Thursday, September 11, 2014

Review: The Sims 4's Lack of Content Disappoints

The Sims 4 (PC)
Reviewed by Grant Andrews on .
2.5 Star Rating: Recommended  

Lack of content disappoints.
While the improvements to the character creation and build mode are impressive, the game ultimately feels half-baked due to the limited options and content.
Rating: 2.5 

What usually sets a good game apart is that you can truly immerse yourself into its world. When I played Skyrim, hours flew by and I felt like I couldn't tear myself away because there was still so much to do. But with The Sims 4, you quickly realise how much the game has been stripped down, and the innovative additions become bland far too quickly to justify the jump from The Sims 3.

It is a unique problem with a franchise which basically comes down to playing dress-up and managing the virtual lives of an advanced dollhouse: once you've already had a much grander, more expansive experience with previous games, it's hard to start all over and buy a new game with only the basics included. Whereas the previous games have had multiple expansion packs, allowing sims to go to University, live in apartments, have pets and even engage in the supernatural, all of those factors are taken away when you buy the new iteration.

This would not be a problem if there were really something groundbreaking in the new Sims game to make it revolutionary and a giant step forward for the franchise, but sadly there is nothing that fits the bill. The new emotion system is the biggest change from previous games, and it quickly becomes mundane. While it is a clever way to make the sims you play with feel more human, it doesn't have the wow-factor of the open world we were given in Sims 3 (we're back to loading screens between lots). It honestly feels like a prettier version of The Sims 2.

What is even more frustrating is that some basic features from previous games have actually been taken away this time around. No longer can you hire a gardener (I really needed one when dead plants were stinking up my front yard, and it took an entire day for one of my sims to clean them all away). There is no toddler phase of growth, and no swimming pools, much to the ire of long-time fans. And the worst disappointment has to be the career choices. For some reason, you can be an astronaut and a secret agent, but you can't be a scientist, doctor, lawyer or businessperson. This feels like a deliberate attempt to make the game feel 'weird', as the marketing team has been touting for months, rather than allowing players the choice to enjoy their sims in any way they choose.

This 'weirder' Sims game is in no way what fans wanted, and the original franchise was unique in a far subtler way. The Sims 4 loses a lot of the quirky charm of the first three games, where wacky descriptions and genuinely intelligent wordplay created a gaming experience that rewarded players who paid attention. The new game feels dumbed-down and streamlined in a way that robs it of some of its charm.

There are definitely a few positives in the game, such as the much easier character creation with sims that really look unique, and the fantastic build mode that makes it easier than ever to build a great house. The look and feel of the game is much smoother and there are less annoying repetitive tasks in order to make sure your needs are fulfilled (you can simply click on a need and a sim will automatically take action to fulfill it). There are very few glitches and the game runs well even on lower-end PCs.

But these few steps in the right direction are overshadowed by the negatives in the initial release. I don't feel the desire to go back to the game after only a week of play, because there simply doesn't seem to be anything new and exciting to do. Hopefully EA makes more content available soon to justify switching over to the new game. If not, I recommend sticking to The Sims 3 for a few more months until the endless parade of expansion packs are available.