After watching buildings explode for most of my time at E3, it was a refreshing change of scene to sit down in a quiet room with the Sims 4. While it’s not exactly my choice of video game, there is certainly a part of me that appreciates its appeal of trying to emulate life. And I think fans of the series will be impressed by what this fourth rendition has to offer.
To show me the basics of the game, I was guided by Ryan Vaughan and Graham Nardone, two producers of the game from EA. While their banter and gameplay demo was scripted and had more cheese than a Philadelphia sandwich, it possessed all of the charm and humour that the Sims franchise has become renown for.
Starting off, there are three key areas where the upcoming Sims 4 will improve on it’s predecessor. Firstly, your Sims (virtual characters which represent real-life people) will now feature full-blown personalities which you can dictate and control. Secondly, the game presents users with a whole new set of creative tools which give you more personalisation over how your virtual world looks behaves. And finally the Sims 4 brings in a gallery mode, which makes sharing your creations with others easy and more worth-while.
Anyone who has spent time with a Sims game knows that one of the highlights is creating your character to begin with - whether you’re creating your own likeness in the game, or just fooling around and playing God a little. Now users have a much more intuitive way of customising their Sims, with an interface that allows you to literally ‘reach in’ to push and pull body parts.
It’s not quite as exciting (or raunchy) as it sounds, but by dragging the cursor over a character’s stomach, you can make them fatter or thinner. Or you can change how long their legs are by simply stretching them out, without the need for complicated secondary menu screens and buttons. Via a simple interface you can personalise a whole wealth of other traits too, such as the way they walk, talk or act.
Like previous titles, your Sim’s life aspirations and passions are still able to be customised, whether you want a sociable Sim who wants to become a lawyer; or a risk-taking, easily upset astronaut. And the Sims 4 is set to make all of your character’s personalities a lot more apparent and interactive this time around.
For example your Sim will have an emotional state which is always presented via a small picture in the bottom left corner. If your Sim is happy, his little profile picture might be smiling or laughing; but if he is feeling angry, he’ll have a frown or in some cases, be turning red and muttering under his breath like a crazy person. To help elevate his state of mind, you might send your Sim to the gym to relieve some stress physically, or (as is the case for many Sims games), have a ridiculous party.
The demo I witnessed put our upset Sim through both, concluding with a strange house party which saw Kim Jong Un set fire to the kitchen because he just wanted to bake some cupcakes. Sadly, it still appears that the Sims struggle with fire as it wasn’t long before the kitchen was on fire. Then Death turned up.
There were a couple of areas that really caught my attention with the Sims 4. One of which was just how detailed the ‘life simulator’ has become. While the Sims themselves are getting smarter and more realistic, the environments in the game are also becoming more vibrant and immersive. Entire neighbourhoods are now in place, complete with busy parks and streets. There are also a lot more internal locales to explore too, such as libraries and the aforementioned gym (in the E3 demo, our personal trainer was Chuck Norris).
Even better however, the Sims 4 has a much cleaner and accessible interface for customisation than ever before. In the past, building or modifying your house has been a tiring process, often resulting in extended fiddling to get your crib looking just right. But now users can access a whole library of pre-designed rooms and fit-outs at the click of a button, while in-game. It allows you to preview other user’s creations, which can then be dragged straight into your Sims game and customised to suit.
Being able to chuck a games-room, a study, or a luxury bathroom into your house without having to manually place each individual item is a real time-saver. It also means that Sims 4 players will want to share their creations with others, creating a community of builders to make everyone’s experience easier and more varied.
Even fine tuning your house has been made easier, with the Sims 4 allowing you to simply drag out walls to make rooms bigger, or move entire rooms around - complete with all furniture moving along with it. Finally users can also adjust wall heights and foundation heights easily and intuitively.
It’s good news for Sims fans and the game is due to be released in early September of this year. Although unfortunately it will only be for PC gamers (and possibly Mac owners) - with no mention of a console port at this stage. But as with the Sims 3, it should only be a matter of time before PS4 and Xbox One owners can experience it too.