Review: The Sims 3

Reviewed On

Review copy provided by the publisher

By Yaris Gutierrez

July 22, 2009

For the past decade, The Sims franchise has been taking over the casual PC gaming genre.  It’s one of those games that hardcore gamers first glance at in disgust but, at the same time, subconsciously wish they can play it but are afraid to because of the oh so many homosexual terms their friends would spew at them.  But it’s not the hardcore gamer keeping The Sims franchise as the highest selling PC game of all time.  It’s people like our girlfriends, little sisters and brothers, adults who aren’t into shooting aliens in the face – the non-traditional gaming folk – that play the thing religiously.

For our female counterparts, it might feel like playing a virtual Barbie game.  You know, the whole “I’ll make her fall in love with him, he leaves his girlfriend to make babies with me, and we live happily ever after in a huge house with tons of money” scenario.  For the guys, it’s probably more of a “how many women can I bang before I die” kind of thing.  Either way, The Sims is a franchise that lets the player immerse themselves in a second life and live how they would like to live minus the Simlish language that no one will ever learn; even if Rosetta Stone tried to teach it to you.  It’s a virtual world that allows players to escape.  Some folks prefer World of Warcraft, others prefer Call of Duty 4, and some just like to play The Sims.

The Sims first entered my life a decade ago.  About the same time it was released, I would say.  I have to thank Joel for introducing me to the franchise.  At first glance, I was a bit skeptical of the game.  But as you play it, whatever ego or pride you had five minutes prior just goes out the window with the little dignity you had left.  The thought of having control over someone’s life at your hands with complete control of just about everything, aside from “natural” occurrences, forms a smile on your face.  Having a real life baby has its problems.  You can’t throw a baby in the pool and get away with it.  In The Sims, you can.  And the only thing there to stop you is a little something called power outage.  You’re almost playing God.  Will Wright’s genius idea of having players virtually live a life beyond their realistic means is probably one of the most greatest gaming moments this generation.  And The Sims 3 is no exception.

One of the greatest implementations in The Sims 3 has to be the fact that it no longer revolves around a single household as did the previous games.  Your sim(s) can go just about anywhere in real time without the game pausing anymore.  Basically, while you’re playing your game, everything else around you is moving right along.  You don’t have to sit there anymore an look at your lot indefinitely while your sim is throwing a barbecue.  You can now check out the entire neighborhood and see what everyone else is doing.

The Sims 3 offers a much more realistic atmosphere.  While your sim is aging and dying, the other sims around you are joining you as they too enter the world of the old.  It’s not like the previous games where you are the only person aging in a claustrophobic home while everyone else is teasing you with their youth as liver spots convolute your body.  Everyone else around you is actually living just as you are.  Lives feel much more natural in this sense.  You can, literally, let your sim live his/her life.  Get yourself some Doritos, sit back and watch your sim keep themselves busy.

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One of the greatest implementations that I think went into this game has to be the psychological system.  It gives each Sim a realistic feeling rather than their prior bland and emotionless selves depicted in the previous games.  You’ll meet a cop who might be a party animal, maids that steal stuff from your house, and people with OCD’s like fitness freaks.  Each sim has a personality giving the The Sims 3 a much more real-life feel to it.

Of course, with all these improvements and additions to The Sims 3, EA also decided to improve gameplay.  I recall playing The Sims 2 and constantly having an issue where my sim would always have to use the bathroom.  At first, I thought that EA had programmed some health problems because I was seriously thinking that my sim was diabetic or was suffering from some kidney disfunction.  But that wasn’t the case.  It became problematic because it would constantly take away from playing time.  Rather than trying to kick some sim game to a friend’s wife, my sim would have to stop in-between wooing and go take a piss.  By the time I got back, the female sim would either be gone or not interested anymore.  In The Sims 3, however, EA seemed to fix the problem.  Your sims can now go once or twice a day to handle their business in the toilet, and go back to living their almost perfect lives.  It’s a godsend for the folks who had diabetic sims in the previous installments being that the actual playtime has been extended.

An intriguing aspect that I’ve always enjoyed in The Sims has always been toying with the architecture.  That’s always been one of my biggest reasons for playing The Sims – the ability to actually construct your house, literally, from the ground up.  Don’t think, however, that the building process is as simple as it looks.  In order to get a house the way you want it, you’ll be going through a lot of trial-and-error.  Along with the pleasure of building your dream home, players now have the ability to customize their own patters for things like paints, surfaces, and wallpapers.  You’re no longer constrained by the questionable design tastes and patterns that Maxis throws in there.  Thank you, lord.  The best thing EA did with makeing this game was probably allowing almost full rotation of objects.  It was kind of annoying in the first batches of The Sims only having to conform to the choice of placing an object facing two possible ways – vertically and horizontally.  This time around, you’re able to place objects diagonally, vertically, or horizontally, which gives you an extra lean when designing your home.

If you’ve been following The Sims franchise as long as I have, one of the biggest beefs you’ll have is the performance issues that came with the games.  Frame rates would drop considerably if you placed more than a couple of sims in a certain areas.  A noticeable, and pleasing, aspect of The Sims 3 has to be how EA managed to extinguish this problem on a more hardware intensive game.  On a high-end PC, you’ll notice absolutely no drops in performance whatsoever – even though the game itself models an entire town with just about everything in it.  Pretty impressive, I must say.

Graphically, some folks might not notice too much of a difference.  But there have been changes.  Character models looks much more rounded off and smoother that what they did in The Sims 2.  The lighting and reflection look amazing, I must say.  The weather system, the setting sun, the detail in the buildings.  There are some aspects of the game that have gotten revamped.  But, in terms of a graphical overhaul in its entirety, The Sims 3 didn’t really undergo too much change.  Some things are noticeable, but the end-product isn’t as updated as some of you would have hoped.  Don’t let that pry you away, though.  The visuals are still as beautiful as they were in the last installment – it’s still appealing for the eyes, and the art style plays wonderfully with it.

The audio is still as cheery as you would have remembered, if you’ve played the previous installments of the game.  The happy-go-lucky elevator-ish music still accompanies you during your building process.  At first, I was bobbing my head along with the tunes as I smiled to myself in satisfaction.  After a while, though, it got annoying and I had to turn the damn thing off.  You really don’t have much of an option, besides listening to your own music, whilst constructing your dream home.  However, outside of build-mode, the sounds have gotten a bit better.  Real world music has gotten snappier, along with great additions of classical music by well-known composers.  The great new additions of music that EA has added is definitely a pleasing experience for your ears.

Many franchises fail because of the constant change they are being molded through as technology progresses.  They undergo an umfamiliar transformation that just pushes players away.  If the game kicked ass before, sometimes the best way to move forward is to take a ton from the old and use that with a garnish of new additions.  Some games just don’t require too much to appeal.  The Sims 3 is a perfect example of that.  Over the years, gameplay hasn’t really changed as much as graphics and experiences have.  Sure it’s nice to have all the extras, but at the end of the day, what people really give two shits about, is building homes, having babies, starting fights, and having their sims commit suicide “by accident.”  The gameplay is all that matters in the end.  I’ll give credit where it is deserved, however.  In making The Sims 3 more vast in terms of reality, EA definitely deserves a round of applause.  It distracts players from just having to have your sim wallow in self-pity because of the non-existent, timeless world that permeates them as the older installments showed.  If you’re a fan of the franchise, you need to pick this one up.  If you’re not a fan of the franchise, I suggest you give this installment a go.  This is definitely a good starting point for wary gamers.  Forget the fact that your friends might utter egregious homosexual jokes towards you, for one second.  I promise you that this game will have you smiling and keep you entertained for hours on end.  I’m not too worried with The Sims 4 – this one will keep me busy for quite some time.

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Yaris Gutierrez

Born and raised in New York City, Yaris is one of three co-founders at DualShockers. Gaming since the inception of Nintendo in the 80's, he has grown to avidly appreciate games of every genre, maturing his preference specifically now to third-person action games, first-person shooters and JRPGs. He's a software engineer, father and husband during the day, and mildly attempts to hold onto his "hardcore gamer" title during the evenings. An attempt that he tends to fail miserably at.

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