I finally managed to tear myself away from the latest Sims 3 expansion pack Late Night to give the console version of EA’s popular time-sucking franchise a try. Sims fans who’ve been waiting eagerly to be able to play the third version of the popular and addicting game should be satisfied with what EA has done to bring The Sims 3 to a console format.
When it comes to The Sims, I prefer to play it on the computer. I don’t know if it’s because I’m just more familiar with it that way or because I’m not much of a console gamer. I don’t feel nearly as intuitive with a game controller in my hand as I do with a mouse or trackpad and a keyboard in front of me. So when I sat down with The Sims 3 console game, I knew there was going to be a learning curve when it came to navigating through the game.
I should also note that I’m reviewing this after having played it on the Playstation 3, however from what I’ve read in the materials sent to me, with the exception of the controls being specific to the different game controllers and some differences in the achievements that can be earned, the PS3 and Xbox 360 versions are the same as far as game-play goes.
The Sims 3 is somewhat of a virtual dollhouse, where players can create people and control their day to day actions, help them find and excel at their careers, engage in romantic relationships, make friends, start families, and upgrade their lives. The game often intervenes to create obstacles for them. Sims can age to their elder years and die of old-age or they can befall some terrible tragedy (electrocution, fire, drowning, etc) at an earlier age. There’s no winning this game as it’s open-ended and different every time you play it. That’s the beauty of it. It’s also the curse as you may find the hours slipping away as you get lost in your Sim’s lives.
The third version of The Sims was released for the PC and Mac more than a year ago and last week EA introduced the console version, which is essentially the Sims 3 base game with some enhancements and some alterations from the PC version. In addition to the Lifetime Rewards and Lifetime wish option, which gives your Sims different goals to achieve throughout their life and various life-assisting rewards, The Sims 3 console version also offers Karma points and other earnable achievements, but we’ll get to that in a little bit. Let’s start from the beginning.
Creating a Sim
I started out in Create-A-Sim, creating Arissa Fry, a female young adult. I selected her facial features, body type and clothing. You can choose pre-made Sims and pre-made clothes or customize their looks further using the style and body editing tools. Your own level of involvement in how specific you get with how your Sims look depends on how much time you have and how much you care about the little things like eye-brow shape and ear-size.
Once you have your Sim looking sharp, you can select their traits and Lifetime Goal. Their traits will play a role in their behavior, how they react in certain scenarios, and what skills they might excel faster at. I made Arissa athletic, which helped her out with her Lifetime Goal, which was to reach the top of the Thief branch of the Criminal career track. Other traits include social things like Friendly, Evil, Great Kisser, Good Sense of Humor, skill attributes like Handy, Green-Thumb and Angler, and random behavioral attributes including Inappropriate, Couch Potato, and Ambitious.
As I was just getting started with testing out this new game, I didn’t create any roommates or family members for Arissa. I wanted to see how she did on her own before I started adding on to the challenge of chasing after multiple Sims and trying to keep up with their goals and needs.
Moonlight Bay is a quaint neighborhood that offers everything a Sim needs to live, work and play. In addition to the various work-related buildings, there are parks and other public properties like restaurants a theater and a sports arena. While the parks and beaches allow you to watch and control your Sims as they interact with other Sims, the public buildings for jobs and socializing (including the restaurants, sports arena and theater) are all rabbit-hole areas where the Sim can visit for certain specified interactions while we wait outside the building and listen to the faint sounds of whatever might be going on inside (muffled chatter, clanking dishes, bells ringing, etc).
I moved my Sim in to a pre-made house. As her funds were limited, I decided to hold off on building her a grand house, though the option to build is there. Upgrades to the build mode include being able to drag a wall to extend or decrease the size of a room. You can also adjust the terrain, either to make it flatter or more hilly/pointy. And you’ll have more control over where you place objects on the lot.
Buy mode offers a huge array of unlocked objects, most of which can be altered in Create-a-Style mode for people who like to mix it up with different patterns, textures and colors.
The Life of the Sim
Arissa’s Lifetime Goal was to reach the top of the Criminal career track, so after giving her a few days to get used to her new house and build up some of her skills, I had her visit the warehouse where the criminal career takes place. The economy in our world clearly has had no effect in the Sim-verse as getting a job is as simple as responding to an ad in the paper or visiting the location of the career and signing up to work. Once Arissa was set up with a job, I had her work on her athletic skill in anticipation for what would be expected of her. She also started to make friends with some of the locals. There was a park across the street from her house where she could go to fish, barbeque, play chess or just mingle.
The Criminal Career doesn’t pay much at first, though Arissa did come home with a stolen TV one day. Still, money was tight, so when she built up a strong enough relationship with her boyfriend, she moved him in. With the additional income he was making as a sous chef in the Culinary career track they were able to upgrade some of the furniture, which satisfied both of their “wants” but I had them save most of their money so that they could eventually move to a bigger house.
This is what The Sims is all about. The game offers different ways for Sims to advance in their lives and careers. The highs and lows of their lives come from the choices you make on their behalf and the occasional random bit of catastrophe that might befall them along the way. Not everything is predictable, however there are ways to mess with your Sims’ lives as much as there are ways to help them prevent disaster (sometimes its as simple as remembering to save your game every once in a while!).
While building up your Sims’ lives and watching them play out is the true charm of the game, The Sims 3 offers numerous bonus incentives for completing certain tasks and challenges, and keeping your Sim happy according to their wants. In addition to the Lifetime Rewards bonuses, which offer ways to make things a little easier for your Sims (i.e. helping them make friends easier, learn faster or perform better at their jobs), the console game also includes challenge rewards offered to unlock special objects or locked Karma rewards.
The Karma points and rewards are the most interesting of the incentives in the console version as they offer you the option to reward or torture your Sims. Sims earn Karma Points by completing wants. They can also be purchased at the Challenge shop. And at midnight each night (The “Hour of Reckoning”), Sims may receive additional points.
You can spend your Sim’s Karma Points purchasing “Good Powers” like the ability to bring a dead Sim back to life in ghost form, or give your Sim a needs-boost. Or you can purchase “Bad Powers,” some of which include causing an earthquake or dropping fire bombs onto a location.
I noticed that I couldn’t accumulate more than 100 Karma Points, so I made a point to spend them so that I could continue to accumulate more. While I’m not normally one to take great pleasure in torturing my Sims or setting their progress back in any way, I have to admit, it was fun to watch their house shake, their appliances break and the oven to burst into flames. I wouldn’t mind a feature like that in the PC version of the game as random catastrophes are often few and far between.
Simmers looking to connect with other console players will have the option to share their creations on the Integrated Online Exchanged. The Exchange is built into the game, allowing players to download other user-designed clothing and furniture. Players who want to show off their skills can earn trophies and share trophies and achievements online.
As I’m used to the computer version of the game, the general look of The Sims 3 on the PS3 took some getting used to. The menus are different and given my lack of any kind of natural intuition when it comes to using a game controller, it took me a little while to figure out and get used to where the different menus were and how to access them. This proved frustrating at first as it slowed me down but after a few hours a playing, I started to get the hang of it. I’m thinking this will be less of an issue for people who are more accustomed to playing console games.
The graphics are good but not nearly as sharp as they are on the computer. The biggest contrast is when in Map View. Not only does Moonlight Bay seem much smaller than the maps we’re used to on the PC, but the map also has to load sections separately. While it’s not a lot-to-lot load, the map isn’t completely open, which means your Sim can’t simply wander from one area of map to the next without you having to load the section first.
Fortunately, load-time for the map and for just about every other part of the game is brief. The short load-time is probably the game’s best asset when comparing the console version to the PC version, and I expect that to be a big selling point for this game. If the reason you’re not playing The Sims 3 on your computer is because your computer doesn’t have the specs to handle the game (or it does but you’re not happy with the speed at which the game runs anyway), the console version delivers a fair alternative. The Sims 3 for Playstation 3 and Xbox 360 takes the best of what EA has done with the PC version and adds a few new twists to give users even more of an incentive to spend hours creating stories and watching their Sims live them out.