Kimberley Ellis
08 Jul, 2009

The Sims 3 Review

PC Review | It's a beautiful day in the neighbourhood.
Like them or loathe them, you'd have to have been living on the moon to not know the influence that The Sims franchise has had on PC sales charts for the last decade. For those moon babies among us, here's a couple of staggering figures to clue you in; over 100 million units of The Sims titles have been sold since the launch of the original title back in February 2000, with the latest iteration in the series, The Sims 3 selling a whopping 1.4 million copies in its first week in stores. The Sims is franchise that has drawn both kudos and criticisms over the years, with the criticisms of Electronic Arts' systematic milking of the franchise often outweighing the message of fun, addictive gameplay that has made The Sims a part of many gaming households across the globe. Now that it has reached its third incarnation, is there genuine reinvention in this iteration of The Sims or are gamers merely being suckered into buying a glossy coated cash cow that's lining up at the gates of Electronic Arts milking station? In all honesty, EA has made some bold changes with this third chapter of this popular gaming series, carving out some of the more mundane aspects of the title while fleshing out some aspects of the title, yet sadly, much of The Sims 3's potential remains relatively untapped - until the obligatory expansion pack rolls in retailers in the near future.

At its core, The Sims 3 remains very similar to creator Will Wright's original vision. The idea of controlling virtual people in their virtual town to do your bidding in an effort to see how their lives play out - or how long they will survive in a pool with no ladder, depending on how sadistic a virtual God you can be.

Coffee and a fedora: staples of the PALGN team's uniform.

Coffee and a fedora: staples of the PALGN team's uniform.
While the first two iterations of The Sims played out like a virtual dollhouse with the player focusing their efforts on one particular family, The Sims 3 is less of a virtual dollhouse and more of a virtual town as the game has finally broken free of the shackles of its predecessor with the whole town now on offer without the need for those pesky long loading screens as you move your characters from lot to lot. This change of scale makes the title more immersive and eliminates the only true flaw that plagued The Sims 2 – the feeling that your virtual home was only theoretically a part of a larger community. Now, your Sims can effortlessly escape from the confines of their homes and cruise down to the lake for a spot of fishing, or ride down the road to peruse the wares of the local book store, even strolling down the road for a picnic at the beach - all without the need to wait for the next lot to load. The greatest strength of this change is that it now seems so effortless to control multiple Sims at once, a feeling that is quite liberating to those gamers that have tirelessly sat through the long loading times of the previous titles. This also adds more authenticity to what the game is trying to accomplish, giving the game a more natural feel. You don't even need to worry if you keep the game running while you dash off to make a coffee as these Sims have a high level of freewill and they will happily go about performing their tasks without you having to guide them through their lives, which gives you the opportunity to play the game a little differently for a while. Like watching fish swim around in a pond, it's amazing what can happen when you sit back and watch what these little people can get up to on their own.

These refinements give the game a sense that is is a living, breathing world and like the real world, there are a number of different characteristics which make up the personalities of the people on your block. From the crotchety old Nanna gardening in her yard to the klepto maid cleaning your home, each character brings their own eccentricities to the game. The aging of characters also ensures that new characters are constantly coming into the neighbourhood as other families move out or pass on.

Homelife in The Sims 3 has also seen a number of changes. Thankfully, one of those changes is the adjusted frequency of your Sims needs. Your Sims no longer have the constant need to pee a million times a day like they did in the old games; now you can send them about once per day - and through mixing and matching character traits and rewards, you can reduce the need to micromanage their lives even further. By not having to race to the bathroom or cook up a meal every five minutes, the game now frees up your time to play with the more interesting aspects of the title; namely developing the careers and relationships of your Sims. At its heart The Sims is a time management game where you need to juggle daily and lifelong goals. There's the short term goals to keep them clothed, fed and happy, but then there are long term needs that require them to improve their skills in order to gain a promotion to climb the ladder of their chosen career or build relationships with other Sims in the town to give them a real sense of community. The Sims 3 has done a commendable job of toning down the daily needs in order to make it easier for players to succeed in accomplishing long term goals with their Sims. Though, like the previous titles, there's never enough time in the day to do everything, so players will need to learn how to set and prioritise their Sims goals early on.

You are getting sleepy, very sleepy.

You are getting sleepy, very sleepy.
All of these small enhancements translate to a more elegant gameplay experience, one that doesn't feel as constrained as previous title. Yet, for all of the freedom that it perpetuates, The Sims 3 lacks the ability to really explore what all this freedom can offer. In many ways, you're still doing the same tasks as before. You feed them, send them to work, then come home and hang out with your friends. What if you were able to take that step further? For instance, when your Sims race off for work you are now able to follow them all the way to their workplace before they disappear into the building for hours at a time. What if EA could make working as interesting as everyday life in The Sims? Imagine trying to energise the crowd as the mascot at the local footy game or rushing around like a headless chook as you attempt to serve patrons in a busy cafe. The game has always had the potential to create a much grander experience, yet EA doesn't seem willing to attempt to push the boundaries.

While the greatest emphasis of The Sims has remained on controlling the lives of your virtual flock, another fun aspect to the title has always been the ability to experiment with the architectural side of things to build your dream home. The Sims 3 again offers players the opportunity to break out their virtual architect with an incredible amount of options on offer for designing your virtual home. This time around the menus are more intuitive, making tasks such as selecting wallpaper, paint, surfaces, and furniture a breeze. Another great option is that players are no longer constrained to using the color patterns that Maxis has created; you can now create your own custom patterns for clothing, furnishings and objects in game - and those with a flair for design can then choose to share those with other people online at the Sims Exchange. For those not interested in the design side of things, The Sims 3 offers players the ability to move into a new home that is completely furnished for them - though this will prove to be a little more costly than moving into an empty lot.

Online integration of The Sims is now bigger than ever before in The Sims 3. As well as visiting the Exchange (a hub where players can submit their own clothing, home and hair designs, character skins and other customisable objects) EA has now opened an online store where players can purchase EA-designed fare. The store works on a micro-transaction premise with players swapping real world cash for 'Sim Points' which can be used to buy numerous objects. The Sims website also lets you create your own Sims blog where you can upload pictures and movies to create your own stories and machinima to share with other Sim players - though this aspect of the game is usually only utilised by the obsessive Sim gamer.

The toilet or the TV? The eternal dilemma of a catburgler.

The toilet or the TV? The eternal dilemma of a catburgler.
The most impressive aspect of The Sims 3 is its performance. Anyone who has played the first two titles would remember how badly the frame rate would get when you'd invite a number of Sims over for a party or you'd visit one of the heavily populated community lots. Even though The Sims 3 models an entire town and its inhabitants without the need to load as you move though sections of town, the performance of the game on high-end PCs is quite smooth, with nary a graphical hiccup in sight.

Some may say that the impressive performance is largely possible due to the lack of graphical refinement in the title, though it must be said that even though their isn't a great graphical leap between The Sims 2 and The Sims 3, the Sims in the latest game have a more natural look to them, with their sharp, angular feature now giving way to a rounder, more curvier model of character.

As always, a Sims title would not be complete without the charming spattering of 'Simlish' that the characters all speak in, though apart from that the aural accompaniment is quite ho-hum as the game is again riddled with melodies that would seem more fitting in an elevator.

If you never were a fan of the series, then there is probably a good chance that you won't be interested in the latest iteration of the title. For those that love what The Sims has had to offer over the last decade, The Sims 3 provides gamers with a title that is more evolved and still thoroughly as addictive as its predecessors; giving the series a fresh start as it does away with many of the slower processes of the previous titles, while giving gamers a greater sense of freedom and an overall refined experience. The Sims 3 is one neighbourhood that we wouldn't mind moving into.
The Score
The Sims 3 provides gamers with a title that is more evolved and still thoroughly as addictive as its predecessors, giving gamers a greater sense of freedom and an overall refined experience.
Looking to buy this game right now? PALGN recommends www.Play-Asia.com.

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4 years ago
Had a go at this today, and while I really want to get into it, I just can't. But it's mainly because I was confused and there is so many different things, I'm sure once I learn what everything is it will be more fun.
4 years ago
I can't believe the second caption didn't make light of the girl getting bitch slapped in the pic?!

Some reference to keeping your pimp hand strong or something is surely called for.
4 years ago
I played when it first came out, for like 9 hours straight. I was pretty impressed, having a lot of fun etc. Then the next day I didn't feel like playing it and I never touched it since.

I just... it just feels the same, like all Sims. But that's just how I am. If I'm up for some random fun, I can go play some Sims then.
4 years ago
The inclusion of the town is great. Feels more integrated.

I played Sims 1 and didn't play Sims 2, so I guess I would be more impressed than people who have played Sims 2 and then onto Sims 3.

If only I had a high end PC to play it on. It looks ok on my laptop's nvidia 8400M, so the graphics aren't the best (that I experience anyway) but it's still a fun game.
4 years ago
meier wrote
I played when it first came out, for like 9 hours straight. I was pretty impressed, having a lot of fun etc. Then the next day I didn't feel like playing it and I never touched it since.

I just... it just feels the same, like all Sims. But that's just how I am. If I'm up for some random fun, I can go play some Sims then.
My comments would be pretty much this. I am mostly missing the university expansion as it gave the teen years a purpose. Why have them if they are just going through the school travel routines?
4 years ago
Infested Jibbs wrote
Some reference to keeping your pimp hand strong or something is surely called for.
I've been told that's outdated and it should now be "Chris Brown a bitch" icon_twisted.gif
4 years ago
That was a great review!!
I really want the sims 3, been hoping I'd get it for a gift from my mum & dad. It looks so good, I feel I'm getting more drawn to it everyday, and this review made me want it more. I have been watching trailers and looking at reviews for ages.I love how it lets you go anywhere in the town. I love how you can use highlights and choose different skin tones..... I love the designing you can do with it. It looks so good!!!
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  Pre-order or buy:
    PALGN recommends: www.Play-Asia.com

Australian Release Date:
  4/06/2009 (Confirmed)
  Electronic Arts
Year Made:
System Requirements:
- Windows XP (Service Pack 2)
- 2.0 GHz P4 processor or equivalent
- 1 GB RAM
- At least 6.5 GB of hard drive space with at least 1 GB additional space for custom content
- 128 MB Video Card with support for Pixel Shader 2.0

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