I won’t lie, this article primarily exists for me to gush about how awesome The Sims 3 is. But in the interests of fairness I will cut through my own enthusiasm and state here the pros and cons of the latest release. This review is not exhaustive and doesn’t cover all aspects of gameplay, but hopefully you’ll be able to see the scope of the game and the points most worthy of note!
To start with you will be using the same disc whether you are using a PC/Mac, much like Spore, which is great for those of us that do not want to shell out twice for the same game. Linux users are unfortunately out of luck, as there is no native or wine support (The Sims 2 is listed as ‘garbage’ on the Wine App Database, so that is not entirely surprising. I have yet to try it in a virtual machine). System requirements vary but you may be pleasantly surprised that you can still get things working with an old Intel Pentium 4 processor and just 1GB RAM, although as with any game, it is highly recommended that your hardware configuration exceeds the minimum specifications for better visuals and performance.
Cool New Features
The most important new feature for me is the freedom to explore. While you’re out of the house you can ask your sim to “jog here”, and off they go getting some exercise! You can then travel around town while earning fitness points. However, the far more elegant way is to use the all-new ‘town view’ and select a building for your sim to go.
There are all kinds of places you can visit such as a gym, a pool, a school, a library, a police department, a hospital, a book shop, and even a graveyard where you may catch the occasional ghost! There are far more buildings and facilities than this, such as beaches, etc. and I am sure that future expansion packs will extend roaming options even further. But, how do you get back to your sim? Well, click on “sim view” and you can follow your sim as they travel. If they own a car, or “borrow” a bicycle, they will get to where you sent them under their own steam. Otherwise they will jump into a taxi, which is free-of-charge. Once your sim start making friends, they can also go and visit their homes.
There are still a few caveats however. You are still not really involved when your sims are working, which is kind of annoying. You have a drop-down menu where you can set them to “work hard” (increasing stress), “take it easy” (decreasing it), or grovel to the boss and socialise with co-workers. You do not ever see any of these things happening though, you just hear it happening. That said, this is at least better than The Sims 2, where your sim goes to work and you just whizz through the clock until they come back, and need only to keep them in a good mood to progress, but it still feels as though there is room in this area for expansion.
I am also disappointed that you cannot develop random plots without moving in a family first. While this functionality encourages the player to interact more with their sims, it is a little annoying when you just want to sculpt a grand mansion or community lot like we could in The Sims 2 without the need for cheats. On the upside, building houses with odd-shaped floor-plans (i.e. with diagonal/octagonal walls) is much better supported than before, and it is also much easier to apply wall coverings and floor tiles.
Traits and Life Goals
But where one avenue of creativity seems a little stifled, another has been introduced! In the sim creator you now have the ability to use “patterns”, which you can customise and then apply this to the clothes that your sims is wearing. You can do similar things with the items your sims can purchase, meaning for instance that you could have a goth sim or a chrome-coated kitchen. With The Sims 2, you had to buy expansion packs with more “stuff” to match together to do those things before, but now players can sculpt custom items themselves.
In terms of live game-play, you also have much more freedom than before. You can interact with objects in more ways, for example you can deliberately leave the fridge door open, although that is not always recommended! And yes, you can even make your sims rummage through other peoples’ bins. This can lead to some interesting rewards, but also has the effect of disgusting the sim that you just told to dumpster dive for your amusement.
If you have decided that your sim is evil using the relevant ‘traits’ when you created them, then all their actions are also context sensitive (e.g. “evil slumber” instead of “sleep”, etc). Once you hit the young adult stage of your sim’s life, you can set that sim a life goal. If you satisfy all that sim’s wishes, then they become much happier as they are fulfilled, and these wishes can range from anything between reading a book to seeing a ghost.
There are many hours of gameplay and replayability with The Sims 3, and for most casual gamers you won’t need to start downloading stuff from The Sims 3 community exchange for a while. When you do though, you get £6 worth of free Sim-Points in their shop just for connecting. Once the exchange is up and running, and you work out how to create interesting custom content yourself, then this may not necessarily be as attractive a proposition as it first seems.
On the subject of custom content, you can leave music files in C:\Program Files\Electronic Arts\The Sims 3\Custom Music and then listen to them on your sim radio while you play. (Or at least, that’s what the manual says! On Windows Vista, I had to save tracks in C:\Program Files\Electronic Arts\The Sims\GameData\Shared\Unpackaged\Custom Music, but I have yet to hear of this being the case for anyone else).
The Sims 3 is an excellent addition to the series, and no doubt expansion packs will make bring it in line with all the things I can already do with The Sims 2, but the potential is truly awesome. You don’t need to rush out and buy it, but you can rest assured that it will absolutely be worth the money when you finally make the switch.