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The Sims 3 GC Preview
Post by Dan @ 03:50pm 12/09/08 | Comments
AusGamers has an in-depth look at the next major addition to Electronic Arts hugely successul life simulator series, The Sims 3.

Ahh, The Sims. There’s been enough ejaculatory prose about how awesome Will Wright is for the last few years, especially in the context of Spore, so I’ll resist the temptation to continue the trend. Suffice to set the scene by saying a) Will Wright is pretty good at making games and b) The Sims is the best-selling PC game ever.

It’s probable that we’ll be seeing The Sims evolve for years to come, both in terms of the core game and the expansion packs that will no doubt follow. EA are a crafty bunch though - they know they can churn out the expansions and make millions doing that, and make sure the core game updates occur only every few years, and that each one is so tantalising that almost everyone will have to buy it - and then get sucked in to yet another round of buying the occasional expansion.

Enter: The Sims 3. The big change here is that instead of just having a single household to deal with, you now have a whole neighbourhood. A beautifully designed seaside village awaits you and your Sims now, offering a much more diverse experience, with many more activities (and, of course, many more ways to torment your Sims).

Your Sims are now even more customisable than before - the Create-A-Sim system allows you to be hugely flexible in the appearance and behaviour of your Sim, so much so that the developers of the game actually have little in-office competitions to see who can make a Sim that looks most like someone from the office or someone famous. You’ll have almost full control over your skin colour and type, eyes, age, clothes and hair. There are two main body sliders to control your overall appearance - body shape and muscle tone. Being a sick male I was looking for like a booby bar slider, but there isn’t one, so you’ll have to make do with the politically correct options offered in the combinations of the other sliders.

In addition to how your Sim looks, you can also modify his behaviour through a series of Traits. There are dozens of available traits, from which you can select up to five for your Sim (you can select less than five, and those traits will simply become more pronounced). Some of the traits are: absent minded, clumsy, athletic, artistic, boring, brave, frugal, gloomy, kleptomanic, loser, lucky, mean, no sense of humour, shy, hopeless romantic, good at massages - the list goes on. There’s also evil, which means your character will become happy when your neighbours die.

Each of those traits affects how your Sim will live and act. Even from that short list above it’s clear that there are nearly countless possibilities for mixing them together in all sorts of interesting ways.

You can also pick from at least 12 career paths for your Sims - changeable after you start. The demo demonstrated a Sim that was a politician and the depth of gameplay on offer for that sort of career was impressive - you can even host a fundraising party at your own house to try and help further your political career. Heading the Sim into work we also saw a protest out the front of the City Hall, showing that the neighbourhood is a varied and complex system in itself.

The combination of traits and career paths also makes it interesting if you want to torment your Sims - the example given in the demo was you could choose to make your Sim clumsy, then make him a cook and watch him set himself on fire all the time. Much fun can no doubt be had with the variety of options available.

One of the minor issues that some people have complained about in the earlier Sim games was a bit too much micromanagement of the Sims (of course, some might argue that this is the entire point of the game). The Sims 3 tries to deal with this by putting more focus on fulfilling the character’s wishes, rather than the character needs. Needs are abstracted down to 4 basic things - eating, sleeping, pooping, and ‘fun’ - so if you can keep tabs on all of those, you’ll have a happy Sim and be able to concentrate more on them living a cool, interesting life instead of struggling to keep them alive.

Visually, the game is a step up from the previous iterations, although not the massive lush-fest you might be expecting. The obvious reason for this is to make sure it is hugely scalable on lower-end systems - making sure the game is accessible to its mass-market audience is almost as important as making sure that it is fun and awesome, so there’s been a lot of work done to try and make it look as good as possible while at the same time keeping the system requirements down. It still looks very impressive; the level of detail in the neighbourhood is particularly good - from the bird’s eye view of the town you can zoom right down into a low-level view showing off an incredible number of objects. There’s a bit of popping as higher-res versions of objects are loaded but this is barely noticeable unless you’re a nit-picking whiner (comme moi).

Games like this almost need a whole new rating system - something like “R” for “Ridiculously Addictive. While it’s not a classic hardcore gamer game, there’s almost no doubt that if you give it a try, you’ll come to a few hours later wondering where the hell your afternoon went. The Sims 3 looks like a big step up over the previous titles with a lot of really cool new content and gameplay. Beware, if you buy it for your significant other you’ll be doing battle over who gets to spend time at the PC.