the sims 4
Of mice and men
After a seven-year absence from consoles, EA’s hugely successful virtual dollhouse returns to Xbox One by way of a belated conversion of the best-selling PC game of both 2014 and 2015.
There are few rules or objectives for living in the sandbox world of The Sims
4. You can micromanage every aspect of your residents’ lives or leave them to get on with it, but since it’s a shiny, happy place of perpetual sunshine, populated by over-friendly people who can’t stop talking nonsense, we thought it might be the perfect place to try starting a cult.
So we created Ted, a charismatic joker with a dark side, and moved him into the largest plot of land in the fragmented town. He was going to need all that space for his palatial living quarters and ‘re-education’ dungeon, and we set about building something befitting his aspirations.
The building menus offer a huge variety of items, from ready-made rooms to bare walls that you draw with a cursor and furnish from scratch. Items are filed in several ways – you can click on a picture of a house to find parts, or view them sorted by function. You can also search by text, which isn’t ideal on a console but is still a quicker way of locating some of the more obscure items.
Same as it ever was
This is the full-fat PC game, not so much adapted for Xbox as ported across unchanged. There are no larger fonts to make text more visible from across the living room, and the primary control method is to push a cursor around the screen with the thumbstick, which is imprecise and often frustrating. But you do get absolutely everything from the base
Sims 4 game, which is an enormous amount of content.
All of that furniture comes at a price, though, and by the time we ran out of cash we had a two-room hovel that would rent for about a grand a week in London but in the pristine Sims world was barely fit for a trailer park. The cheapest narrow windows gave the interior an authentic prison cell ambience, and a lack of funds to finish the walls meant that the kitchen and bathroom became part of the main open plan living space. With only the toilet as a water source, Ted’s
personal hygiene soon took a turn for the unpleasant.
Thinking maybe our grand plan for Ted was just a non-starter, we decided to forget about him and start over with a new SIm on a cheaper plot. Sorry Ted, they probably don’t even have a cult leader career path in the game anyway. But that’s when we found we could actually send a newly created Sim to move in with him, bringing $20K in fresh funds as a housewarming gift.
Pretty soon Ted was living in the mansion of his dreams. When he felt sad because he didn’t have a pool, we brought in a couple of new recruits and built him one while he slept. When he expressed a passing interest in learning to play music, we added some more Sims, pocketed the money and built him a concert hall.
We got into a routine of jumping into the character creation screen, quickly randomising a new Sim and sending it straight round to Ted’s place, but this is where we eventually fell foul of the game’s lack of concessions for console play. We’d been leaving the Xbox in sleep mode between sessions, in the mistaken assumption that major events such as a new housemate moving in were triggering an autosave. One night a dashboard update must have happened, because the next day the console had restarted and we noted with horror that Ted had lost five followers, $100,000 and an entire wing of the house we’d spent so long battling the controls to create.
Sense of closure
Despite it having had over 20 patches on PC since launch, criticisms from the original version still apply here. The lack of an open world is particularly disappointing, with the town divided into tiny lots separated by lengthy loading screens that will soon put you off the idea of travel. Sims go off to work during the day – Ted managed to find a gig as a standup comedian – but you can’t follow them around town, you just have to read about what they’ve been up to.
The focus of the game is narrow, particularly when compared to The
Sims 3, and while it took a bit of a critical kicking in 2014, it sold extremely well on PC regardless. Three years later, if you’d like to see what all the fuss was about but never had a computer to play it on, this Xbox One version is a fair compromise.
far left Why do our parties always end up in the bathroom?
right Don’t accidentally cook your own flesh!
left Ted is feeling slightly tense as the first of today’s pilgrims departs for paradise.