Friday 5 June 2009

The Sims 3 Review

The Sims 3
PC (PEGI Rating 12+)

Review by Rob Wade

In many ways, I am the perfect middle-ground for a reviewer of a Sims game. While I enjoy them tremendously while I’m playing them, I tend to find myself far too busy to spend too long on consecutive long play sessions, and am at a loss to consider how people can willingly devote such a large portion of their real life to making virtual characters’ lives SLIGHTLY better. That said, I can certainly see the appeal of the games, hence why as I say I’m ideally placed to give a balanced option. That and I do play a fuckton of games.


Ok, so bearing in mind that it’s a PC game, I think it’s important to mention the specs on this game, and how forgiving they are for older machines. Well, relax PC fans: it turns out that you don’t need to be able to run Crysis to control the lives of little virtual people who speak gibberish made-up words. The specs, while they do require a 2.0 GHz processor and 1GB RAM, are no more demanding at basic specification than your average game. This surprised me, to be honest, for reasons that will become clear in good time.

Obviously, the better your rig is (and mine is pretty damned good, might I add) the smoother it’ll run, but rest assured that it’s by no means a matter of life and death in either the literal or proverbial sense. Because that would suck wouldn’t it? A game that was so high-spec, it would actually kill you. I dare say, however, that if there is such a game in the works, Crytek are developing it.

So getting the nerdy stuff out of the way, the game installs smoothly on my rig (an AMD Quad-core processor with 4GB of RAM and a single 512MB GeForce card), but lacks some of the little touches they put into the install process for The Sims 2. There used to be a little game that you could play while it was installing to pass the time. I know it sounds petty, but when you consider that despite the smoothness the install process lasts over 10 minutes, something to pass the time would be preferable. This is only a minor gripe though, but still a small bugbear of mine.

Let’s Get It Started

Once the game installs, thankfully, loading times reduce substantially. Once you set up the game installation, you’re given the new Sims 3 game launcher. From here, you can access the new online store and download/purchase new items, clothes and even towns for the main game. Regardless of your opinion on micro-transactions, the market is going that way on all formats, and the store is certainly a nice option to have should you feel so inclined.

In fact, my limited experience of the store (bearing in mind that they have very little in the way of content on there at the time of writing) was completely positive. I was able to download a new town to add to the main game, certainly a welcome addition bearing in mind that the main game begins with one. Say what you like about the future of advertising in games and the effect it will have in downloadable content, but I have no problem with, for example, an Orange-branded tracksuit top in the game that I can download for free. As far as the other things they charge for are concerned, it makes good business sense for them to do it, so I’m sure it’ll continue. On the plus side, it gives lifespan to games with good amounts of customisation options (not that I think you’ll run out of options in games like this).

Once you get into the game, it’s time to create your Sim. You CAN opt for the pre-programmed ones they’ve given you, but why bother doing that? Half the fun is either playing as yourself or someone you hate. Maybe you hate yourself, in which case it’s a complete result on your part, job done. One of the first things that struck me about the Sim creation process is that it SEEMED (though I may be mistaken, as it’s been a while since I played Sims 2 in any great depth) like they’ve cut down the customisation options on the faces of the Sims. Having said that, as I’ll come to, there are what seem to be legitimate gameplay reasons for doing so, so it doesn’t come as too much of a disappointment for me (plus I look generic anyway really, especially since I got my hair cut).

Cult of Personality

At this point in the game, you’re introduced to one of the principal new features of the creation process: the ability to give your Sims more realistic personalities than previous games by combining attributes together. The attributes involved are kind of generic ones, but they work quite well as templates. Presumably, as with previous games in the franchise, they’re laying the groundwork of a working system which will then be refined in future iterations of the game, as they have done in the past with the passage of time and the relationship system. Even then, the system is solid and has a decent range of personality traits which do seem to make a difference in gameplay.

Once you get your Sim family up and running (for the purposes of getting a general idea of the game, I went for a solo Sim of myself, making myself an artistic absent-minded humourist using the new system – I chose to throw in the “Never nude” option so that I didn’t have to look at those stupid blur patterns around my junk as well), it’s on to choosing a place to live. Here, the developers begin to show their flair for the little touches that make a game flow more smoothly. You can opt for a furnished or unfurnished house, which is a nice little touch I personally enjoyed, as I always found myself doing calculations in my head for how much the basic appliances would cost on top.

As soon as you touch down on the ground level with your Sim, you are given the tutorial options Sims fans will no doubt recognise. However, rather than bombarding you with the tutorial options, this game (as I have noticed most awesome games adopt) has a system that asks you if you want information on a particular subject, giving you the option to view the tutorials, save them for later or turn the tutorials for a particular subject off. The tutorials I have seen are well laid-out, with clear visual guides on how to access some of the more advanced features the game offers. As tutorials go, the Sims series has always been a good example for game companies to follow, and the same applies here.

Deeper Underground

At this point, you’ll begin to see the main addition that has been made to the series. Promises of a more community-driven game have been well-founded, it turns out, as The Sims 3 is the first game to load up an entire town simultaneously and run all the different Sims’ lives and personalities at any given time. To give you an idea of how detailed and in-depth this game has become, let me put it like this.

When my character got his first job, it was on the Law Enforcement career track. My Sim would work from 9am until 3pm Monday to Friday. I could follow him to the building he worked inside (I couldn’t go inside that particular one, but some do allow you to go inside and watch what’s going on). I could make him walk home if I chose rather than get a cab or drive, going via the local shops and precincts or the park. I could carry an acoustic guitar around and busk in the park before heading home, in order to make a bit of extra cash. The people I met on my first day aged alongside my Sim, to the point that my partner in Vice Squad died two days before my Sim did. This was all without ever having a loading screen. To say that this game is deep would be an understatement, and I’ve not even seen some stuff yet!

That’s not all though. One improvement I’m particularly impressed by is the modification of the aspiration meter from Sims 2, replaced by “Life Rewards”. What used to happen was that you would earn points for fulfilling the Sim’s desire, which could only be spent essentially when the Sim was in a great mood, and only for items that could be left around the house for them to use. While I did rather like the ability to drink the Elixir of Life to prolong lifespan, I always found the necessity of using it when the Sim was in a particular quality of mood to be a rather fiddly and clunky system.

I was thus relieved to find that the Life Rewards system is much better. As well as offering the points for fulfilling particular objectives (from such things as “Meet Someone New” all the way to “Prepare a meal”), the meter also fills up continuously any time the Sim is over a certain percentage on the Mood meter. This system might SOUND convoluted, but I assure you it’s anything but, and a welcome change to the meter from the previous version. The perks you can swap the points for are much cooler as well, ranging from learning skills twice as quickly to not having to pay at restaurants.


Most of the other changes that I’ve observed are mostly superficial or just streamlined versions of the previous system and game mechanic. Tasks and activities now have a time bar attached to them to give you an idea of what time something will be finished (handy when planning a Sim’s journey to work!), certain activities now have a drop-down box allowing you to choose the level of effort you wish to put into it versus the level of reward you will receive. Yes, there is an option for “take a lazy day” at work, something with which most Sims players will be instantly familiar.

The game also boasts a much more in-depth video and photo capturing and editing system (expect some fun stuff to appear on E14 in this vein in the not-too-distant future) as well as the ability to upload your content for others to enjoy. Make no mistake, EA have really pushed the boundaries of what can be done with the technology in this game, and I applaud them for that.

However, this game is not without its flaws, and most of them can be attributed to my issues with the franchise in general that have still not been addressed. Firstly, it IS a deep game, but to someone like me that can be quite intimidating at times. This is particularly true when weighed up against my main gripe with the series. The Sims themselves do not last long enough in terms of lifespan! I appreciate that previous games have used expansion packs to extend the lives of Sims, but they just don’t last long enough to make use of most of the features in the game. I appreciate that this is a very personal issue, but I’m sure I’m not the only one who thinks so!

Also worth mentioning is the “fast-forward factor”, as I like to call it. After a few hours of continuous play, you will probably find yourself fast-forwarding through most things that repeat to any significant degree. Having said that, the system for fast-forwarding now includes an option to fast-forward only until a particular activity is finished, so if you’re particularly sick of seeing little Billy take a piss for the 300th time, you know what to do.

Other than that, the issues are mainly technical. A few texture issues, with buildings disappearing and re-appearing, as well as cars vanishing on occasion, are somewhat understandable in the case of something on such a grand scale as The Sims. The game does slow down occasionally, but then that’s a very subjective issue and depends on your game settings as well. You may find that your experiences differ on a technical level from mine, but then that’s the beauty of PCs: No two rigs are ever really the same. The controls can be a little fiddly at times, as most of the rotation and tilting is now mapped to clicking down the mouse wheel first, and the screen can only be moved while holding down the right mouse button. However, keyboard controls are included as well; maybe they’ll work better for you.

Final thoughts

All in all, I would say that the game represents a substantial development in the Sims life cycle, and does serve to innovate somewhat in some areas that perhaps had stagnated within the franchise until now. While this game doesn’t fix absolutely all the issues some gamers will have had with the franchise (myself included), the changes they have made are sufficient that it retains the recognisable Sims style of play while offering enough fresh stuff to keep even the most die-hard Sims fan happy.

Graphics: 7/10 – Though not an absolutely mind-blowing graphical experience, the characters look solid and the level of detail is good.
Sound: 7/10 – The music is entertaining enough, and as long as you can put up with the voices, you’ll be fine.

Gameplay: 9/10 – The traditional Sims experience we’ve all come to know and enjoy on a much grander scale.

Lasting Appeal: 10/10 – There is PLENTY to keep you occupied on here. What with the large number of personality variants as well as all the online options for content sharing and downloads, EA will keep this fresh. You just watch.

Other points in favour: You can make two female Sims les up, and as everyone knows that’s awesome. Make them kiss in public and defy convention, I dare you!

E14 Rating: 8/10. There is enough here to keep you busy for quite a while, and for fans of the original Sims games it will seem like more than just an incremental upgrade.


  1. dude you're a dumbass. well not really, but I do think that maybe you should go to the options so you can set the default lifespan to "epic" (900+ days)

    dont think that your problem went unaddressed

  2. personally i think the game was horrible. i feel like they tried to hard to make it too realalistic and the graphics are just plain out bad. there are no memories and the relationship bars have been midified and they are horrible. they drop way to fast and unlike previous sims games there is no daily and overall sim bars. they need that!!! sims that are married can drop to no relationship in like a day. the cheats arnt as fun and thats what i liked. the "fast"forwrad is slow unlike sims2 where it actually did domething. maybe its just me but to the players why would you care what happens to the sims, they have a child big woopydeedo, its not a big deal and you people think it is. the fun part is messing up their lifes, makeing tghem all cheaters and decievers, the sims ruined that for me i cant take it anylonger im going back to the old sims2:)

  3. agreed the new sims3 ruined it for me too. im wanna play sims2 agian:(

  4. you main reviewer did a horribke im with anonymous, the game was bad

  5. Thanks for that Neo! I'll do that!

  6. Whoa! Is it me or did the grammar in here suddenly get so bad that it'd make Yoda blush?

    There were a couple of valid points made though. Rob IS a dumbass.

    (Sits back and waits to be flamed by morons...)

  7. Yeah, actually, besides setting the lifespan to "epic," I'm almost positive you can turn off aging entirely, which is pretty nifty. Haven't done it myself, but check it out. And also, as a side note, I totally agree with this review. I don't think I'll ever be able to go back to the Sims2, why would anyone?

  8. So you people are saying that you'd rather take the easy road and have a relationship on the sims lasts forever, basically, without any work. At least the new system challenges people and forces people to actually have their sims interact with other sims. In my opinion, having to make my sims work to keep a relationship is better than my sims never interacting with other sims yet still have 98% lifetime relationship. The game is supposed to bring challenges to returning gamers, if there isn't any challenge what's the fun in the game? (Let me guess too, when the sims 2 came out all of you who are anti- the sims 3 were also anti- the sims 2, since in the sims 2 the sims were able to age?) Give the game a real chance, it hasn't even been out for a week.