The Sims 3 PC review

The Sims returns for their long-awaited third installment. And things are a lot more open, as our review of Sims 3 finds...

The Sims 3

You have to wait a few years to see a new Sims game arrive. It’s only happened twice and the first time no one really knew what to expect. Scrub the shower, be late for work, clean up cat urine?! Who’d want to do that and call it fun? The answer, shockingly for some, was millions of us. The Sims came to dominate, and the latest incarnation, Sims 3, is no different.

This baby will be hitting your shelves on 5th June at a cost of £39 for PC and Mac, rated 12+ by Pegi for slightly mature content and probably burning/drowning/eletrocuteding versions for mobile, iPod touch and iPhone. They’ll be a lot more limited, but in the spirit of the game.

So what’s changed? We’re back where we started again right, expansion pack-free and waiting? In essence, yes. But this time, play is a lot more open.

The Sims now has an even more commercial front-end screen, with playing the game being only one of about ten things to do directly from the Game Launch screen, including shopping, making movies and joining online communities. Booting into the game itself reveals that Sims 3 still ‘realligns splines’ and unloads loading screens, etc.

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Perhaps the scariest feature is that you can spend real money on buying items for your Sims in an online store. I can see some people never ever having money ever again … I know some of them. Having things can be very addictive in real life, and so it is with the Sims life. It’s also easier to put up shelves and errect cupboards in the game than using Ikea flatpacks!

Ducking into the Sim creator, you immediately find a depth of editing options that is very impressive, with four areas of hair alone enabled, so that you can colour your hair exactly as you want it, including roots and tips. It is worth knowing before you try to set up your power couple – teenaged Sims cannot ‘woo hoo’. You have to be at least a young adult to do that. Apparently, the legal Sim age is 18. Teenagers can fall in love and kiss/cuddle etc, though.

Unlike in previous incarnations, The Sims now allows you to seamlessly roam the town your Sim is living in, rather than having to select to ‘go downtown’ and be taken off to a new loading area that can sometimes be slow to load up, or where you can get stuck in a situation and then fall asleep/starve/wet self etc. Believe me, before the first Sims game came up with the Makin’ Magic add on, I was forever getting stuck in places and having several bars go red … all because a car got jammed on the road and my Sim’s car couldn’t take them home.

It’s now so easy to pop around the corner and grab some groceries, books, or a girlfriend. Wander into the centre of town and have a go at fishing, take a call on your cell (the Sims now all have cells which near eliminates the need for annoying house phones), mount a fish you like or name it… or eat it! Want to make new recipes? Read a book about it or watch the cooking channel… which leads me to the next fascinating feature.

Our experiment featured the bastion of Britishness – the Chav family. This is especially amusing when you get arrested, as the police officer snarls, “Oi, Chav! We’ve had enough of you!” or words to that effect. I set up our Chav family to be slobs, couch potatoes, angry and rude etc. I figured this would be pretty funny to watch, but it didn’t quite turn out the way I expected. To my surprise, their rather slovenley set up meant that the whole family simply love watching TV, especially the cooking channel! They don’t need much more than that in the form of entertainment, and if the stereo happens to be on at the same time, they’re raking in the bonuses and getting good at cooking whilst being social and having lots of fun. This wasn’t supposed to happen!?

They also don’t complain when there is grime in the room, whereas most Sims will. Even if your kitchen sink or tabletop is only one degree dirty, most Sims will start to get a negative vibe from it that builds up if you do not get with the Jif lemon.

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Work is now more flexible, as well as school. You can take it easy, work as normal, chat to friends or meet new people, work on late homework, bust your gut, take a job on the side or perhaps slack off behind the stadium/bike sheds/giant telescope. It all affects the special events that will pop up once or twice a week, giving you chances to improve yourself or earn extra bucks. Occasionally, you get a negative one but they don’t really dent your progress.

Desires make a strong return from Sims 2, reorganised to allow you to select a lifetime wish for your Sim which you can then choose to persue or not, to any degree. More immediate desires will crop up and you can reserve them as before or get rid of them. Achieving one will earn you lifetime points, which you can save up to spend on special feastures for your Sim, such as the steel bladder. You can guess what that does!

Ageing remains a feature, if you choose to use it, as you can turn it off. If you don’t do that, expect your Sim to live around 90 Sim days and go through the phases, each with its own difficulties and opportunities. If you want to have three generations, make sure that your parent is an adult and your grandfather an elder, to make this work.

A gradual accumilation of lifepoints is very easy to get, with a steeper and quicker curve demanding clever and savvy selection of a Sim’s wants at a time when you can easily achieve them (for example, selecting ‘prepare a meal’ just before you are about to cook a meal is an easy 150 points or so). This means that gradually the game gets easier, with you needing just 5000 points for the first wave of advantages, such as ‘quick cleaner’ or ‘fast metabolism’. These soon start to roll in with lifepoints accumilating quite easily. As with past games, it is actually quite difficult to do badly, unless you do so on purpose.

When it comes down to it, Sims 3 hasn’t changed in any major way that effects the ‘Sims’ game play you’d expect. Essentially it’s a much more open and better organised, freer version of the same game, which leads us to think that if you’re very happy with Sims 2, there is no pressing reason to upgrade straight away. However, the truth is that this sort of game isn’t played out of practical or logical reason – there’s nothing sensible about wanting to clean the toilet and call that gaming fun time! If you’re a Sims fan as I am, chances are that you’re going to buy this the second it appears on the shelf, providing your computer can run it (it’s a powerful sucker).

The changes are nice and though nothing major has altered, you just feel more at liberty to enjoy the game and move around town. I would have liked to have seen it more clear how to complete certain tasks that you accept for cash and lifepoint bonuses, as I’ve managed to break the game by starting an ‘introduce yourself charmingly to someone’, then stopping to talk to someone else before commencing the conversation again with the first person, sticking the task and disabling me from completing it even after I chased this person all around town desperately trying to talk to them and even peeping through their windows. I also walked off a lot where a grill-a-thon was taking place and failed something I wasn’t even aware I’d started.

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Arrows and clear direction could be better, but at the end of the day, a short negative reaction on your Sim up really isn’t going to affect the overall game play. It’s always been that if it floats your boat, it’s brilliant and well worth a purchase. Just check the specs before you drag your computer into the wastelands of lag, and ensure you can run the beast. We’re on minimal specs with a laptop and full on a desktop, both run pretty smoothly but the desktop certainly looks a lot nicer.

I have been playing this for days straight now, and I can’t get enough of it. The Chav family are so much fun and you’ll be seeing them soon on The Sims online portal. The most open Sims game so far, I can’t wait for the pets to arrive! Is it worth it? Meow!

4 stars

Rating:

4 out of 5