If you had your finger on the pulse of gaming in the run up to the release of EA’s The Sims 4, you would have noticed that fans of the archetypal life sim game were wielding their pitchforks with a death grip.
Why? Because a lot of the things fans had enjoyed in The Sims 3 had been taken out or altered in some detrimental way for The Sims 4, most notably the lack of swimming pools and the toddler life stage. There were so many things that annoyed fans that they even made a list detailing what was missing and how annoying it was that it was missing.
An official post went up on thesims.com stating “we recognize that some of you will be disappointed that pools and toddlers won’t be available when The Sims 4Base Game launches in September, you should know that we’re building an incredibly strong foundation that is capable of fulfilling every one of your desires in the years to come”, which for the cynical Sims fans translates as “HAHA WE’RE GOING TO MAKE YOU PAY EVEN MORE MONEY TO HAVE THIS BASIC STUFF WHEN THE EXPANSIONS COME!”
It’s impossible to ignore something so crippling, but in order to review The Sims 4 without smashing my head on the keyboard 73 times and clicking Publish, I have to try and put these frustrating omissions to the back of my mind and concentrate on what The Sims 4 does include.
The main talking/selling point for The Sims 4 was “emotions”. Sims now have moods that enable them to do things better, giving them additional actions to choose from and influencing how they communicate with other Sims. Inspired Sims can ‘enthuse about’ something or other in conversations and make them want to write. It feels rather inconsequential as opposed to the emotional revolution that we were promised – especially if you’re a player who likes to micromanage every action your Sims take – an embarrassed Sim might want to shut out the world and hide under the covers, but it’s not difficult for that emotion to be overridden by another, and they can continue doing whatever you want them to with little to no side effects.
The Sims 4 feels much slower than its predecessor; it took me so long to get to where I wanted to be in my career, that by the time I wanted to complete some family-based aspiration goals, my romantic interest had aged into an elder! I didn’t really fancy Woo-Hooing with an elder (pretty sure it wouldn’t have worked anyway), so I let her die peacefully. However, this is where I forgot about the disappointments I’d experienced so far, if only briefly, because after the Grim Reaper came to take my beloved Angie away, he stopped for a chinwag.
We exchanged pleasantries for a while, and then with my Journalist Sim, I chose to ‘interview about life’, which sent me into a fit of laughter. After laughing, joking and generally having a whale of a time with Grim, I went to my computer and chose the ‘write positive article about Grim Reaper’ option that is exclusive to Journalist Sims. Again, I laughed so hard that tears started to run down my cheeks. Can you imagine what that article would read like?!
‘I MET THE GRIM REAPER AFTER HE TOOK MY GIRLFRIEND AWAY… HE’S A GREAT BLOKE’
I got a notification saying I’d earned 202 simoleons and that the Grim Reaper would probably be happy about the article. By now it had all become too much and I had to stop playing for 10 minutes. In the 10 minutes I had to calm down, I started to realise that I’d basically had to make my own fun in The Sims 4 applying a ‘what if this was real life?’ logic. The act of actually playing didn’t really give me any enjoyment, which sobered me right up out of my laughing funk and made me dedicated to finding some sort of automatic fun in The Sims 4.
I was met with minor grievance after minor grievance, from the fact that I had to endure a loading screen every time I went outside the realms of my street to the annoyance that I faced when trying to write a song on violin multiple times and not going back to the same sheet music, but rather creating a new one every time. I tried to sweet talk another romantic interest, but she too turned into an elder within a few visits to my household. I ended up finding a Sim that I wanted to settle down with, but I found out she was only a teenager, which meant I couldn’t pursue a romantic relationship with her… So because everyone was turning into slipper-wearing old biddies, The Sims 4 turned me into a borderline video game paedophile!
I remembered that on The Sims 3 you could tinker with the lengths of each life stage, so I immediately went to turn babies down to one day because they’re fucking annoying and teens to a couple because I wanted to not be a paedo anymore, but the only option I got was ‘long lifespan’. I was livid, but decided to channel my rage into a productive avenue and a favourite pastime of mine – building a house from scratch.
Build mode feels less complicated than it once was which is nice, but I only got halfway through building my rural American farmhouse before I decided enough was enough and I needed to vent all my Sims frustrations into this review.
There are too many things wrong with The Sims 4 for me to find it enjoyable, and I fear it’s the same for all the other poor bastards who spent upwards of £45 on a game that we all knew wouldn’t really work for us. I feel like a heroin addict picking up a methadone prescription – this is what I’m supposed to get from the people supposed to give it to me, but it’s nowhere near as good as the real thing and it’s not really helping me either – it’s just depressingly addictive.
Will I continue building my rural farmhouse after writing this review? I am ashamed to say that I will.