The Sims 4 – Console Review
PS4, Xbox One
One of my Sims started a fire on his second day in his new home.
I’m quite perturbed by this, to tell the truth. Dave and Sare were two starry-eyed young adults ready to take on the world. Surely they knew how to cook a simple plate of scrambled eggs in order to sustain themselves at 10:50pm at night while they continued to read books and play chess and wait they have to compliment each other so that Dave gets some extra Simoleons…
… and I realised that The Sims 4 draws amazing parallels between learning to play the game on console and, well, life in general.
The Sims 4 wants everything to be easy and accessible, while its very nature negates its ability to do so. With so many previous iterations of the franchise, it was only reasonable that the newest release would facilitate a higher degree of customisation and personalisation. I anticipated my precious time flitted away in the character design menu (similar to my dalliances with Bioware and Bethesda), as I customised a couple of characters to play in the game. I was preparing myself for an interface that would nurture the analog sticks of the Dualshock controller. Instead, I stumbled into a torment of control decisions that tried to balance the previous PC control interface with a minimal button option, creating so much convolution that I just chose to adjust a forehead and a cheek and threw the controller on the ground in horror.
Thankfully, this is not a necessary component in order to start playing – you have the option to commence with one of the pre-designed families instead. Perhaps this would be the way to go for people unfamiliar with the controls, but it feels like a bit of a cop out to do so – customisation is a key function in the game and would be a shame to miss due to the jerry-rigging of the Playstation controller to the PC interface. Similarly, it is amazing that the console version does not include the myriad of customisations available to PC players via DLC – while most console ports would bundle this in a la “Game of the Year”, Maxis has decided to market these as separate paid DLC in the Playstation Store.
In any case, my vanilla-esque Sims couple were plonked into a cheap 1-bedroom home. From there, The Sims 4 on console turns into a game of “what should you be doing” rather than “do something unique”. It seems as if the most enjoyment that players have occurs by not playing the game that Maxis intended players to play. I momentarily thought that it might be due to our superior intellects in recognising systems and choosing to destroy restrictive structures. Two hours later I hypothesised the more likely reason that we revert to pre-pubescence, as it was clear that I can’t even look after a synthetic algorithm who wants to grow up to be an astronaut.
Distraught, I watched Dave and Sare read books until starvation, eat until filthiness, shower to exhaustion and sleep to despair.
I tried my best to play by the rules and goals of the game and stumbled over myself like a kid who had never encountered a slippery slide before and tried to run up it. I saw Sare’s small hopes illuminate in a bubble above her profile and tried my best to facilitate just one good thing for her. My determination took me into a path of menus and functions that just seem so much more at home on a PC, but I pressed on and I bought a chess table. I slowly navigated it into a suitable place in the living area (whispering small prayers of joy to EA for keeping the grid lines still in play, and then cursing when my Playstation limped slowly out of Build Mode). But Sare barely paid attention to it. When I forced her to sit there, she kept playing chess on her own so relentlessly that she unlearned the triggering process to prompt urination. Chastised, I cancelled all of her pending actions and freed her from the formulaic shackles that I had imposed on her.
That was where I found that The Sims 4 sparkled – in the moments when I did nothing at all. And it almost felt insulting that the game didn’t exactly trust me to do anything. In passive view it is pristine, but the minute that I tried to do something it baffled, confuddled, and told me that I just did not have the skills to do things right. It was a stark reminder of the bleakness when you could not change the path of an imminent trainwreck, and a lesson in messing with cultures that we have little or no understanding of.
Thank Gawd there are no microtransactions though.
When Sarah was young, her brother complained that she “got through that final level of Super Mario World on a fluke.” Refining this skill, Sarah has continued to be successful purely by accident. Follow her on Twitter at @essieteric.