The Sims has pretty much been a constant throughout my life. I first played it back in the days when dial-up internet and Windows 2000 were the cutting edge of technology. Visiting family members, I spied a cousin sat at his parent’s behemoth PC monitor, watching a small computerised family go about their daily lives. While I already had a firm interest in video games, I’d never seen anything like this. That base concept – simulating human life for fun – had never occurred to me at that age and I was immediately hooked.
Fast forward almost twenty years and my mentality towards games has completely changed. My fondness evolved has into an infatuation though writing about games day-in day-out does kill off some of that mystery and surprise I encountered as a youngster.
At its core, The Sims hasn’t really changed one bit, however. Maxis is a markedly different company from what it was at the turn of the millennium, but its flagship series is still going strong. As in previous iterations, there’s no real goal to The Sims 4 – you’re free to do whatever you want, however you want to do it. That aimlessness is now on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.
It all starts with making a household. Whether friends, roommates, or relatives, you can chuck a combination of characters together, choosing from a gallery of pre-generated Sims or creating your own. The latter choice provides a plethora of customisation options that goes will beyond that found in the 2000 original.
Everything from personality, gender identity, body type, and aspirations can be tweaked with a truly expansive number of options on show. Modifying the appearance of your Sims is simple and streamlined, but don’t worry obsessive gamers, there are plenty of advanced options too. You can even create six different outfits for each Sim, swapping them to suit every situation.
Once moved in, that’s when the simulation starts. Sure, you can leave your Sims to lounge around, but they quickly become irritable. Their needs, desires, and humours constantly being monitored.
At first you’ll wring out the basics, learning how to feed, clean, rest, and entertain your Sims. In the meantime, you can start devising plans for them. You could set them along certain career paths (chef, entertainer etc.) or attempting to learn specific skills (playing guitar, charisma etc.). There’s a huge number of avenues to go down, all of which are completely optional.
You will need some money, however. The more you spend, the more you’ll begin to see your progress in-game. Rooms will expand and fill with all kinds of fancy furnishings; helpful gadgets and appliances; you may even find yourself getting an extension or moving house altogether.
All the while, your Sims will continue to develop, learning new skills and developing relationships with those around them. Although you have complete control over their actions, each of them have Whims – thought bubbles that suggest certain activities to keep them at peak happiness. However hands-on you are during play, The Sims 4 doesn’t offer instant gratification. The reward is in seeing your households grow and that requires a huge time investment.
Having launched on PC more than three years ago, the game’s transition to consoles has been fairly smooth. The combined mass of Sims, menus, and environments can cause a bit of stutter from time to time, though this rarely becomes an issue. It looks just as vibrant and cheery on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One as it does on PC, but there is one major concession.
Swapping a mouse and keyboard for a gamepad is never ideal when playing strategy or simulation titles. Needless to say, The Sims 4 will have you in a bit of a tangle starting out, juggling camera and cursor controls while governing a menagerie of menus. Mapping all of these actions to a controller was never going to be easy, but Maxis does a fairly impressive job of adapting the controls. Several hours in, I honestly had no problems when it came to placing objects, selecting specific actions or focusing the camera where it needed to be.
If you’ve been dying to play The Sims 4 but don’t have a PC that’s up to the task, this is the perfect solution. It definitely feels different on consoles, losing some of its fluidity through the gamepad, but there’s nothing else like it on Xbox One and PlayStation 4. This is the first time I’ve properly sat down with a Sims game since the original and it’s been fascinating to see how Maxis has expanded upon just about every aspect. It’s a joyously gigantic simulation with enough content to last for months on end.