We’ve been toying with the lives of Sims for a while now, as we’re approaching the 15-year anniversary of the original Sims offering. With the fourth installment of the highly popular franchise about to be released, I sat down for an extensive demo at the EA booth at this year’s E3, and I found a more robust, more involved Sims game with detail that even I didn’t expect. This is one big Sims game.
The development team at Maxis has basically rebuilt everything about The Sims from the ground up, starting with the Create-a-Sim feature. They’ve tweaked how you can make your new Sims so that it’s more fun, but also way more powerful. Sims can now be molded like clay with a simple click, extending and retracting parts of the body with total ease. However, looks are only half of the story, and The Sims 4 will let you craft your Sim’s personality more than ever before, starting with how they walk. For the first time you can choose how a Sim walks down the street, with that walking style creating a strong first impression with other Sims. Do you want your Sims to slouch as he walks? Would you prefer a more confident gait? It’s all at your fingertips.
Like previous Sims games, you can give your Sims Aspirations, or long-term goals, and the personality traits you give them will help them toward those goals. In the demo I was shown, we turned the developer showing the game off into a happy-go-lucky “bro,” and the other dev talking us through the demo a not-so-happy “bro.” The “bro” traits should have meshed well together, but because the one Sim was so angry, the two didn’t exactly hit it off right away.
The world of the Sims 4 is called Willow Creek, and it’s said to be inspired by New Orleans. Willow Creek is gigantic, split into different “neighborhoods” that your Sims can visit whenever they wish. We were shown a park area, a commercial area, and the residential area where our Sims live. There’s a bit of interactivity between the neighborhoods as well; one Sim took a fruit from a tree, went home and planted it in his backyard, growing the same kind of tree in his yard and building that Sim’s gardening skill. It’s really amazing how much these Sims can do in this gigantic world.
Back to the duo I talked about earlier, eventually we ended up at the local gym so the angry one could work out his frustrations. His trainer happens to be Chuck Norris, who shows off another new Sims 4 feature: Sims of higher skill levels in certain areas can mentor Sims of lower skill levels to help them level up faster. Here Chuck gives our angry Sim a pep talk, raising his Atheltic skill faster and turning around his bad mood. He was so happy he wanted to have a party, so he opened up the new Phone menu and instantly invited other Sims to his house for a shindig. The scene switched to the house, where things got really crazy.
When the demo switched to the Sim’s house, it was quickly decided that his current home wouldn’t be suitable for the amount of people he invited, so the dev accessed the brand new gallery feature, showcasing thousands of creations by other players that can be instantly downloaded into our game. The dev chose a house, placed it on his plot of land, and boom, new house instantly. If he didn’t want the entire house, he could also choose individual rooms in the house to bring over instead. The new gallery feature works super fast, though I personally wonder if, judging on SimCity’s lackluster opening weeks, if the gallery will suffer the same fate.
The demo ended with the party going in full swing until it was interrupted by another roommate, Kim Jong-Un himself (not kidding), who ended the party abruptly when he set fire to his cupcake-making machine and got so scared he peed himself. The two Sims from the beginning of the demo saw this and laughed so hard they died of laughter. I promise you, I’m not making this up. It was a great glimpse at how, despite the realistic creation tools, The Sims 4 can still be as wacky as the other games.
Sims fans have a lot to look forward to when The Sims 4 hits later this year, and I hope that all of the online features they spoke about in the demo are fully functional come launch day. The last thing Maxis needs is another online debacle.
The Sims 4 will be available on PC on Sept. 2.