First Play: The Sims 4 preview

Does the classic life simulation game still has its appeal in its fourth outing? We poked, manipulated and played with The Sims 4 to answer this burning question

The Sims. An iconic game title that lets you create the reality you desire and makes you an all-powerful being that controls and dictates every single facet of your Sim's life.

Since its inception in 2000, the wildly popular life simulation game has gone through various iterations on different platforms. Today, you can bring it along in your smartphone or tablet, but the real fun (and much of the crazy shenanigans) still resides in its original PC roots.

But is The Sims, going into its fourth version in September on PC, getting a little old? After having some time with it, we can definitely say there’s still life in this title. At least, that's what our Sims Aubrey Henry and Marci Linn said.

Don't worry, we'll transcribe whatever they say in Simlish to English, so you won't be lost in translation.

Playing God

In case you were wondering how we came up with those names, we didn’t. Neither did we come up with their appearances. Because if we did, we’d hardly get any gameplay time. To say the options are vast is an understatement. You can change body shape, features, clothing, and create the Sim of your dreams, much like the previous versions.

But it's not all cosmetic. You can select an aspiration and up to three traits from four categories. Feeling nefarious? Make your Sim an evil genius who hates children. His unsupervised interactions with children could spell disaster in reality, but more of a humour mechanism for you.

These traits aren’t superficial factors either. They affect your Sim’s life in different ways as he lives it out. More importantly, these traits affect your Sim's ability to learn certain skills.

All that might be pretty similar to the other versions of The Sims games, but what’s new this time around is the existence of genetics. You can combine two different Sims to get a Simling that won’t leave you questioning if either parent has been unfaithful. Genetics doesn’t just work for child creation, you can also create your character’s parent or sibling.

As for house creation, you can choose to build it from the ground up, or access the community directly from your game to download fan-made designs from entire houses to lone rooms. Yes, none of those messy file moving into the game folders or exiting the game to download the content like in The Sims 3.

All work and no play

In order to buy all that nice furniture, we need money so it’s off to work the girls go. Even when they’re at work, you still get an element of control over your Sims, choosing whether they socialise with their co-workers or simply bury themselves in work, which would in turn affect their job performance.

Luckily, Marci Linn got to work as a tech guru. In Sims term, that means she gets to play four hours of video games every day. Precisely what we want to do in real-life, which does happen in our job once in a while. Occasional random happenings pop up during work in which you have to make a decision that will either reward or discredit you. A nice touch to the routine and very effective in boosting in job performance.

Just like in real life, when your passions and job align, expect to do very well in life. This translates to furniture upgrading in Sim life and decking out that dream home you could never afford in your drab reality.

Apart from career goals, there are mini goals that pop up over your avatar's head according to his personality. As our Sim was somewhat of a nature lover, one of her tiny goals was to harvest 10 plants, which would in turn earn her some Sim points. What's the point of those? You can spend them in the Rewards Store to get mood potions which would fill up your happiness bar instantly.

The said rewards can also improve certain characteristics like Fertile which would go towards an easier time for your Sims when they're trying for a baby and ever a higher chance of expecting multiples. 

Gameplay - love and war

Everyone who has played The Sims knows that it’s not a game that you can easily dive in and do justice to in just two hours so we focused on emotions. More specifically, manipulating Aubrey Henry to get a stranger she’d just met to fall in love with her isn't that easy. But in order to explore the romantic relationship aspect of The Sims 4, and just how accurately it simulates the tangled web of romantic emotions, we bit the bullet.

We set her upon a random hapless chap just making his way past her house. After the initial niceties, we inched the interaction towards the romantic side, peppering it with friendly actions in between. Reality and virtual collide, as we realised much later that coming on too strong is just as much of a problem in The Sims 4.

More after the break...

As the love bar filled up, new romantic actions popped up, and we finally got the chance to ask the man on a date. Another interesting tweak to The Sims 4 is the ability to travel to other worlds, therefore increasing possibilities, and we chose a nightclub for our first date. Ask not why, ask why not instead

Date goals were set, in this case to land a first kiss which we subsequently failed as the object of our desire roamed off to sit at the bar and chat up another chick. The nerve of some people.

As we pondered why the date went awry, we decided to explore the other end of the emotion spectrum - hate. That gave us free rein to explore our mean trait and experiment on the unfortunate Sim seated next to us. After we implied that her mother is a llama and threw a drink at her, we got into our first bar brawl ever. But its impact only went as far as the friendship bar turning red.

First Play: The Sims 4 -  2

We’d love to see emotions have wider reach, affecting even friendships with other Sims, instead of having them stand around, eyes glazed over as a scuffle breaks out behind. Actually, this could be the most accurate representation of real-life as people tend to steer clear from a fight when it happens right in front of them.

The morning after...

As for the man in question, he called upon us the next day. We tried to lay it on thick as the game issued us the new challenge of making the relationship official. Throwing caution to the wind, we made our poor Sim ask him a risque question. Unexpectedly, it backfired and left Aubrey Henry feeling embarrassed all over again. Men...

The Sims 4 initial verdict

With a cleaned up user interface and added community integration, The Sims 4 refreshes the experience and is more of a joy than ever to play with. More importantly, it retains that kooky sense of humour (and we might add, an obsession with llamas) that's the signature of EA's life simulator.

We love the tech bits too, having our Sim take a selfie and possessing a smartphone (gone is that wall telephone). But we’ve only just skimmed the surface in our short time with the game. In The Sims 4, the permutations of your interactions with other Sims are near limitless. Check back later to see how else you can prod, poke and abuse the Sims in our full review. 

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First Play: The Sims 4

The Sims 4 review
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