The Sims 3
15/06/2009 at 07:58
- Score 5/5
First an apology.
This review was supposed to be my nearest and dearest's first foray onto AATG as a contributor. Alas, though she'd be more of an authority on Sims 3 than I could ever hope to be, she swiftly realised two things and reneged on her promise to do a review on the basis that
1) This would involve sitting down and not playing the game for a couple of hours while writing the review
2) You lot would expect a little more of a hint to the quality of the game than "It's just brilliant, no really brilliant!"
So it fell to me, and my character Doctor Sex, to step into the breach. After 20 minutes of satisfying experimentation with the Sims 3 people creator, Doctor Sex sprang forth in all his blue-skinned 3D glory. Looking like a cross between Dr Manhattan and Slash from Guns and Roses, this onyx-haired evil despotic maniac took up residence in Simsville.
Downsizing from an evil mountaintop lair populated by valkyrie warrior maidens and simpering henchmen to a small and modestly furnished prefabricated shack in Happy Valley, Dr Sex swiftly found that everything in Sim Life is designed to emulate real life in its complexity, and often its mundanety too. One moment you're as happy as a pig in muck, your karma crystal as green as the purest Kryptonite with plenty of money in the bank. The next minute you stink of wee-wee, your house looks like it's had a couple of students living in it, your fridge is empty bar a rotting cabbage and a couple of potato waffles and your social life has turned to dogshit overnight.
The Sims 3 almost goes back to the very first game in the way that it does away with the need for intense micromanagement of your character(s) but does allow you to control virtually every aspect of their character and sim-life if you wish. Giving you the choice of how much you give over to free will, or whether you choose to control every action of your Sim gives the player a solid choice and makes for a better gaming experience overall.
Aspirations and ambitions have been kept over from The Sims 2, but they're dealt with in a much more satisfying and in-depth fashion. Here, you can slot 4 "wishes" into your aspiration meter and if you fulfil them you'll get a nice little boost of temporary happiness, a new life skill or perhaps a damned good seeing to from the Sim you've had your eye on for a while.
Hot hot HOT!
The game certainly is nicely scalable, but on a Quad core machine running Windows 7, with 4GB RAM and a 9800XT I couldn't resist whacking everything up to the maximum graphically. Alas this proved to be a little too much for my machine, causing frequent system locks so dropping things down a tiny tad seems to have staved off those infuriating moments when you realise The Sims 3 has no autosave, and you've just lost an entire evening's Sim-dickery.
On the higher details though, the game looks positively alive. Objects and textures are vibrant and beautifully realised, and the character animation is superb. All those little human-like traits (like scratching your arse and sniffing your finger when you think no-one's looking) are there, and seem to echo a Sim's character perfectly. Choose yourself a goody two-shoes girl next door and she'll be simperingly sweet and smiley. However if you choose (as I did) to turn your sim into an evil despotic sex-obsessed maniac, again their character will seep to the surface regularly, usually at the most inopportune moment (having a Sim with a high free-will setting leads to some genuine laugh-out-loud moments as they start talking to themselves in the middle of public areas).
Maxis have obviously seen what other "life sim" games on the market are doing, and have stolen a few ideas wholesale from their closest competitors. So in Sims 3 you'll see a lot more of your neighbourhood and get free reign to visit the various interesting locations around your burgh. Visiting public areas often yields hidden rewards. For example, if you visit the park and look very carefully at the ground you'll spot seeds and gemstones. Seeds can be taken back to your garden and grown (often with fantastic and rewarding results) and gemstones can be polished and traded for cash.
Later on you can invest in a decent fishing rod and go and scour the lakes and waterways for fish. Again, these can either boost your wallet or your larder if you sell them at the local supermarket or stash them in your fridge at home.
Your Sim now has an inventory and you can stow a few objects away in there, as well as gain access to one of the more useful items you now own - your mobile phone. With this, as in previous Sims games, you can call up services, help or just natter into the wee small hours with other sims you've met during the course of your day.
All work and no play
At its most basic level, The Sims 3 doesn't muck around with the formula for the game too much - and this is partially why it's so successful at what it does, and how it's ended up being the best Sims game to date. You can dig deep into the game's richly twisting stats mangling to make your Sim into something of a powerhouse, top of their career, living in a plush mansion with any number of sexual partners (of either sex if you're that way inclined). Then when you're bored with everything the game has to offer, you can spend your hard earned cash buying items from the EA Sims Store.
Amazingly, despite this feature being a little too front and present, the game doesn't feel too "stripped out". There's just as much to see and do (and buy) in the basic game if you never bother to take it online. And there's plenty of free user-contributed stuff (even a free town when you sign up) if you're a stingy old skinflint and don't fancy spending your money on intangible sim-items.
On the downside, The Sims 3 needs patching as it would appear that the system locks and "running hot" performance aren't purely limited to my rig. Frequent saves are needed (and this isn't helped by the fact that the game takes a LONG time to save, and there's no quicksave option either). The game really does run butter-smooth on a decent machine though, and there are so many subtle changes to the game engine that you'd wonder how they've managed to improve things so significantly over The Sims 2.
It's difficult to explain why this game's such a huge time sink. Whichever way you play it (and let's face it, only weirdos play the game like they live their own lives, surely?) there's tons to do. So live a lot, not a little - what's the point in giving you such a huge toybox to play in if you just play with the toys you've already got.