EA gets a lot of flack every year for releasing titles that are barely upgraded upon their predecessors, despite the criticism no-one can argue that they took a risk in 2000 when they released The Sims for the PC. It's hard to imagine that the worlds greatest selling PC game has already half a decade old. In this time there have been numerous Sims expansions for the PC and EA even made the jump to the consoles in 2003. Finally the official sequel to The Sims came last year, and rather predictably the console versions are now upon us. So have The Sims made the transition to the consoles unscathed or are you better off playing the PC version?
Anyone who hasn't played or even heard of The Sims really must have been hiding under a rock for five years. The basic concept of the game is that you control god, you control a sim, raise them, feed them and tell them what to do. For the person who has no life, they can simply live it out via their Sim. The jump to the consoles hasn't changed the basic premise of the game, and you're still trying to keep your Sim alive by feeding and bathing them.
There have been some downgrades for the transition from the PC to the consoles. The Sims 2 on the PC introduced death, aging and child birth into the mix for the Sims and all three of these aspects have been removed for the console incarnations. It's probably unfair for us to start by outlining exactly what is missing, but it shows that the franchise hasn't entirely made it over in tact. To compensate for this Maxis have added some extra items that cannot be found in the PC game, as well as the single player mode; which is the single most important inclusion in the game.
There are two main single player modes in the game that aim to keep you entertained. The story mode starts in a rather familiar fashion. The first thing you have to do is customise your Sim, and whilst this may seem like a simple process, Maxis have included literally hundreds of customisation options so you can make your Sim look exactly how you want it to. It's very simple to customise your Sim and in no time we had created our casanova, a Sim resembling myself. Whilst this may seem like the last menu screen you'll have to go through it isn't. You then have to decide how your Sim will perform in the SimWorld. There are plenty of personality traits for you to choose from including laziness, personality, knowledge and wealth. It is then that you're ready to go into the story mode.
The story mode is actually fairly inaccurately named, and uses an aspiration system much like the PC version. The objective is to choose a goal for your Sim and then try to complete it. Your Sim will come with a list of "wants" and "fears", with fears being setbacks (things you'd want to avoid to achieve what your aspiring to) and wants (things you're aiming for to reach your aim). The more wants that you fulfil, the more points you will recieve. In return, the more aspiration points you have the more levels you can visit.
As well as this you still need to make sure that you're looking after your Sim and that they are appropriately taken care of. So whilst it may seem like a cakewalk to just focus on wants or needs, the game really does require you to juggle numerous things at once to keep filful your Sims wants... and keep them starving. The main real complaint we'd have with story mode is that it is not exactly a story mode. As such, at times you'll just find yourself completing a basic task and then doing it all over again. It doesn't really feel like you're using much progression in the game, which can become annoying.
The other single player mode is the freeplay option, which is a lot more open ended in comparison to the story mode. The freeplay option starts you off with a choice of four building blocks. You have to construct a house and you're able to create more than one Sim. There are no real goals in the game, Maxis have tried to replicate the addictiveness of the PC version in the freeplay mode and unfortunately they haven't fully succeeded.
The most annoying aspect of the game is the controls, naturally the controls aren't as fluent and easy to navigate as a PC mouse but they really end up feeling a little clunky. Whilst building the house we did end up having a few problems settling some of the furniture down, but it didn't take too long to get used to the new controls. Unfortunately with the jump to the consoles the controls are always going to be an issue, Maxis have tried to address this with a direct control option that lets you move the character manually with the left analogue stick. The direct control method works fairly well, but you'll probably end up using both control methods.
There are a few other aspects of the game that improve upon the gameplay in The Sims 2 and actually work surprisingly well. There is a new cooking system. Your Sim actually has to make the food rather than pick it up off the shelf, as you go through the story mode you will encouter ingredients that can be used to make recipes. It isn't exactly a revolutionary concept, but it's a bonus that is incorporated well into the gameplay, rather than feeling like a last minute inclusion.
The loading in the game is fairly average, and at times there is a lot of waiting around. One thing the Playstation 2 version has over the Xbox and Gamecube incarnations is Eyetoy Support. Whilst this may seem like an incredible feature it is highly under utilised. All you can do is take photos of yourself and put your picture on the wall, we'd rather go look at a mirror.
After the disasterous Sims Online Maxis have been game enough to include a split screen multiplayer mode. The split screen multiplayer is fairly basic, but the fact it is even present is a reason to rejoice.
Graphically the game is very basic and very simple, all of the Sims look fairly decent, but the environments are small, so we don't think that much effort had to be put in to make the Sims look good. There are a few jaggies at times and when you come close to the house there are a few graphical glitches at times, but overall the basic interface works well for the game, considering it becomes very complex as you navigate through all the menus.
The sound in the game is also fairly basic, and some of the music has actually just been carried over from the PC version. Once again the Sims have their own language, which sounds very cool.
Whilst the story mode won't last an extremely long time, Maxis have included plenty of unlockable objects, so this should extend the lifespan out a bit. Arguably, the free play option is where you'll spend the most time with, but this relies on you wanting to come back and immerse yourself in the Sims universe for the consoles. For some reason we didn't feel as compelled to return to the console version as we did with the PC version.
The Sims 2 have rather successfully made the jump to consoles, the controls aren't as easy and the story mode feels tacked on, but you can't argue the appeal of The Sims. The experience doesn't feel as deep or gratifying on the consoles for some reason, but if you're a fan of the franchise and wanted to play The Sims 2 on your console then Maxis have done a fairly decent representation; just be warned that it isn't the PC version, so don't go in there expecting it to be.
XBOX: The Urbz: Sims in the City
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NGE: The Sims: Bustin Out