Apollo Deckard — named after Apollo Creed from Rocky and Rick Deckard from Blade Runner — is a creative soul; he loves creating and listening music, playing video games, and his blonde-haired wife who he just got married to at the local museum. He works as a blogger right now, but he’ll probably get promoted to whatever a blogger gets promoted to. He also owns a house with one bedroom and one bathroom, but he is currently adding an addition to accommodate for his future child that he plans to have. Unfortunately, he can’t figure out how to paint the walls, so the place has that basement vibe everyone seems to be looking for. It would probably be easier if the cursor used to navigate through the various menus wasn’t so difficult to use… Joking aside, these are just a few of the problems I found myself tackling while playing the console version of the latest iteration of Electronic Arts and Maxis’ life simulator, The Sims 4. With this being my personal introduction to the series, I was disappointed to see that it didn’t live up to its popularity.
Like Apollo Deckard, every Sim’s life begins on the Create A Sim screen where you choose how they look, what they wear, and what kind of personality they will have. Apollo was not too dissimilar from myself: a jean-wearing Asian young adult with a creative mind who likes to create music and play video games. Obviously, you are not restricted to making a digital version of yourself. You can create an overweight, red-haired, green-skinned old women who likes cooking and making money; the choice is yours.
Create A Sim is the best feature in the game. I never felt restricted when I created Apollo. To give your Sim a specific personality, you assign them a specific aspiration as well as three character traits. Aspirations affect how well they are able to accomplish certain activities. For example, Apollo’s aspiration is creativity which gives him the bonus trait muser; musers receive better stat upgrades when they feel inspired — inspiration may be activated by partaking in several different activities like taking a thoughtful shower, practicing guitar, and completing a book.
Character traits affect how you may interact with Sims or cater to your specific interests. Apollo’s traits include being creative, music lover, and geek; these traits allowed him to discuss music and geeky things like video games and television in unique ways while getting inspired fairly often.
In some ways, choosing your aspirations and traits is like choosing the main objective of the game. If you strive to be a jerk, you may pick the deviance aspiration paired with the hot-headed, mean, and evil traits; if your goal is to fall in love, get married, and have babies, you would probably choose the love aspiration alongside the romantic, family-oriented, and good traits. The choices you make in this step are meant to cater to your play style. It is a fascinating concept that actually does work. Unfortunately, that can’t be said about everything else in the game.
Before you can begin a Sims life, you first have to press the new game button with a terribly inaccurate cursor that is infuriating to control. It sounds like such a silly thing to criticize, but when you’re trying to point to your Sim only to miss the target three consecutive times, it gets a bit frustrating. I never felt like I had control of navigating the various menus; switching between traditional and cursor menu navigation was slightly unpredictable. When I finally learned to pause the simulation and micromanage more efficiently, my negativity towards the cursor’s awful handling changed to a mild tolerance, even with the title’s clunky in-game HUD.
Once Apollo was born, I chose a locale for him to inhabit — I picked Willow Creek because I don’t like deserts and I wanted to familiarize myself with the game’s building options before making a house from scratch — and began living the curious life of a Sim. I am not quite sure what I was expecting, but this was not a simulator I can get behind. Putting my semi-hyperbolic hate for the game’s cursor, the goals The Sims 4 present to you seem meaningless and strip certain moments of its significance.
For example, when Apollo proposed to his girlfriend, a screen instantly appeared — well maybe not instantly. The game stutters a bit when you open a new menu screen — and gave him the choice to spend a thousand Simoleons (the name for the Sims currency) for his wedding. Right as you spend the money, you then pick where your Sim will have the wedding and who you will invite, and then you load right into your wedding.
Alist of objectives are displayed at the top of the screen next to a meter to measure how successful the wedding is. In order for the event to be considered an accomplishment, you must complete all the tasks given. Doing these tasks took away the joyous feelings I should have felt during a wedding. I should have been happy to see Apollo get married; I wanted to smile as I saw the bride and groom share their vows. I didn’t due to these actions just being a task to complete on a list.
These objectives would not be as tedious as they are if the commands I assigned to Apollo would follow through. Since I would pause the simulation and choose all the commands at one time, there would be a big list of tasks for him to do each time I would stop the action. There were points where they would ignore my commands and start reading a book or start sleeping. This would occur more when I would tell Apollo to talk to another Sim; specifically, I would tell him to act out a few communication actions to a single Sim. This usually led to the aforementioned rejection of my given commands.
The technical performance of The Sims 4 console port is pretty rough. In my first three hours of playing, the game crashed two times; now that I think about it, it makes sense why one of the loading screen’s text states to save often. Additionally, as mentioned before, any time you open a menu or switch to build mode, the game’s transitions are a bit turbulent; it takes a few seconds for them to load. The port’s poor technical performance is the icing on the cake for this mediocre package.
The Sims 4 attempts to bring genuinely happy moments throughout your Sim’s lifespan; occasionally, you will even find yourself smirking. However, those moments are quickly bogged down by tedious goals, a terrible HUD and menu navigation, and gameplay that is outright boring. Life events like a date or wedding put less emphasis on the occasion and more on completing monotonous objectives. These goals wouldn’t be too dreadful if the commands given to the Sim would actually follow through. However, there were too many times where the Sim would completely ignore what I wanted them to do. All of these gameplay problems are bundled up in a poor performing port that chugs more than it should. The Sims 4 is an unsatisfying experience right from the start.