The Sims 3 Review
8.6our score

Release Date: June 2009

Overview:

When The Sims first hit store shelves in February 2000 it looked to be just another simulator from game developer Maxis, well-known for the SimCity series created by Will Wright and its most successful title on the market at the time. Just two short years later, The Sims had sold over 6 million copies and became the best-selling PC game of all time – an unprecedented accomplishment that few, if any, could have predicted. This record still stands today. The Sims 2 continued where The Sims left off and while it didn’t present a massive leap forward in either graphics or gameplay, it pressed on with the winning formula that made its predecessor so successful.

Now EA (of which Maxis is a subsidiary) has released The Sims 3, the latest instalment in the series as well as a host of add-ons and expansion packs. The best that can be said for the Sims 3 is that it adds more to the franchise than the Sims 2 did, leading it forward in exciting new directions. While far from perfect, it delivers mostly a positive experience. That’s great news because the brand is already so successful EA could have sold millions of copies regardless of the quality of the final product. It’s good to see a studio of this size make a decision in the best interests of the fans. If you’re already an established Sims player and this is all you needed to know then by all means go ahead and purchase the game. If The Sims is new to you or for a more detailed insight into the new features, read on.

Gameplay:

The Sims 3 Sunset Valley

Sunset Valley is the default town shipped with The Sims 3

The Sims 3 is a people simulator and as always you’ll be living out the life of your sims the way in which you want to. It’s grown from being a virtual dollhouse to a virtual city, bringing The Sims and SimCity closer together than ever before. Sunset Valley is living and breathing and the sandbox styled gameplay puts you in control. If you want to jump right in with a pre-existing family then you may do so.  Alternatively you can create your own and move them into a property of your choice. Perhaps rebuilding the town afresh is more to your liking. As ever, the game has the potential to appeal to just about anyone. It’s easy to immerse yourself into this virtual paradise or, if you so choose, hellhole. It can be as easy or as difficult as you make it.

The Sims 3 Design Mode

The range of build/buy options are as varied as ever

The moodlet manager returns meaning your sim will have to balance the same aspects of life that we ourselves do. They need to eat, sleep, work and play; but there’s now far more to it than the same monotonous daily routine. Their virtual time can now be spent in and around town too. As well as visiting friends and neighbours they might decide to attend the theatre, enjoy an evening meal with their one true love or visit the local gym. Additionally his or her lifetime wish must be fulfilled by progressing up the social and economic ladders respectively; making decisions that impact gameplay along the way. Will they live out their dream and become an astronaut, international superspy or ruler of the free world? Considering The Sims was already fun anyway, you can imagine how much more this brings to the game. There are still limitations, however. Not all buildings are interactive. You get to watch your sim at work but wouldn’t it be better if you could control them there too? Although there’s still plenty to do, you might find the game clock doesn’t always allow enough time to do it. This is a reoccurring problem with the Sims and while it’s been alleviated somewhat, it hasn’t gone away completely.

UI & Controls:

In terms of its user interface and control scheme, The Sims 3 is fairly robust. A detailed but unobtrusive menu bar is placed at the bottom of the screen and divides content into separate tabs. This is much the same system used in the past but with a few minor tweaks. It makes all information regarding your sims readily available. The menu bar can be extended to show more onscreen for the friends and family inventory categories but a higher screen resolution is required in order to do so. As always the Sims is far easier to play with a mouse and keyboard than gamepad. Navigating around has never been so simple, but because you’ll be doing so with the mouse for the majority of the time, a scroll wheel is recommended for greater benefit. While there is no native controller support, you probably won’t miss it.

Graphics & Audio:

The Sims 3 has visuals of a variable quality. Presentation is inconsistent throughout the entire game. For example, the loading screens look crystal clear and upscale according to your screen resolution, but the introductory cinematic is heavily compressed and looks pixelated. The world map downgrades texture quality regardless of your graphics settings in-game and the switch between the two makes it all too obvious. Worse still, texture pop-in is prevalent across all graphics settings and screen tearing occurs frequently. There is no V-Sync option built into the game and enabling it via your video card manually does not solve the problem. Frame rates are unpredictable. While there is an extensive range of graphics options some seem to do very little, with the result that the game is resource hungry on low-end systems and unable to take advantage of the more powerful hardware found on high-end systems. This is a real shame because if coded properly the Sims 3 could have scaled very well indeed. Unfortunately it was unable to take full advantage of my test system, which far exceeds the minimum requirements.

Don’t get me wrong, the cartoonish visuals can look pretty good at a decent resolution on the maximum settings, but the problems surrounding them tarnish the overall effect considerably. For a dedicated PC title I would expect better than this.

The Sims 3 Create A Sim

The Create A Sim mode has been expanded significantly

If only The Sims 3 looked as good as it sounds. The in-game audio is, for the most part, superb. The soundtrack is fantastic and there are plenty of area effects. The sims themselves continue to jabber away in simlish which is always amusing. In spite of the fact that it’s essentially gobbledegook, the voice acting is up to par and the convincing tones of voice put their meaning across successfully. As well as the pre-sets, you can also add custom music of your own choosing to any in-game stereo you might decide to buy – a nice touch.

Value/Replay:

All in all The Sims 3 presents excellent value for money and is a great buy. It’s a game you can revisit time and time again and you may find you can’t put it down. The expansion packs generally add a considerable amount to the game, improve on its shortcomings and are worth the price. The item packs, less so. The Sims Store is overpriced and I recommend you avoid or, at the very least, consider if the purchase is really worth it. The free town of Riverview is well worth downloading.

Conclusion:

“The best that can be said for the Sims 3 is that it adds more to the franchise than the Sims 2 did, leading it forward in exciting new directions. While far from perfect, it delivers mostly a positive experience.”

Software, DRM & Releases:

-          The Sims 3 Game Launcher is required to play
-          EA Download Manager is required to update
Product Restrictions: serial code & disc based copy protection
Also Available On: Mac (port) & Xbox 360, Mobile (alternate versions)

Recommended Minimum System Requirements:

-          Dual Core Processor or above
-          DirectX 9 capable Graphics Card with 512MB Video Memory & Pixel Shader 2.0 support or better
-          2GB Memory or more
-          at least 10GB free storage space on Hard Drive

Test System:

Windows 7 Home Premium Operating System
AMD Phenom X6 1090T Processor Overclocked @ 4GHz
ATI HD 5870 2GB Graphics Card
4GB DDR3 Memory
WD Caviar Black Performance Hard Drive

  • http://www.shadow1980.co.uk Evil Tactician

    I had a brief spell with The Sims (1) but since then I’ve never really tried the series again out of fear it would be ‘more of the same’. It’s definitely an interesting genre but there are just so many other games to play that I can never really justify sinking the time into this.

    Definitely looks fun for those who dig this kind of game though.

  • Bhazo the Mad

    The Sims 2 was actually quite a large upgrade to the first one. It introduced a 3D engine instead of isometric, allowed you to create your own neighborhoods, 3 more age groups (toddlers, teens, and elders), aging, genetics, aspirations, wants and fears, family trees, memories, actual weeks as opposed to generic days, pregnancies, friends calling, chance cards, and retirement. And that’s just what the base game had. In many ways The Sims 3 was a bit of a downgrade, but that’s due to the fact that its simulating a whole town instead of a single lot at a time. All things considered I still have more fun with 2 than 3, but I hope that’ll change when 3 gets more expansion packs. The pet expansion for 3 has horses, which is something I’ve really wanted…