EA Games The Sims 3 review
The third instalment in this successful series expands on the previous games by simulating an entire town.
Your virtual characters, or Sims, can now walk freely from location to location rather than hopping between a series of standalone households and public places.
As with previous games, you can select or create one or more Sims to look after. There's a huge variation in physical characteristics, wardrobe options, ambitions and character traits. For example, the Friendly trait helps your Sim make friends more easily, while the Kleptomaniac trait allows you to steal property, but also rewards you for returning it. It's these traits that really tell your Sims apart.
Having created your Sims, you can place them in a house and start meddling with their lives. The game is an open-ended social simulation, and unlike most games there's no specific win point. The game's simulation of human relationships is simplistic but accurate, and the new larger environment affords a huge degree of freedom. A big part of the game consists of social interactions with the computer-controlled Sims who inhabit your town. The Sims 3 adds a new level of depth to characters by investing each with up to five unique traits that determine their needs and wishes.
Directing your Sims' daily lives is essentially a question of keeping an eye on their six basic needs, including energy, hunger and fun. Beyond these, your Sim has wishes that you can fulfil. These are influenced by your Sim's traits, and include eating or cooking specific foods, gaining promotion in their careers, talking to other Sims and other small, immediate goals.
You can choose which wishes to fulfil, and by completing them you collect lifetime reward points, which you can cash in for permanent perks. These perks generally reduce your Sim's needs, so you can concentrate on higher-level goals. Each Sim has one lifetime wish, which you choose based on its traits. Fulfilling this grants a huge number of reward points.
Your Sim can choose one of many careers and go to work in buildings around town. There are skills that determine success in each career, but also provide general benefits. For example, the Gardening skill is required for the Science career path, but also lets you grow food, and at higher levels you can grow special plants such as Money Trees. Skills also interact, so a good gardener will have better produce with which to cook, for example.
The Sims 3 has a much larger element of role-playing than previous versions, as the ability to level-up skills and careers takes it beyond its reputation as a glorified doll's house. Other areas are also greatly improved. The town and property editors let you engage with your inner architect or designer, and anything you create in the game can be shared online, but multiple players can't share a single town. Previous versions relied on expansion packs, but The Sims 3 will receive expansions over the internet.
The game is slick, with fantastic graphics, but it doesn't require powerful graphics hardware and will run on pretty much any modern PC. It's a great step forward and a worthy successor to the best-selling game of all time.