The Sims franchise is renown in the simulation genre and does not need an introduction, but I’m going to give you one anyway because heck why not; it’s important to remember where a franchise came from.
The Sims quickly established itself as gaming classic by providing players with a unique life simulation experience. Made famous by its excellent home building tools and full-scale life control system, it essentially provides escapism from one’s humdrum life and allows the player to create a fictional second life where the only limit is their imagination — and a subset of careers.
I remember the first time I sat down with The Sims on PC, bright-eyed and not sure what to expect. I quickly realised that “motherlode” and the Simlish character dialogue would be forever engrained in my mind. The series has only grown in its popularity over the years, boasting 30 expansion packs throughout The Sims through to The Sims 4.
I’m sure you’ll agree it’s pretty safe to say that Maxis studio, the game’s developer, has been doing something right over the last 17 years.
Well, not everything they’ve released has been a masterstroke. The latest iteration of the franchise, The Sims 4 for PC, picked up a mixed reception from critics and media outlets, with many comparing its shortcomings to the previous title The Sims 3. Namely, this is the loss of the open world nature, the option of personal transport gone and no swimming pools, the latter being in the game since its original release at the start of the new millennium.
Of course, this is old news, The Sims 4 has been out since 2014, so why are we reviewing it now?
Well, The Sims 4 has finally been released on console!
This is big news as this is first Sims game for the “next generation” of consoles; it has after all been 6 years since the last console release The Sims 3 Pets.
So how does this console version of The Sims 4 fair? Well, early signs are certainly positive for us here at Two Honest Guys. We’ve also been playing the console version on the Xbox One X and this ensures that the game will have “the worlds most powerful console” to show us what it can do!
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Has the Sims 4 Improved on Previous Titles?
In our honest option, we’d have to say yes.
While the dynamic of the game still resembles that of its nearly 18-year old predecessor, the Sims 4 is far from a graphically remastered edition of the first, second or even third game in the series. It comes complete with its own list of new gameplay elements that make it worth coming back to if you’re a previous fan of the franchise:
Exploration: It’s easier than ever to move your Sim about the world. Inter-community travel is far more fluid and accessible than it has been in any of its predecessors. Moving your Sim to the city doesn’t feel laboured, or mess with the timeline like it did in Sims 3. Granted, it lacks the same open-world nature, but you still have plenty of neighbourhoods to enjoy. You can also travel between worlds without losing relationship progress or data. Plus, there are nightclubs, museums and art galleries to enjoy!
Emotions: At the heart of what we all loved about the Sims of year’s past was the ability to affect the emotional state of our little virtual family. In Sims 4, emotional factors play an even greater roll. The mental stability of your Sim activity affects how they interact with the world and others in a very natural way. You can also gain perks and bonuses for enhanced emotional states, which helps draw you into the Sims 4 experience and encourages players to focus on taking care of their Sims, rather than just their bank balance (more on this later).
Building: If I’m honest, all I did on the original Sims was type in the money cheat and build, build, build. I loved to create structural masterpieces, and in the Sims 4, it’s easier than ever. You’re given much greater freedom to sculpt the home you want, from adjustable wall heights to being able to move the entire house at once, the building elements of Sims 4 are unarguably the best the series has ever seen.
Character Creation: As you might expect from Sims 4, the Sim creation tool has moved on from where it was back in Sims 3. Character creation is much more intuitive, with the ability to directly pull and move Sims to meet your desired body shape and appearance. You’ve also got greater diversity in customisation and the addition of more genetic-based influence. In Sims 4, it’s easier to play God than ever before!
The Sims 4 on Consoles
So, we’ve broken down a few of the unique features that were new to The Sims 4 on the PC, but how about when it comes to consoles? Have they made any changes?
The answer is a resounding, yes!
The console game truly excels at is on how it expands on many ideas and systems that the previous titles built upon over the years. Quickly fans of the series will notice the rebuilt graphical style, which features better animations, expressions and, of course, the new emotion system that changes how the game plays out a great deal. The emotion system certainly adds a new layer of relatable emotional depth that has been absent in the series until now, and on the console you can enjoy it with even more depth.
Sims behaviour whilst interacting with other Sims is now far more realistic, and even a joy to watch, compared to fixed sets of interaction/reactions based on Sims personally traits that the other games in the series have relied upon. Seeing two Sims interact with each other now becomes an interesting affair just to observe how each interaction panned out, I watched a Sim who had traits of flirtatiousness greet a new Sim and within 3 interactions in the 4th interaction was to “confess attraction” which goes without says caused an awkwardness between the two of them for a lot of fourth coming interactions until the awkwardness had subsided.
This is great to see as it’s not even limited to direct interactions with one another, my Sim not only had an exhausting day and subsequently a prompt popped up on my screen to tell me he had made a fool of himself also, fair to understand then that he came home feeling very anxious. In turn, this opened up new options for me to aid in bringing my Sims emotional state to a calming more stable affair, a few of these being; standing in front of the bathroom mirror and talking himself up in a positive light, to a nice relaxing shower.
Whilst you can change any number of things about this gaming franchise, the core elements of gameplay controlling the virtual lives of often miniature versions of yourself, friends and family will always remain the same. The always excellent selection of things to put in your house range from the practical, cool and even the downright bizarre, are still present. Sims 4 has a great visual menu that’ll help you sort the many items to place, based on the room it is going in or based on the type of product it is. There is, of course, a search function, but I prefer the visually appealing latter option.
It was interesting, to say the least, to also come across a tablet that only a toddler could pick up and use, that improved their communication, imagination, movement and thinking skills, no doubt a nod to every other 5 year old now somehow owing and Ipad? Well played Maxis.
I was also surprised that I never saw a newspaper appear on my doorstep to find a job. Of course, you could always use a computer to find one, but The Sims 4 has taken this one step further, eliminated the newspaper all together and has simply added a job searching function to your mobile phone, again truly capturing our modern life here.
Some of the major gripes other media outlets had regarding shortcomings of the Sims 4 on PC have since been silenced as well. What I mean by this is that swimming pools are back, as are toddlers and dishwashers, and other bits and bobs have all been added to this console release.
What’s The Sims 4 Like to Play on the Xbox One X?
To be honest it a great experience, we’ve had no issues with unreasonably slow loading, no crashing or buggy game moments. The Sims 4 on consoles seem to have transferred from a graphical and performance standpoint pretty well. This will, of course, be down to the beefy hardware behind this specific console version, but it would be hard to imagine that base Xbox and PS4 hardware would be far behind what we have experienced on the Xbox One X.
The controls feel fluid and smooth. If you’re familiar with previous Sims titles on consoles, this would be out of the norm for you, which were notoriously clunky. The only area I would quibble is that the joysticks can feel overly sensitive at times and the smallest touch can shoot the cursor across the screen in an instant.
A final recommendation from me would be that if you do pick up the console version of The Sims 4, although you’ll want to not skip any of the tutorials. Some of them are boring and tedious, fine, but there really is so much thought and structure put to this game that you will no doubt miss a useful explanation or two if you skip them; even if you’ve played the PC version. That being said however you can easily go through the tutorial library at a later date, but then if you skip them in the first place are you really going to troll through an information library?
Thank you for sticking with this review and if you’ve enjoyed this, please let me know in the comments below and if you’re looking for more gaming content features and reviews be sure to visit the THG gaming page!