Escapism and videogames is nothing new, we all have bad days and find solace playing a few rounds of Street Fighter or Snake on the phone. The Sims has always been a series that hasn’t appealed enough to play for more than a few hours and wonder why it demands the time investment it requires to get anything done. My wife (Elouise) on the other hand has been steadily playing the games from the original “The Sims” all the way up to The Sims3 ‘with pets’ and finds it almost has a Minecraft quality. The ability to build up something and explore it until you eventually get bored and move onto something else. Well lets see how the 4th iteration plays out now it’s come to console.
Installing, updating, loading, Work it harder, Make it better, Do it faster, Makes us stronger. The game does a large amount of installing, loading and working when you first get into it but this isn’t surprising the engine behind it is a beast and needs the time to load in. Just a heads up that you need to pop this disc in and make a cuppa tea for the first install.
It doesn’t progress much better at the start with new items to buy on store and ea linking to sort even before you start a new game. Packs packs and more packs are on sale before you even scratch the basic content on offer. Elouise mentions that this is just part and parcel with 2 having so many packs that her and friend used to buy alternate packs and swap them. I point out that I doubt it had that many on release then realise this console port comes 2 years after the game originally released. Does the locking away of content feel lacking though? Neither of us noticed so it seems to be tailoring your expansions.
Creating a sim is surprisingly simple. If you’d like a bash at this there’s a neet PC demo where you can simply create a Sim (akin to Spore’s demo). Pro tip though – start on everyday looks and work across, Elouise accidentally started with party and we realised it needed customising for everything else after. Other than that there is a lot of additions that are very interesting and welcome. You can play with gender as necessary having masculine builds but feminine clothing and the option of “get others pregnant, can be pregnant, neither” is a surprising addition. The games pitch is escapism but a little realism here for matters like this only an addition never a detraction. Although I didn’t come across any AI controlled strangers who had these parameters it’s good to know they exist.
Everyday, formal, athletic, sleep, party and swimwear all needs tweaking and fixing. I suppose this is the main event tbf. A bit like an mmo pouring over the menus and sliders. Bit weird how you can tinker body details but not specifics, so you end up with a big belly but still a defined 6 pack? Fair enough.
Well meaning controls but a typical mouse control with sensitivity too high. Switching between free form mouse controls and menus closes the menu. It’s annoying, fiddly and tutorials don’t really help a newbie like me. After a few hours of use it became second nature but even after those house I found trying to check the needs menu a real pain. There is an option to press L3 on any screen and have a pop up showing controls but some simple benefits such as panning the camera is locked to right on the dpad of all places and is a simple “above or isometric” switch. All that being said; I handed the controller to the wife and she was wizzing through menus like a pro so if you last spent 100 hours plus on 3 on a controller you will take to this well.
A ton of useless tutorials at the start really. It tries to explain things such as camera control and basic building but neglects to mention a lot of things such as placing stairs automatically creates a ceiling hole or other nuances. Negative and positive emotions are explained for a sim that is literally standing next to an empty lot getting hungry and dying for a pee before “how to build a house”. This game is crying out for a “tutorial mode” akin to rollercoaster tycoons, with a simple step by step that doesn’t just plomp you in the main game scrambling for tutorials to trigger and help. I realise it’s the 4th sequel in a series but it’s the first release for this system and a lot of people will likely be coming to this fresh.
All that being said, Let’s build a house!…. 20 mins later I found myself raging at the game because I can’t get the camera to pan down again. I miss keyboard and mouse and here’s an oddity, if you plug a usb keyboard and mouse into a PS4 it recognises them (even asking which user is using the keyboard for some reason) but this game isn’t compatible apparently only mmos are so never-mind, just seems like an open goal there. Ok anyways I’m slowly working around this and building a mess, but it’s my mess damn it and it seems functional. Thank god the music in build mode is peaceful or I’d have rage quit twice by now. It’s a shame there isn’t any when in live mode where your sims interact and the more I play this the more I miss animal crossing.
Ok finally onto the sim bit. Let’s see what I can do with them.. So it’s super fiddly with the controls but I got them eating, levelling up their skills and such without too much fuss. Flirting happily together and sorted like any happy sim. Now to speed up time and see how it goes. There is a strange slow down all over the game, with the framerate occasionally struggling with the fast forward and occasional long pauses when switching to build. Still hey ho there’s nothing game breakingly bad more annoyances. Visually it’s a pretty game when everything works. Models are well made with a pseudo cartoon realism art style that fits nicely. Best described as Pixar mixed with a dash more realism.
My couple live their lives on auto but never really successfully and it seems all Sims are like this, that’s where I come in as God. This is where the game makes sense otherwise it would just be Sim City but on a microscope level. A few days later and both of my sims have jobs and it’s swiftly becoming a lot more of a balancing act. To keep their needs fed and trying to keep them happy with little quests along the way. Hang on, where did that hour go?!? Jesus! I thought this was a grind but nope, This game doesn’t take it’s time it quite literally steals it.
The first quirk from coming into this as an old Sim player is is that you don’t seem to have to send a Sim to lock the door at night to stop thieves, you can simply interact with it and change who has access. Hazza for magic doors! Although given my sims keep waking up during the night and a vast majority of playing through this with various setups this does seem to be a Pokemon hidden stat like scenario. Some Sims are free and awake throughout the day (typically they are self employed) and others work through a day, sleep a while and spend large chunks of the night awake. This seems moot as you still have to tell your sims to go to work, if their having too much fun chatting, eating, living that’s enough to skip work (I agree Sim you empower your own life!).
Killing a sim is hard work now. Time was; Stick them with fireplaces and nowt else and watch the place burn down. Winston McGregor took an hour to die from starvation! I hope the reaper liked the heat and the smell of urine when he came to collect him.
So they got pregnant because ‘reasons’. The baby is super annoying, with the toddler being equally so but this isn’t due to the screaming or multiple times a guest ignored my attempts at flirting but mainly due to lack of sign posts. Pregnancy with peeing and such which is ok and totally expected but a toddler only being fed from a high chair or they’ll starve? Really?! As soon as I had a child in The Sims4 I realised what is one of the fundamentally biggest problems the Sims4 to a relative new player like me; The game refuses to sign post anything. What I mean is that there is no natural way to figure out what needs to be done. Tutorials are thrown out in messy ways with “do you want a tutorial” popping up over regular play and not necessarily related to what your doing. Simple things like “you need to place a mailbox to receive bills” aren’t flagged as a necessity unless someone comes to drop off post. Thankfully the game is fairly forgiving in this nature and whenever you miss anything you typically get a notification of a new need.
Oh also playing with sexuality and various adultery concepts and relationship conflicts is obviously another feather to this games cap and it works out surprisingly well. You can have characters flirt, play and essentially make woohooho without the partners knowing but obviously when they find out it does affect the relationship and Sim drastically. This all makes for interesting messy character arcs when you get pregnant, have a child then sleep with your friend who you thought was an adult but turned out to actually now be an elder who needed a lot more flirting to date (maybe her hearing went first?). Or simply being an introvert who likes chess and spaceships who quickly got married to the first Sim she found. It’s strangely enjoyable seeing how you can throw a spanner into the works, see how it unfolds and then clean up the mess to throw another one in later for kicks. For better or worse you are essentially making your own season of Desperate Housewives.
So it’s hard to really nail how I feel about this game and I’m not alone. It’s a solid experience when it gets going but it keeps making that step to fun always another roll on the dice with 1 being a chore and 2-6 being good times. Sure the controls are janky at best and controller snapping at worst but it’s essentially trying to tie a mouse and keyboard game to a controller and this one has very mixed results with it snapping to the wrong menu or quickly looking at needs just to be frustrated at the cursor location after.
All this being said it’s still a game that devours time without you noticing. It reminds me of Civilisation, loading up for the evening only to be surprised at the sunshine coming from the curtains. Essentially the Sims4 is an RPG without a story. You build up your characters stats maintaining the important ones and help them complete quests netting rewards for more stuff to improve the grind. How much you get out of it depends on how much you give: if you throw in Trizlar Gumbernickle and try to ruin the neighbourhood that’s fun for a while but if you create you and your loved ones you’ll find it’s a power fantasy videogame but not in a traditional kill 40 hellspawn with your fist kinda way. The game takes on a very unique and different feeling almost akin to a pet. A pet that occasionally decides to chew up your favourite book. Your angry, you shout, then it makes puppy eyes at you and you take it for a walk instead.
8/10 – simulating
The wife’s opinion – 7/10 get the PC version.