim to pay attention to you (or get another one to leave you alone), the karma powers are a great way to see immediate (and often hilarious) results.
As far as technical specs go, the Sims 3 is a mixed bag. Unfortunately, the visuals didn’t exactly transfer over from the PC version as smoothly as they could have, which means you are left with some baseline visuals that suffer from serious performance issues including framerate drops and a large amount of pop-in. The game also has some long loading times, even when you are just moving to a different part of the town, which can slow down your gameplay substantially. On the plus side, however, the world of the Sims is just as expansive on the consoles as it was on the PC, and there is plenty to explore on-screen no matter where you are in the game.
The Sims 3 on consoles is definitely an achievement. Fans of The Sims who have longed for the open world of the PC version on a home console are finally getting a proper Sims game, and those who have never experienced the open world side of the Sims are in for a treat. Though there are some technical issues with the game (particularly in the visuals department), the core gameplay is solid, and there is plenty of fun to be had with the sandbox-style gameplay. So no matter whether you want to create successful, productive Sims or unleash your evil tenancies with some criminal-minded Sims who will terrify the neighborhood, the world is yours in the Sims 3; do with as you please. It may not be the console experience we’re all used to, but it’s certainly the definitive Sims experience on consoles, and one that must be experienced by those who do not have the PC version.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 3.6 Graphics
The world is certainly expansive, but pop-in and framerate shifts keep this one from looking its best 3.8 Control
There is a big learning curve with the controls, which are not as intuitive as they could be. Still, basic actions are simple enough to perform. 3.9 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Simlish is still the most adorable language to listen to, and while background music is non-existent, generally your Sims make enough noise to break up the silence. 4.8 Play Value
The new console format allows you to have control of up to six Sims at a time, who you can follow, nurture, torture, or ignore. The possibilities are endless. And when they die…you can just create more! 4.0 Overall Rating – Great
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.