THE SIMS 4 REVIEW

After struggling to get the cursor to select the “Save” button in the foreground menu instead of toggling between my Sim’s aspirations menu in the background, I somehow finagled a way to save my progress. It was tense for a moment there: I nearly lost a few in-game days of hard work. That is just one of the many small but constantly aggravating issues I had with The Sims 4 on Xbox One and PlayStation 4. Even so, I did stay up embarrassingly late playing on a few occasions because building and guiding my Sims’ lives is still fun.

The Sims 4 first launched on PC in 2014 and the transition from mouse and keyboard to a controller for the console version comes with expected challenges when condensing all the functions into so few buttons. Original developer Maxis and console port developer Blind Squirrel Games make an admirable attempt by using the View button/touchpad to toggle between two sets of controls: the menus that border the Sim world are one set, and all in-world actions are done with the other set with a cursor. It takes awhile to get used to navigating the menus, but pressing the left thumbstick for a quick control guide reference made learning them a bit easier. I would have appreciated a way to change the speed of the cursor, though.Image result for the sims 4

The biggest issue I’ve had with the console versions, though, is the bugs. Sometime my Sim’s skill bar would hang overhead and wouldn’t go away until I loaded into a new area or reload my game. Other times menu descriptions and pop-up notifications would randomly stick on the screen for long periods of time with no way to close them. Then there’s also the issue where The Sims 4 can’t decide which menu I’m in. I also inexplicably lost an in-game day of work when my game refused to save. The Sims 4 did seem to run a little better on PS4 (though I did play far more on the Xbox One), but I still encountered a menu bug that prevented me from closing it without completely restarting it. That happened in my first hour and a half of playing.

The Sims 4 also has plenty of other general performance issues too. Audio and animations sometimes get out of sync when fast forwarding, and loading into a lot or into build mode can take a while and sometimes starts with dropped frames, especially in locations that have a lot of furniture or Sims. Even moving around the lot too quickly can result in a small hitch. While all of these issues may not be isolated to the console version of The Sims 4, I certainly experienced them far more consistently than I’ve seen on PC.

 

The console version of The Sims 4 does at least come with all the free added features from the past three years, including toddlers, pools, dishwashers, and other features that it was called out for omitting on PC in 2014. Toddlers do add another good layer of difficulty, as they are so dependent on their caretakers and require micromanagement from you. Their personality traits greatly determine their demeanor, almost more so than the adults, and identifying what keeps them happy early on is crucial. Curing a toddler’s rage is stressful to other Sims, but taking care of the tots (and sometimes playing as them to wreak havoc) present a fun challenge. Create a Sim also comes with the better and more inclusive gender customization with options, like choosing whether your Sim can get pregnant or if they wear masculine or feminine clothing (though The Sims 4 could generally use more clothing, accessory, and hair options with its base edition to make up for the lack of support for community-created mods).

Meanwhile, there’s a laundry list of issues that have haunted The Sims 4 since 2014. Visiting a museum and only being able to walk in front of, but not into the bar next door without loading is jarring coming from the big, seamless neighborhoods of The Sims 3. And there are still no cars, which is a strange thing to leave out of a life simulation.

Aside from visual and Create a Sim updates, the biggest advantage The Sims 4 has over its predecessor is the multitasking and the emotion system that make the Sims’ responses more realistic. Seeing my Sim’s mood flare as she had to clean and fix one household item after another after a long day of work was too relatable. The emotion system also makes for better interactions between Sims. If a neighboring Sim is irritated, warming up to them is challenging. Creating Sims with negative personality traits, like jealousy or mean, can make those situations even more fun. The Sims is just as much about chaos as it is leading your Sims through life.

 

My first Sim, Clara, climbed her way from a dishwasher to a caterer. She’s yet to enter a serious relationship, and time is pressing on her as she’s about to transform from the young adult stage to a proper adult, but I like the idea that she’s more invested in her career and throwing a successful dinner party than trying to build a family. She has realistic and achievable desires and goals, thanks to the mix of her Master Chef aspiration and creative personality. Actually getting her to those is fun too. Watching her attempt to make a new dish, only to drop an essential ingredient on the ground and sneakily throw it back into the pan. I’ve seen plenty of charming moments like this, and I want to keep helping Clara build her life.

I’m disappointed that Sims 4 on console probably won’t have seasonal or stat boost events like the PC counterpart has had over the past few years. During these events an NPC called Jasmine Holiday visits your town with challenges that, when completed, award special items or grant a specific stat boost for your Sims. The problem is the item rewards (like decorations for Day of the Dead or special planter) are in The Sims 4 on consoles, but will likely remain inaccessible unless you cheat. According to the Sims 4 for consoles FAQ, events “will not be supported on consoles at this time.” On the plus side, the FAQ also says that future free updates for PC will also be available for the console versions.

The most important part of any The Sims experience is included: cheats.

Fortunately, the most important part of any The Sims experience is included: cheats. Though The Sims 4 FAQ says not all cheats work, the crucial codes that make your Sims healthy, wealthy, and thriving are available. You won’t be able to earn any achievements or trophies if you turn on cheats, but that’s a nominal exchange for building a dream mansion for your new Sim family.

THE VERDICT

The Sims 4 on console includes all the free feature updates from the PC version, and while they are good new additions that should have been included with The Sims 4 to begin with, they don’t make up for the performance issues. Most of the problems are minor annoyances, but because save and menu bugs have been so frequent, this version of The Sims 4 is a generally unreliable experience, which is unfortunate since it is a genuinely fun game. And while it is disappointing that the console version is missing some community features from the PC version, I’m glad that at least cheats work.

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