|System: PC, PS3, X360, Wii, DS||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: EA Redwood Shores||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Electronic Arts||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: June 2, 2009||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Everyone||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Derek Hidey
Five years, eight expansion packs, and eight "stuff" packs after The Sims 2, and fans finally have the third stand-alone installment to the series. Considering all the development and content released for The Sims 2, it seems strange that The Sims 3 could be anything more than a retelling of the same story. However, with the addition of some new features and improvements on older ones, The Sims 3 may just be the best game in the series.
Despite its upgraded graphics and features, The Sims 3 very much remains true to fans of the series. Veterans will have absolutely no problem diving in and getting to it. The user interface has remained mostly unchanged, which is a good thing considering how well it manages to take the complexities of the game and making them manageable.
The game is also easy to learn for the newcomers. A brief tutorial helps introduce the user interface and features to the player, and it does an efficient job of it too. Once completed, "lessons" are available to the player in case they ever need a refresher. But, to The Sims 3's credit, these helpful tutorials don't even seem necessary considering how sleek and intuitive the game's controls are.
Once again, the developers chose not to deviate from the familiar when it came to how players control the action in the game. Managing your sims is mostly down to using the mouse and following through dialogue bubbles and text trees. Keyboard shortcuts provide a quicker alternative to those who care to memorize them. The sims are governed by six needs in this third edition, as opposed to eight in earlier versions. The removal of "Environment" and "Comfort," coupled with a minor tweaks to how the needs fluctuate, results in players being able to enjoy the many intricacies and events in the game much more than in previous titles.
The visuals and music are a step up from previous Sims games, and it shows in the system requirements. Not only are the music tracks varied and interesting, but the player can choose which tracks get played and when. If you'd prefer to hear the indie tracks while in general "living mode," then make it so; if you'd rather hear rock tracks while your sim is at work, you can. The Sims 3 doesn't boast the greatest visuals out there, but its host of new features and gameplay options certainly pick up the slack - what little there is.
Of all the new features and improvement that can be found in The Sims 3, perhaps the most talked and enthused about is the persistent towns in which your sims will live. Over are the days in which loading screens interrupted your sims' trips to work or movies. Now, players have the option of zooming out and in to any place in town, allowing them to see what is taking place. You'll be able to see other sims jogging on the sidewalks, sitting on benches in the park, or hanging out at the beach. Traveling is no longer a matter of leaving one area and suddenly appearing in another. Your sim can drive, call a cab, or even jog to the location if you choose. One minor drawback to the persistent town is how taxing it can be on the player's computer. Rendering an entire town at once is no small feat, but avoiding it altogether because of that would have been a mistake.
There were also improvements made to the "create-a-sim" tools. Players can now customize their sims' initial physical characteristics, clothing styles, and personality traits to a level of detail greater than before. Varied hairstyles, clothing options for different occasions, and customizable patterns and color options are just a few examples of the ways in which players can create unique-looking sims. Once finished with the appearance aspect, however, The Sims 3 has added personality traits, which allow players to determine how their sim behaves and reacts with other sims. Picking certain traits unlock different options for communicating with other sims and can even impact what types of careers the sim will excel at. And, for every positive trait there is a negative trait, so it is entirely possible to create some truly diabolical or demented sims.
The rewards system in The Sims 3 is also a nice change. When creating sims, players will have to select a long-term goal, which the sim will strive to meet. Moreover, during the game players will be able to choose up to four short-term goals for their sim to complete. Some goals are as simple as taking out the trash or reading a book, while others may be a little more complex, such as discovering another sim's personality traits. When completed, each short-term goal adds life-time happiness points to the sim's happiness meter. Once enough happiness points are accumulated, the player can spend them on lifetime rewards that can benefit the sim. For example, accumulating 10,000 points allows the player to unlock the "Steel Bladder" reward, which means their sim won't have to go to the bathroom as often. There is no penalty incurred for not completing a short-term goal, and even if a goal has been set, it can be dropped and replaced by another one at any time, allowing players to change their minds and still dictate what happens.