EA’s pervasive life simulation franchise really needs no introduction at this point. The Sims may have debuted over a decade ago on the PC, but there is one thing the series has yet to accomplish: a console installment with all of the depth and freedom of the PC version.
Among the reasons for this were numerous technical hurdles, most all of which probably centered on A) controls, B) storage, or C) perhaps simply the sheer difficulty of translating the experience to an entirely dissimilar platform. Nevertheless, The Sims 3 for console addresses this ambitious goal. It’s the first of its kind: a console iteration of the hyper-addictive template with all of the depth, versatility, and bells and whistles of its PC counterpart.
"And I swear, it was THIS big!"
Life via controller
For starters, The Sims 3 for PS3 works. This in and of itself is a significant accomplishment, as the greatest fear when attempting such a challenging PC-to-console transfer—where mouse control seems so pivotal to the design—is whether manageability swan dives in the process (remember all those console Command & Conquer games?).
Indeed, there were times in the beginning where I wrestled with the button configuration—and it could still be argued that it’s occasionally less-than-ideal. But predominantly, what The Sims Studio has arranged here works shockingly well. The menu navigation is relatively simple, camera control and selection of Sims is fairly intuitive, and activities management is logically handled. Once you acquaint yourself with the basics of the console controls, you’ll find it’s not so hard to handle after all in the absence of a mouse and keyboard.
Might want to check on the burgers and dogs.
There are some definite negatives to the switch. Firstly, most people are still likely to prefer the sheer accessibility and precision of the PC setup. Secondly, the console translation brings along jarringly lengthy load times (around eight to twelve seconds), which are manifested with each scene switch or mode transition. Finally, when quickly navigating menus, the interface becomes obviously sluggish for a few seconds while the game “catches up”. Those are really the biggest detriments, however, and once you’re able to overlook them, you will find a satisfyingly complete Sims game underneath.
The utilitarian side of Karma
Console Sims 3 also ushers in a few new concepts sure to please megalomaniacal gamers such as myself. The first of these is karma powers, which allow for instant empowerment or humiliation of a particular Sim at the expense of karma points—and the risk of some counterbalancing from the likes of Mother Nature. Your sim earns karma points both by fulfilling life wishes and automatically at midnight every night (if you’re lucky). You can “spend” these points to reap such benefits as instant satisfaction of all Sim needs or super-fast learning ability for a short time—or to wreak havoc on the world via natural disasters, poltergeists, or Epic Failure. I found myself abusing these karma powers quite regularly, even though they netted me a nice retaliatory earthquake once in a while at my home.
This party IS ON FIRE!
Next up are challenges, which, for the most part, are just an expanded set of generic goals not unlike the familiar wishes. There are 300 in all, and they range from simple items like visiting the library to more complex ones such as mastering all ten skills. Completing challenges earns you challenge points, which can be used to purchase new items, furniture sets, outfits, and even additional karma powers.
Finally, The Exchange is a new community-driven feature where you’ll find a plethora of additional items for acquisition which are customized by the Sims 3 console community. It’s not too robust yet, but that’s sure to change as more people dive into the game. Meanwhile, you can drive your friends nuts with integrated Twitter and Facebook update options—have fun with that.