I’ve been watching Gordon Freeman for some time now. Flitting between the fridge and the television, in a constant battle to satisfy his abundant appetite for food and comedy. I’m slightly disgusted while also feeling intrigued and still a tad proud that this is kind of all my fault.
I’d hope that you will have gathered by now that I'm not talking about an ever so secret sequel to Half-Life. No, I am of course talking about The Sims 4.
Looking somewhat like ‘buddy christ’, my Gordon Freeman is a fun loving free spirit who wants nothing more than a long term relationship, filled with music and art, but unfortunately, after a knock back or two, has resigned to the bachelor life. For now, at least.
Gordon is a real entrepreneur, going from to Spy and back to a jobless lay about (I promise this isn't a reflection on myself). He’s been slapped over 20 times, has gone from happy to sad more times then I’d like to mention but has also touched the lives of many sims around him, making them laugh and smile. Oh how they laughed and laughed.
The Sims series has always fascinated me, with its power to truly get me hooked into someone else's life. Someone who isn't real, no less and with each sequel, the series has gotten bigger and better. This fourth instalment however, has bucked the trend in, not necessarily an awful way, but has seem ably worked to streamline the experience at the expense of rather a lot of features. This definitely seems more of a ‘Vanilla’ experience, but it's not all bad and this, I will explain.
When I began my journey, building my Freeman from the ground up, I was happy to have so many tools at my disposal with the new customisation options. I could sculpt his face to create that hero chin I’ve always admired, while crafting a svelte physique complete with that out of place, but oh so realistic pot belly. It was really easy too! Controlled by pushing and pulling your sims body around like its a smooth, pliable lump of play dough! It didn't stop there though, I could dig deeper and even choose my Sims walk style to give off that aloof vibe.
Now, some of you may remember that in previous instalments, you could give your sim six unique character traits, well in The Sims 4, this has been stripped back to four. One of which, is chosen for you as it’s associated with your lifetime aspiration. This isn't anything to fret about mind you, as while this is more than enough in reality, the inclusion of emotions really helps to round your Sim into a living being, who, if left for long enough, will really surprise you in more ways than you could expect.
Considering that I made finding love Gordons main goal in life, as soon as my house was ready, I popped out to find that special someone. This was my first foray into the wider world of The Sims 4 and in some senses, I was actually a little bit disappointed. While the world as it is works, it feels rather restricted, especially in contrast with previous titles. The seamless exploration of The Sims 3 has, for some reason, gone and replaced by blocks of loading screens as you transition to the handful of public venues available to frequent. Some which, feel rather more like a copy and paste job then pure creationism.
This made meeting new people a bit of a challenge, simply because I often bumped into the same characters over and over and this, while not a complete disaster, is a bit of a shame considering how much work has gone into realising the emotions of your digital creations.
After stalking the local bars, in a completely non creepy way, I found the girl of Gordons dreams, in that she was there and available, so I smoothly set him up to make his advances and rather than manage the situation, simply watched as his tiny little life unfolded. He joked, and they clicked until I noticed how quickly Gordon moved onto much more flirty interactions simply because his goal is to find that special someone. The flirty Sim told saucy stories, blew kisses and did all he could to impress. Eventually this taught me more about the new emotions, simply by observing. On more than one occasion, Gordon appeared more than embarrassed after telling a joke that simply bombed, or advancing more amoursely only to be rejected. While I felt sorry for the little guy, it was great to see the interactions develop more naturally.
Multi tasking was more apparent too, with the sims free to drink at the bar while still conversing. You can pair more complex tasks such as work at home while chatting with friends and even handle the more simple things like eating and watching TV at the same time! I know, you probably did the same as me and sat your sim in front of the gogglebox with food in previous games, but in The Sims 4 it actually means something! No longer are you appeasing your own sense of coimpletionism, your sim will actually benefit from the food and TV! What an age we live in!
All this gooey emotion and multi tasking aside, the real improvements in The Sims 4 really lies in the age old ‘Build Mode’. The largest and most obvious change is the new ability to pluck entire rooms from the lot and move them freely around. Nothing makes you feel as god like as I did, by simply ripping a house from its foundations and rearranging it like some complex, manly lego!
Walls can be moulded in much the same way as your sims face, letting you mould your sims home in anyway you see fit, allowing you to push and pull walks all over the shop! You can even build complete rooms, with furniture and all, kind of like a flat pack abode! Again, you’ll notice some things have been cut from the toolset. With foundations now a retroactive addition, you’ll have to accept that you’ll be saying bye bye to garages and that ‘create-a-style’ tool, Sims 3 players will be familiar with, has also bitten the dust. Sorry guys!
The only omission that left me in somewhat of a state of shock, is the omission of pools.
Yep, swimming pools are gone so no more murdering your sim and all his…..I mean, no more having fun by the pool with your friends!
I should also mention that toddlers have made a disappearance, forcing kids to pop from baby to young adult in a flash, this didn't really disturb me in any way though to be fair. Considering emotions have become such a large part of the game, I couldn't imagine wanting to deal with the emotions of a toddler. Besides it being a tad creepy, I doubt there would be any fun to be had there.
Its clear that Maxis have worked hard to almost rebuild The Sims into a completely new experience. While its unfortunate that this means some fan favourite features have had to take a hike, such as toddlers, cars and pools, The Sims 4 succeeds in offering a fluid life simulator, with some fantastic options and an emotion system that adds a depth not yet seen with previous iterations of character interaction! The Sims 4 will draw you in and offer you the chance to witness, front seat, the most ridiculous lives you could ever imagine!
Here’s hoping we see this grow into the greatest Sims game ever!