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Xbox Review - 'The Sims'

by Justin on April 7, 2003 @ 11:17 p.m. PDT

Create and control your Sims with new level-based game play and 3D graphics. Customize your Sims' personality and appearance then move into the neighborhood. Get a job, make friends and advance through your career and life's big moments. Unlock new objects and bigger houses along the way. Meet, flirt and fight with a neighborhood full of wild characters. You can also load your Sims into a friend's game and play two-player games.

Genre: Action
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Developer: Maxis
Date: 25th March 2003

The Sims debuted on the PC about three years ago and was met with great sales. People - even folks who don't normally play games - dug it for it's non-linear gameplay and all of the neat things you can do. Granted, the game had it's share of problems, but the game continued to sell amazingly. Seeing this, the developers set to work on a number of expansions; there are at least four available currently. There's even an online version of the game! Needless to say, the game is hugely popular. Now Electronics Arts is releasing the game on consoles, with quite a few differences. How does it compare to the PC version? And more importantly, is it worth your hard-earned cash?

When you initially start up the game, the only feature available is the console-exclusive 'Get a Life' mode. In this mode, you create a character, then take him or her through a goal-oriented storyline. Instead of just going day to day with no real aim, 'Get a Life' actually gives you a list of tasks to complete. When those are done, your character will move on to the next scenario. One level might have you living with your mother, fixing things for her, building up a little money, and finding a job. When you find the job, you move out of that house and go on to the next area - a house of your own! Well, not exactly - there's a messy roommate to deal with. The levels go on, putting you in some pretty interesting situations.

If you just want to build a house and see what might happen next, you can check out the other mode (creatively titled 'Play The Sims'). This is basically a streamlined version of the PC title. Everything's intact, and some things introduced in the expansions are here, as well, but the control is simplified and the menus are compacted. For the first time, The Sims has a camera that can move all over - previously, you could only select from a few different set angles. The new camera is certainly welcome, but it's not perfect. There are still times where you wish you could zoom in a little closer, pan out a little more, or you can't nudge it quite into the position you want. You can move it around with the right thumbstick. The left thumbstick moves the cursor around, allowing you to select things. Once you do, a small options list pops up, where you can pick what you want to do. The digital pad, when held in different directions, shows information about your Sims - things like their motives, skills, and who they're friends with. The X and Y buttons allow you to cycle through your whole family instantly, and also (quite pleasantly) snaps the camera to whoever is chosen. The right trigger allows you to speed time up, for those times when nothing important is happening. The left trigger, when pulled, pauses the game. All in all, not a bad setup.

The actual gameplay can be exciting and interesting at first, but might go to being frustrating and troublesome after a little while. When you've got everything down pat, the game can be downright boring and tedious. There's no real ending in 'Play the Sims', so some might say that there's no real point in playing. Maybe so, but it can still be a fun experience. The first thing you get to do is create your home - you can set up the walls, paint them, insert doorways and windows, add flooring, and more. You could even add a fireplace. Creating your home is half the fun, really! There are so many options and possibilities that you might find yourself starting new games just to see what kind of neat homes you can build. Once your structure is complete, you can go about adding objects.

There are tons of objects that you can place in (and outside) your house. There's a wide range of furniture, from simple kitchen chairs, to futons, to deluxe leather recliners. You'll need plumbing, too - sinks, toilets, showers, and bathtubs all come in a variety of styles. You'll need appliances, too. Refrigerators, ovens, coffee makers, food processors, and other handy inventions will keep your Sims happy. Recreation is important, too, and there are lots of items that the Sims can interact with; televisions, radios, computers, basketball hoops and exercise equipment, just to name a few.

It's really important that you have these items to keep your Sims happy. They each have eight different motives - things such as comfort, hygiene, fun, bladder, and hunger all affect their behavior and attitude. A Sim who is unhappy isn't going to want to find a job (or show up for work!), help around the house, or be very nice company when people come to visit. As long as you keep the little guys happy, they'll more than likely do what you want them to. If they're in a bad mood, chances are they will just ignore your commands.

The artificial intelligence, though, sometimes seems more like stupidity. There have been times when guests have been standing in a narrow path, and there's no way for a Sim to get through. This can be a real pain when I absolutely have to get through, like to get to a schoolbus. The people will just continue to stand still and talk, completely ignoring me. It's not always the guests that are stupid, though; Sims often do considerably stupid things against your command, even when in a good mood. One time I told a man to go out and play basketball. When he got outside, he simply stood there. For the whole day. He'd ignore me when I told him to stop playing, and he got hungry, tired, mad, and ended up draining his radiator, so to speak, right on the cement. Eventually, he just fell over asleep, and came inside the next day, in a terrible mood. I figured it was just a fluke. But the next day, another member of the family went and did the exact same thing! It's certainly not a good thing. Usually things aren't that drastic, though - it's generally just stupid little mistakes they make, like walking into the bathroom when someone is on the toilet.

The graphics in the game are a little bit muddy, but they look okay - about the graphical quality of your average Playstation2 title. Things are cleaned up a little from the PS2 version of The Sims, with less jaggies and some smoothing around rough edges, but the two look very similar. Animation is usually fairly lifelike and works well. Character models are good from a distance, but if you manage to get the camera in close, it doesn't look so hot. You're usually a fair distance away from everything, though, so it all looks pretty decent.

The sound is actually pretty good, even if just about all of it was ripped straight from the PC version. It will sound very familiar if you've played it on the PC before. But if you haven't, you're in for a nice surprise - wonderful musical scores grace the game during the paused moments, such as when you're building your house. The Sims themselves speak in a sort of gibberish, which is actually kind of funny to listen to. Sound effects are all nice, from doorbells, to the faint sound of a television, to the crackling of a fire when an inexperienced Sim attempts to cook a dinner. It's certainly easy on the ears.

Overall, The Sims is a solid game - but it isn't for everyone. If you are a fan of the PC title, you won't find much new in terms of gameplay - but you might enjoy it for it's 'Get a Life' mode. Folks who've never played the game (all five of you!) should give it a rent before picking it up. There's a good chance you'll fall in love with the free gameplay, but there's also a good chance you'll become tired of it all before you even take the disc back. Yes, the game has some problems, but it can provide hours upon hours of entertainment if you find yourself liking it. Check it out if you're interested.

Score: 7.5/10

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