Will Wright came up with the idea of a simulation game which focused on the daily activities of one or more virtual persons (known as Sims). Whether it's simple tasks such as making breakfast or cleaning the bathroom, The Sims is a video game replication of everyday life.
No-one could have predicted the success of the series when the The Sims first released on PC in February 2000, which is still going strong today having received numerous expansion packs and two sequels. Whilst a number of console counterparts have released and not been received well critically, the latest attempt in the form of bringing The Sims 3 to consoles, may prove otherwise.
The Sims 3 is the first console version of the game to stay true to the PC version, rather than creating scenarios for gamers to play through. Like its PC predecessors, The Sims 3 starts off with players customising their Sim family. The customisation options vary quite dramatically in the amount available. While there are a good number of hair styles and cuts to choose from, the initial clothing options are limited in comparison to the PC version. In order to obtain more customisation options, players can unlock them through playing the game or by purchasing the upcoming downloadable content from ‘The Store’ – a menu option where the game’s content is listed.
As you would expect, The Sims 3 covers all the most cherished moments in anyone’s life, whether it be moving into their first house, gaining a promotion in your career, meeting the love of your life or “wahooing” in the bedroom. Each of which will put players under the same strain and excitement as it would do in real life. This sense of realism is something that can only be created in The Sims 3 and the console version of the game has captured it well.
Visceral Games has ensured the same amount of depth and replayability has been implemented. Evidence of this includes being able to control the Sims’ destinies, making the dreams of the Sims come true. Additionally, players can unlock ‘Karma Powers,’ providing extra control of the Sims as they can be given wealth, beauty and love to help them succeed in their virtual life. However, Karma Points can also be used to give off a negative effect and potentially harm your Sims. Having these features in the game ensures that there is variety in every Sim and every playthrough and adds to the realism of the game.
Also, The Sims 3 includes life cycles and kids – two more elements in the game that further add to the realism. Forming attachments to your Sims, being able to watch your created family as you see them grow older and come to their inevitable death is an emotional rollercoaster that couldn’t be experienced in the same way on any other video game.
The major difference between the PC and Xbox 360 versions is the control system. Rather than simply pointing and clicking to bring up the mini-menu, players control a vertical beam of light using the left thumbstick, moving the camera using the right thumbstick. Other notable controls include using the D-pad to alter the time and the bumpers are used to scroll through the Sim’s occupation, moods and other details. Whereas it isn’t quite as precise as using a mouse and keyboard, the system works very well – something the previous console titles lacked.
Players of the PC version of The Sims 3 will have experienced the long loading times, with the longest occurring on creation of the family. Unfortunately, this annoyance also features in the Xbox 360 counterpart with players often being greeted to the loading screen for a good few minutes at a time. Installing the game to the hard drive does knock time off the loading, but it can still prove to be quite a lengthy wait.
To help players get to grips with the game, a number of tutorials have been included. Rather than simply bombarding the player with all of the game’s information, they have been spaced out so that they appear when players will need them, thus making the tutorials themselves quite helpful. On top of that, they are very simple to read and understand.
The game consists of challenges which earn player ‘challenge points.’ This includes simple tasks such as watching a game at the stadium, to more complex tasks such as having triplets. Like achievements, players will be constantly attempting to obtain and complete the challenges. Having these challenges in the game gives something for players to aim for, enriching the gameplay experience.
In terms of development, The Sims 3 features the pleasant, soothing soundtrack and the ever-pleasing Simlish (the language The Sims speak) that regular players of The Sims are accustom too. Graphically, the same colourful environments are as good as the locations previously evident on the PC version. Likewise, the models and designs apparent within the game are also to a good standard.
Overall, The Sims 3 is a thoroughly enjoyable video game that has received a successful conversion to the Xbox 360. The game’s features are to the same level as those of the PC and the control system works perfectly for the console. Whilst the control system may be best suited to the PC, this is definitely one to consider.