Product Type: Electronic Arts PC games
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The Sims 1.5?
The Sims 3 (PC)
Member Name: thereddragon
The Sims 3 (PC)
Date: 12/06/09, updated on 20/07/10 (1024 review reads)
Advantages: Multiple personality traits, improved object graphics, multiple savegames
Disadvantages: Ugly Sims, 'rabbit hole' community lots, slow AI, poor pathing, feels unfinished, buggy
***Please be sure to read my update at the end of this review, which now address many of the problems I found in my review of this game in its original 'straight out of the box' form.
Year of release: 2009
Publisher: EA Games
The Sims 3 is the latest in the 'Sims' life simulator series that began in 2000 with The Sims, in which you create lifelike characters and watch them live out their lives and interact with each other in many and varied, and often hilariously funny, ways. As a massively avid fan of The Sims 2, I got my copy of this new offering a week ago and have been immersing myself in it.
Installing it is easy, if a bit time-consuming as it requires a whopping 6.1 GB of hard disk space with an allowance of another 1 GB for saved games and custom content. Once installed, those who, like myself, had become accustomed to playing The Sims 2 with its eight expansion packs plus several thousand custom content files, will be pleasantly surprised at the quick loading times. (However, if you cast your mind back to the Sims 2 base game, it loaded in a flash - it's the addition of expansion packs and custom content that result in ever-increasing load times. My Sims 2 game now takes ten minutes to boot up!)
So, having installed it, off I went to the 'Create A Sim' module to create my first family. As in The Sims 2, the family consisted of myself, my Significant Other, and two male lodgers. And this was my first stumbling block. I'd had a bad feeling, from screenshots and promotional videos I'd seen, about the way the new Sims looked - they looked more cartoony and less realistic, with flat featureless skin and round faces with strange small facial features. I'd hoped this would be improved by the time of release, but to my disappointment, when I opened Create A Sim I realised that it was not.
When I first bought The Sims 2, even as a newbie I was able to create Sims that looked uncannily like the people they were based on, which was remarked upon by everyone I showed my creations to. With The Sims 3, I could not get any of my Sims to look even remotely like their real counterparts. It looks as if the art team who designed and drew the character models for The Sims 2 were replaced by someone with a completely different style. I loved the look of the characters in The Sims 2 and found them endearingly cute. With The Sims 3, you get butt-ugly Sims. Everyone has big broad bloated-looking faces with double chins and pinched-looking, too-close-together facial features. Someone on one of the Sims discussion forums said 'everyone looks like Miss Piggy' and I agree. Also, strangely, whereas in The Sims 2 everyone looked about 21 years old, in The Sims 3 the women look matronly and the men look 12 years old, and there is little you can do to improve on that. The men also tend to have wild staring eyes for some reason.
You have to spend a lot of time fiddling with facial feature sliders to get someone that doesn't look completely repulsive, but they still look unattractive. Thankfully, they provide a Head Width slider which improves a bit on the broad faces, but you still get the double chin effect. In the end, my Simself came out looking like a middle-aged bloated alcoholic who looked nothing like me and had a weird smirking mouth, and my Significant Other and our lodgers all look 12 years old with wild staring eyes and also nothing like themselves. Hair is also a problem - there are very few styles to choose from, all of them awful, and the long hair styles clip through the Sim's clothing, which you would expect from badly-meshed custom content but not from the game's publishers themselves.
Having had to resign myself to being a bloated middle-aged alcoholic living with three 12-year-old boys, I saved the family, went to the 'Edit Town' screen (formerly called 'Neighborhood' in The Sims 2) and moved them into a house. This was straightforward and much the same as how you do it in The Sims 2, including the familiar 'Buy' and 'Build' modes although these are arranged a bit differently. However, there is shockingly little to buy - gone are nearly all of the staples that you would expect in a Sims game: no hot tub, no Jacuzzi, no piano (though you get an acoustic guitar), no games except the chess set and a new football table (not even the ubiquitous dartboard) - in fact, there is very little to choose from in any category. And bizarrely, although you can still build a swimming pool, there is no diving board!
There is also only one Neighborhood/Town, which was quite a surprise, as The Sims 2 base game came with three. As I continued into the game, more and more glaring omissions struck me - there are no alien or fantasy characters such as the elf-eared face you could choose in Sims 2's Create a Sim or the alien family you got in Sims 2's Strangetown. There is no separate Bodyshop app for creating your own custom clothing (Create a Sim now includes a facility for choosing different patterns and colours for the default clothing, but this is nowhere near as useful for us creative types). It began to dawn on me that there was actually shockingly little content in this game compared to the Sims 2 base game and which I would have expected in something that takes up over 6GB for its initial bare installation.
Spending a good deal of time playing my new family and letting them 'bed in', I found I was really not very happy. I remember my joy at first playing The Sims 2, where I sat back laughing and marvelling at my little characters running amok interacting with each other and doing funny things. Now I found myself getting bored and irritated. Aside from being p'd off at what they all look like, I was surprised at how bad the AI and pathing were. Each Sim spent a lot of time just standing and staring, as if Free Will was turned off. When I 'told' them to do something, they spent ages standing there before going to do it. The same applied when they did things autonomously: stand there for ages before going and doing it. Pathing-wise, they constantly whined about things being in their way rather than turn around and walk, and when they did move, the animations were sporadic with the Sim often freezing in place for a few seconds in mid-walk. At first I thought it was my computer freezing, but then I noticed that other Sims were moving normally while one was freezing in mid-air. Bizarre.
I decided to have my family go out for a meal. When I clicked on their car and told them to go, instead of getting in the car and driving off as in The Sims 2, they stood at the side of the road. Their car suddenly materialised in the middle of the road, the Sims disappeared, and then you see them driving off in the car. I found this set of animations really poor. At the cafe, I clicked on them to go in. As they did, I moved the camera forward to enter the building with them and - nothing. The whole building disappeared and I was faced with an empty floor plan. I was unable to watch my Sims dine, but a progress bar came up onscreen to show that they were doing so. After the progress bar competed, they emerged from the building, got in the car and went home. I thought it was some bug to do with my computer, but on consulting a Sims discussion forum, discovered that this is actually how it's been scripted and that forum members were very unhappy with what they referred to as this 'rabbit holing' of the community lots. I was shocked at this, as one of my favourite features of The Sims 2 was watching my Simmies enjoying themselves out on the town.
Altogether, this game feels more like 'The Sims 1.5' than a progression onwards from The Sims 2. It feels like a step backward - it comes across as unfinished and half-baked, like something the makers rushed to market due to publisher pressures rather than taking the loving care over it that was so much more noticeably taken with its two predecessors. There is an awful lot of basic stuff missing that was in the previous two games, and it feels slow and tedious rather than fast and funny like The Sims 2. The game is also buggy - for instance, as I write this, I have the game running on my other computer. The Repo Man has just arrived to confiscate our belongings, but as he turns his raygun on each item, they are not disappearing as should be the case - he's now leaving and having a good evil laugh and my Sims are crying, but all of our belongings are still there!
In some ways, the look and feel are more reminiscent of The Sims 1 than The Sims 2. The Sims themselves are of a poorer graphic quality than their predecessors, although object graphics are of a better quality. The heads-up display looks like that of the Sims 1, including the low-resolution look of the Sims' avatars, and the Sims themselves have a more sort of 'chunky' look like those in The Sims 1 did, rather than the slim look of The Sims 2.
I'm feeling hard-pressed to find any advantage of this game over The Sims 2. A good thing is that you can now have multiple savegames rather than just one. The one feature I do like a lot is the huge variety of new personality traits, of which your Sim can have five at the same time (I was pleased to be able to be a Computer Whiz like in real life!). They can now have such traits as Hopeless Romantic, Evil, Slob, Daredevil, Brave, Genius, Overemotional, and Couch Potato. Some of the traits are pretty funny - one of our lodgers is based on a lodger we used to have who was a gormless but pompous socially inept nerd (think Sheldon from 'Big Bang Theory' but sporting a big furry beard) and I enjoyed giving him the 'Inappropriate' personality trait, having him send an 'inappropriate forum post' on his PC and then get an insulting reply. But what I would have liked even better, would be for this feature to be an expansion pack for The Sims 2 where I would have enjoyed it much more.
I would say that if you are a Sims 2 fanatic like myself, you will want to buy this out of curiosity and just to experience something new, but will probably be disappointed. If you are undecided and you have a friend who already has this, try it out there first. At present, I am not happy with this product, but I live in hope that there will be a patch to make some improvements and fix the bugs, and that with its future expansion packs it will eventually become the game it should have been. I am only just recommending it, on that basis. The game comes as a dual-format (PC and Mac) DVD.
UPDATE JULY 2010:
Well, it's a little over a year now since this game was released and thankfully there have been a lot of improvements, thanks both to an ongoing series of major patches from EA and tons of mods from the modding community. You can now get facial slider hacks that give you more control over your sim's features (I can now make sims who look more like who they're intended to be), custom skins and eyes (default and non-default), plus many new objects, houses, community lots, clothes and hairstyles from the modding sites: see my review on 'Where to Find Good The Sims 3 Content' here on Dooyoo, for the best places to go.
And even EA have given us a couple of good things within their ongoing patches as well as fixing bugs the game came with. They have also added two new features via the patches: a basement tool, which now enables you to build true basements, and the ability for your sims to have tattoos. These apply to just the base game as well as any expansions you might have added. So be sure to keep your game patched up to date!
The base game is still far from perfect, but a lot better than it was. Rating revised from 3 stars to 4.
Also on Ciao under the same name.
Summary: Disappointing latest entry in the 'The Sims' series but getting better with bug patch and mods