The Sims 3 Review - July 8th 2009

You can hardly need reminding of The Sims series' past. It's common knowledge that EA got to the point of saturation (or perhaps even broke through it) with Will Wright's franchise. With this in mind, can The Sims 3 really reignite the world's passion for the little people?

The Sims was a phenomenon when it first hit our computers. Literally everyone owned, played or followed the first game in some form. At the time it was the product to own. Schoolyard and office stories of a day in the life of someone's Sim - their romances, jobs and the intricacies of their existence - permeated the new millennium. It was not too long though before anyone who considered themselves a relatively serious gamer couldn't even contemplate talking about the series with enthusiasm. It had become the norm to look down on The Sims, especially The Sims 2 and its expansions. It became seen as something for casual gamers. Pre-teen girls bought The Sims 2: Pets, Nightlife and University, at a time when Half-Life 2 was dominating the time of most other players. While the expansions cannot possibly have appealed to the majority of core gamers, the overall Sims experience had not lost its addictiveness or charm. EA certainly reached a point of overkill with the series more than a few years ago, and it was thus hard to get excited about The Sims 3. Fortunately, I was proved wrong.

Sims 3 takes the best bits of The Sims 2's expansion packs and melds them seamlessly into one coterminous package. Therefore, if you have played either of the previous games you should slot right into the gameplay of EA's latest. It all follows the same lines as before. You can Create-a-Sim or pick one of the pre-made people to play as. You can build a house, or move into one that is already in the game's town, Sunset Valley. Creating your own Sim still lacks the options seen in most of EA's other games, and clothing choices are limited. You can certainly create reams of individual Sims however, and you're not going to see two looking the same wandering around the town's parks. There are fewer items to buy to furnish your house, but the build mode itself is more robust. This is helped by the fact that the town, which starts life with a number of community locations such as shops, a town hall and places of work, can be edited on a lot-by-lot basis, in the same way as a house. You could demolish the library and build a mansion on it, if you wanted. Customisation is the name of the game then. You can't effectively demolish the town and rebuild it, as there are carefully placed areas not on the lot system. Still, it's a good feature to have to tide us over until more towns are released (only one other, Riverview, is available from The Sims 3 store upon registration of the game).

Families are one of the great parts of The Sims 3. You care about your offspring more than in the previous games.

In Buy mode you can pick your own colours, paints and patterns for every single item in the game. For objects that have a trim, you can tinker with them to create a perfect colour scheme in your house. This makes up for a lot of the missing items in the game (a robust online store and items from the modding community also helps). All this, however, may still sound a little negative for a big-budget instalment from one of the most successful series in gaming history. There is a redeeming factor to take into account. Whereas building and buying may have been the highlights of the previous games (without the expansion packs taken into account), there is now tons to do in The Sims with no additional content required. The old issue of basically living out your life in the game, including the mundane day-to-day chores and longing for an in-game weekend is no longer such a big problem. Don't fancy getting a job? There are part-time careers on offer. You could write a novel, go fishing and sell your bounty to the grocery store, scour Sunset Valley for rare meteorites, beetles or butterflies and sell them in the game for cash. Of course, you could still become a politician, an athlete, a scientist, or embark on countless other careers, but it is so much more than just looking in the newspaper and accepting the first job that comes along. That won't be fun for you, or your Sim.

When you first create or inherit a Sim they have certain Traits attached. You can pick five of these at the start, or, if you are raising a child, your ability to pick their Traits and effectively mould their personality will depend on how well you raised them. They are not all positive. You could combine something like Evil with another such as Flirty, and you would probably end up with a womanising lothario. It's not quite as simple as that though, because any combination of the 60+ Traits will produce a completely different Sim. Depending on your Traits, your Sim will want certain jobs. They'll request Wishes along the way. These will also be tailored to their Traits, as well as to they're environment and whatever course you have put them on in their day-to-day lives. For example, the Handy trait will produce Wishes such as reading a certain book to improve the Handiness skill. Or a career in the military may be on the cards for someone with such strong mechanical abilities. If you were to simply go out and read a book to improve your Sim's Handiness skills with no Traits relating to it, you could still get to the same Wishes, it just won't happen naturally.

Romance. Not for everyone perhaps.

By completing Wishes you build up points to spend on Lifetime Happiness. Lifetime Happiness points buy you new abilities, personality traits, skills etc. that can improve your Sims' lives. Some wishes can be as simple as a desire to watch TV, or make a new friend. These represent something otherwise missing from your Sim's life. When creating a Sim you also pick a Lifetime Wish. This is an overall ambition, a lifelong goal, to achieve at some juncture. Doing so nets heaps of Lifetime Happiness points. Some Lifetime Wishes are related to money, such as amassing a fortune, or building a certain quality of house. Others, such as to become the Leader of the Free World, or a Rock Star, are more imaginative. All these features give the game a real feeling of personality based on your own Sims. As the famous adage goes, each time you play the game, a different experience can be enjoyed (at least until the first expansion rolls out).

1 - 2 - Next