The Sims 3 Hands-on Preview

Written by Joe Martin

May 18, 2009 | 08:05

Tags: #expansion-pack #hands-on #preview #sims #the-sims-3 #will-wright

Companies: #ea #maxis

Sim-ple Sim-ulation

There are two problems we’ve always had with The Sims, in each and every iteration that it’s ever had. The first is a problem with timing, the second a problem maintaining player enthusiasm.

The issue with timing is that it never really feels like there’s enough time to do everything you need to do in a day – something which creates repercussions throughout the rest of the day. If you don’t get up two or three hours before the carpool turns up for work then you’ll be hungry, smelly and grumpy for the rest of the day.

Disappointingly, it seems like there are still some issues with the animations and time flow in The Sims 3 still. Elaine and Guybrush can dart across the town of Sunset Valley in just five or ten minutes, but it’ll take them more than an hour to get up and shower?

The second and more pressing problem with The Sims 3 is that it’s still a huge grindfest, from what we’ve seen. Yes, there are now more ways to improve your charisma score, but it’s the same process every time no matter what. Whether you’re practicing your speech in front of a mirror or reading “How to Make Friends and Influence People” you’re still always just initiating an animation and then waiting for a progress bar to fill.

*The Sims 3 Hands-on Preview The Sims 3 Hands-on Preview - Final Impressions
You heard, Miriam; a llama!

Sometimes levelling a skill up can take days to happen, even if you convince your sim to continue studying to the detriment of their other skills and, frankly, it gets quite dull after a while. Like studying in real-life it’s hard to keep the long term benefits in mind if you aren’t particularly enthused with your current activity and, while conquering the game might be fun in the end, watching a progress bar fill up isn’t.

Explaining that though is rather dangerous advice, so we want to make it clear to any developers reading this that replacing progress bars with minigames is not an ideal solution. We’re not sure what the ideal situation might be, but repetitive minigames are usually about as fun as eating a bowl of lemons and razorblades. Okay?

Nor is the tedium of a life simulator the only problem we had in our time with The Sims 3 either, with stuttering framerates and difficulty recognising locations proving a recurring problem as we zoomed in and out between city and sim levels. Framerate problems were about the last thing we expected from The Sims 3, but they were definitely there and can’t be ignored.

*The Sims 3 Hands-on Preview The Sims 3 Hands-on Preview - Final Impressions
Time for our final thoughts...

It’s at this point in the preview where it’s the usual role of the writer to offer up a pacification to readers and publishers, saying that there are problems but that it’s highly likely they’ll be corrected before the game hits shelves. In all honesty though, we’re not sure that’s the case as, from what we’re aware of, The Sims 3 is done. It was actually meant to have been released already and was delayed mainly for marketing reasons – so improvement on the existing product is an unknown quantity.

Instead, we’ll say that we’re not sure how much our criticisms will matter. This is a Sims game after all else is said and done, so it’ll sell like gold-covered hot cakes regardless. The actual core of the game might be a hardcore time-management and strategy game, but the presentation and brand awareness aim The Sims 3 firmly at the mass market, not the hardcore. It’s a paradox central to The Sims franchise; that it’s actually a lot harder than ‘proper’ games, but is usually played by the most casual of audiences.

To that casual audience the flaws we’ve spotted in the preview build probably aren’t going to matter. We’ve watched a lot of people, mainly our mothers and sisters, play The Sims games in the past and none of them have ever really entered into it as a proper gaming pursuit. It’s mostly been a case of interior decorating and the good news is that that part of the game is as solid as ever. It looks like only those who approach The Sims 3 with a completionist, hardcore gaming attitude will find serious fault with the game – and how many people do you know who are likely to play The Sims 3 under those conditions?

The Sims 3 is set for a European release on June 5th, with the American release a little before that. It will be published by Electronic Arts.
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