The Sims

The Sims

Written by Charlie Sinhaseni on 3/27/2003 for Xbox  
More On: The Sims
So who wants to play a four-year old game on their next-generation console? If you raised your hand then you just might be interested in checked out Maxis’ latest iteration of their vaunted Sims franchise, The Sims Xbox. Looks can be deceiving, however, as a mere glance at the title may lead one to believe that this is just a mere port of the now aging PC franchise but in reality, it’s so much more.

While the game still retains the same core gameplay it brings just enough new ideas and features to the table to make the series feel fresh and hip again. Forget that archaic 2D graphics system that powered the franchise for the past four years, these Sims are now in full 3D and the result is magnificent. The new free-floating camera gives the game a greater sense of depth that was lacking in the 2D PC version. As opposed to being limited to four set perspectives you’ll now be able to position the camera as you please, giving you a much better vantage point on all the action.

There’s a new goal-based gameplay mode that really adds some meat to this game. Some people felt lost with the open-endedness of the PC version, now they’ll have some set goals and such to accomplish, giving the gamer a greater sense of control and direction. Sims gives new meaning to the phrase “Get a Life” turning it into a goal-based mode of play that really makes this game worth playing.

For newbies, Get a Life pans out like a tutorial of some sorts. It’ll teach you how to do things like fix appliances, buy objects, build skills, get a job and of course, advance in that career field. It’s a very interesting take on the game’s predominantly wide-open gameplay. When you begin you’ll start out living with your mother. You’ll have to build some skills, fix some objects, borrow some cash and of course, get a job. After that you’ll be able to move out and live on your own. Being the great mother that she is she’ll visit you periodically, stopping by to nag you about your life, living conditions and other motherly naggings.

Eventually you’ll move on to bigger and better things, newer objects like the strip poker table and the prospects of moving in with lesbians await you. Of course you’ll have the opportunity to throw the party of the century, complete with hot tub and the aforementioned strip poker. Pretty soon your life starts to pick up; you’ll be on the fast track of life earning loads of money. You’ll get to build up your house, furnish it the way you see fit and of course, work on luring in those lesbians. Ah yes, all in a day’s work for the life of Sim Charlie.

This mode serves a dual purpose really, the more you play the more objects you unlock for use in the game’s open-ended mode. So if you want that vaunted strip poker table you can be sure to expect to spend quite some time in the Get a Life mode. Yes there’s an open-ended mode that basically mimics that of the PC game. You’ll be able to build your own house and live life as you see fit. Since pretty much everyone and their mothers have come in contact with the original game, I think I’ll refrain from boring everyone with another interpretation of it.
Controlling your Sims still takes place via a cursor based system but with a few changes. You’ll still have to click on objects but the interface has changed quite a bit. The toolbars now remain hidden and are revealed via the directional pad. Holding up will show your Sim’s mood while pressing to the right will reveal its friendships. When the d-pad is released that aspect of the interface becomes hidden, clearing some potential clutter.

You control your Sim via a circular halo that floats along the ground, pressing A will bring up a menu of possible interactions, then you select what you want to do. Everything here basically operates in the same fashion as before so veterans of the series probably won’t have any problems getting the hang of the controls. I do feel that the controls are a bit lacking though, building and placing objects just isn’t as streamlined as it could have been. Sometimes it’s a bit hard to select small objects that don’t occupy much space such as wall-mounted telephones.

The transition from 2D to 3D has been a smooth one; it appears that the majority of the animations were recycled but have been given new life thanks to the free-floating camera. They still look as stiff as ever but they look a whole lot better now that you can get a new perspective on them. Those who were avid fans of the PC series will no doubt find themselves rotating the camera around their Sims as they’re performing even the most mundane of actions; it’s really that large of a leap. The objects in particular have a whole new sense of detail to them, now you can see inside objects that you couldn’t see inside before. Ever wondered what’s on the inside of a Sim’s fridge? Now you can find out. There are some neat lighting effects in place. You’ll even see some reflective glare on some of the hardwood and tiled surfaces. The changes might not mean much to the casual fans of the series but to those who have had to stare at the eyesore for four or so years, it’s a blessing.

The sounds remain virtually unchanged but if you ask me, it’s perfectly acceptable. The Sims still speak in that gibberish that we have all come to know and love and the same musical tunes have been ported over. I’m happy to see that the sweeping classical tune that plays when you’re buying objects has made the transition as it is definitely one of my favorites. I don’t have a problem with the soundtrack for the game as I feel that it’s still a perfect fit for the atmosphere. Of course no Sims game would be complete without that trademark bonk noise that plays whenever you click on something.

Many fans complained that the Sims was too unbalanced, asking too much of you while not giving you nearly enough time to accomplish what is asked. Sadly these issues carry over to this console iteration as well, there’s just simply not enough time to accomplish what you need to do. By the time your Sim gets home from work you’ll barely find enough time to accommodate to their needs before it’s time to hit the sack. The Sims are just too high maintenance and too much time is spent catering to their needs while too nearly enough time is spent playing around with the game and having fun. I wish that the open-ended mode would have had the option to turn off the need’s meters (called motives here); it would have allowed me to focus on enjoying my experience with the game. At times the babysitting becomes a bit too monotonous for my tastes, I feel like I’m tending to a four-year-old.
Then again, the needs system is amusing in its own right, if only for the amusement that one gets from tormenting a virtual human. You can do all sorts of fun things to entertain yourself, at the expense of your Sim of course. Things like building a house with no toilet or trapping them in a small room with no doors or windows. In fact I’d say that have of the game’s fun can be derived from torturing the poor souls until they break. I haven’t been able to kill any of my Sims yet but I’m pretty sure that it’s possible, if only there were a ‘shove a metallic fork into the electrical socket command.’ Yes I know, I’m a sick bastard.

I’m also pretty under whelmed by the game’s multiplayer mode. It’s fun for a little while but it’s definitely nothing to write home about. It’s essentially the same game as the single-player game except now you’ve got another human-controlled character to interact with. I mean, they’re sitting right beside you; you can interact with them in real life for crying out loud. Wouldn’t you rather make out with your girlfriend instead of having your Sim make out with her Sim? Still though, it’s a nice addition but I still prefer the real thing over the virtual thing.

In comparison to the previously released PS2 versions, they're virtually identical. With the exception of the varied controller layout and some sharper textures, the games are identical. Then again the PS2 game wasn't really too bad of a game so this is more of a plus than it is a minus. I would have liked to see some Xbox exclusives though.

The truth of the matter is Sims Xbox is a rebirth of some sorts for the franchise. It’s reaching an entirely new audience that until now had not been exposed to the monstrous cash cow known as the Sims. I see a bright future for this blossoming franchise and while PC gamers may express their disdain for it, the truth of the matter is that it’s still as fun, still as addicting and still as entertaining as ever.
Strangely enough, The Sims is exactly everything that a hardcore fanatic of the hit PC series could have ever dreamed of, just on a different platform. It gives the game some sense of purpose and direction and more importantly, it gives it the significant graphical facelift that it so desperately needed, breathing new life into the formerly aging series.

Rating: 8.6 Very Good

* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company.

About Author

Gaming has been a part of my life for as long as I could remember. I can still recall many a lost nights spent playing Gyromite with that stupid robot contraption for the old NES. While I'm not as old as the rest of the crew around these parts, I still have a solid understanding of the heritage and the history of the video gaming industry.

It's funny, when I see other people reference games like Doom as "old-school" I almost begin to cringe. I bet that half of these supposed "old-school" gamers don't even remember classic games like Rise of the Triad and Commander Keen. How about Halloween Harry? Does anyone even remember the term "shareware" anymore? If you want to know "old-school" just talk to John. He'll tell you all about his favorite Atari game, Custer's Revenge.

It's okay though, ignorance is bliss and what the kids don't know won't hurt them. I'll just simply smile and nod the next time someone tells me that the best entry in the Final Fantasy franchise was Final Fantasy VII.

When I'm not playing games I'm usually busy sleeping through classes at a boring college in Southern Oregon. My current hobbies are: writing songs for punk rock bands that never quite make it, and teasing Bart about... well just teasing Bart in general. I swear the material writes itself when you're around this guy. He gives new meaning to the term "moving punching bag."

As for games, I enjoy all types except those long-winded turn-based strategy games. I send those games to my good pal Tyler, I hear he has a thing for those games that none of us actually have the time to play.

When I'm not busy plowing through a massive pile of video games I spend all of my time trying to keep my cute little girl fed. She eats a ton but damn she's so hot. Does anyone understand the Asian girl weight principal? Like they'll clean out your fridge yet still weigh less than 110 pounds.

Currently I'm playing: THUG, True Crime, Prince of Persia, Project Gotham 2 and Beyond Good & Evil. View Profile

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