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E3 2014 - The Sims 4 Preview

E3 2014 - The Sims 4 Preview

There are few series that are quite as prolific as The Sims and, in a more cynical light, quite as successful a “cash cow” series. And now, with a mere thirty Sims games and expansions under their belt, Maxis has decided to reinvent the series for a fourth time in less than fifteen years, and introduce The Sims 4.

I’m relatively certain The Sims Complete Edition was one of the first video games I ever bought with my own money (or well, my own allowance)—picked because it gave me all the expansion packs without having to convince my parents I needed The Sims: Hot Date. It’s a series near and dear to my heart, if only because it allows me to indulge my micromanaging tendencies and then set the kitchen on fire when I get bored. With every new generation of the game, The Sims seems to introduce a new aspect for me to control, and it’s obvious from right out of the box that The Sims 4 is no different.

EA’s demo of the new game is led by producer Ryan Vaughan, who has been part of the series since its very beginning and has already taken fans through a preview of its build mode and Create-A-Sim. Introducing this demo, Vaughan explains what’s been a sneaking suspicion of mine since those first trailers: the goal of Sims 4 is to return the focus to the Sims themselves. To this end, the studio has rebuilt most of the game’s design tools from the ground up, making them more tactile and intuitive, while giving more experienced players a wider range of options.

sims 4 ccreate

As someone who downloaded so much custom content my copy of Sims 2 stopped working, it’s nice to see Maxis incorporate fan feedback: in Sims 4, players have a number of new options for build mode especially, which range from being able to adjust foundation and window height to being able to add pre-designed rooms to an existing house. And because fans will always want to tweak something, adding custom content (user-designed mods ranging from clothing recolors to brand new careers) is now possible without ever leaving your game with the addition of the gallery menu.

Briefly hinted at in the Create-A-Sim trailer, aspirations—think long-term goals for your Sims—now have different “tracks” for your Sim to pursue, and are shaped by their personality. In their trend of updating old features, personality traits are now divided into three categories—emotional, lifestyle and social—and players are limited to only three for their Sims. As in previous generations of The Sims, personality traits can give Sims unique actions. Also affecting your Sim’s behaviour is their mood, which is now indicated by a verbal label (“Very Angry”, “Energized”, etc.) instead of a coloured gauge.

In our demo, Vaughan’s Sim had had some unpleasant interactions with someone, putting him in a “very angry” mood, which allowed him to do quite a few unique actions. Aside from the usual insulting an acquaintance, he could also exercise to work off steam, performing “peeved push-ups” and “sit-ups of rage”. While many of the interactions we see may seem like old-hat to long-time players, Vaughan’s trip around the new neighbourhood Willowbrook gives us a chance to see Sims 4’s improved open-world gameplay, and spy a little on our neighbours—most of whom seemed inexplicably interested in kicking over trashcans.

sims 4 1

As a finale to EA’s wander through The Sims 4, Vaughan’s Sim and his roommate decide to throw a house party, and after a brief tour of the game’s Build Mode, their soiree is in full swing, including a star-studded guest list with the appearance of Chuck Norris. But it turns out Vaughan may have forgotten to mention his plans to the house’s third roommate, Kim Jong Un—who can be glimpsed being eaten by the cow plant in the E3 Sims 4 trailer—who’s known for being a bit “dictatorial” around the house. Luckily, our guide quickly intervenes by sending Kim Jong Un to the kitchen to bake some cupcakes, a hobby that calms him down.

And in true Sims fashion, he manages to set the kitchen on fire and soils himself out of fear, much to the delight of Vaughan’s Sim, who then promptly dies of laughter—literally—thus ending our demo with a visit from that most final of NPCs, the Grim Reaper.

Aside from the game’s new robust-looking Create-A-Sim and Build Mode (which I personally can’t wait to get my hands on), it appears that many of the updates in The Sims 4 are of the more subtle variety, tweaking and improving on pre-existing aspects of the games. Many are subtle enough that I’m not sure I would have ever noticed them had they not been pointed out to me. It’s nice, however, to see Maxis listen to fan feedback and incorporate it into their reboot of the much beloved-series. In the end, fans will have to wait and see how much The Sims 4 improves on their gaming experience; although looking at the series’ history, the odds are good the game will be a success.

The Sims 4 will hit both real-world and digital shelves September 2 for the PC.

E3 2014
Ruth Krabacher

Ruth Krabacher

Staff Writer / News Writer

After being told dragontamer is "not a real job", she settled for being a word typer-upper. Finally got those San Diego Comic Con tickets.

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