The Sims 3 - PC/Mac

Stuart has got himself into a situation. He has been chasing this young lady called Bebe Hart. A couple of sessions at the pool have convinced Stuart he has the right girl and it seems a good way of bringing some extra income into his dilapidated homestead.

Stuart, the romantic he is, takes Bebe to watch the sunset over the ocean, where he learns that she's actually unemployed and only after his cash. Stuart doesn't really care, because he has already lined up his boss as a bedmate, and gives poor (literally) Bebe the flick. Such is the life of a Sim.

The Sims has been one of the bizarre success stories of gaming. Hideously addictive, loved by some and reviled by others, it is a stalwart of PC gaming, with spin-off console editions never really cutting the mustard thanks either to cutting features or fiddly controls.

We've been playing The Sims 3 on both PC and Mac, thanks to the universal nature of the disc, and the game is the same on both platforms. A slow install, it still seems to suffer from that data-heavy problem of the previous games, with starting and quitting the game, as well as saving, always a lengthy process.

In terms of looks, things are very much the same as they were before. There has been some cosmetic tweaking in the control bar at the bottom of the screen, but not so much that you'd encounter any problems if you were a fan of Sims 2.

Overall the graphics are pretty similar, the same, perhaps, although many of the items you buy have been refreshed, and there is lots more detail once you get up close. The whole Sims world maintains that great sense of humour, with amusing names and interesting descriptions, making it a joy to explore.

With every new Sims game comes a huge heap of customisation and this iteration is no exception; you can now customise your character to a greater extent than before. You can just cut through them by picking defaults and jumping into the game, but if you can't make your character look like yourself or someone you know, then are you really a Sims fan?

The game plays out very much as before, but many of the boundaries have been broken down. You could visit other locations in Sims 2, but here you can go pretty much anywhere. You don't need a taxi either. You can walk, or buy your own car or bike. After weeks of being collected for work, we found it was a 5-minute walk through the park, giving us an extra 40 minutes or so to mince around the house in the morning.

This opens up a wider world of possibilities for your Sims. Hate your job? You don't have to search the Internet for or wait for an opening in the paper, you can just venture off elsewhere and get a job doing something else. Equally, you can leave work and go straight out on the town, without having to go home first – ideal for dating the boss.

The community is also much more interactive. Regular competitions and events make life more interesting, and perhaps more real, giving you the chance to get out and get involved, meeting Sims, learning skills and having fun.

Not that you'll have the time mind you. As before, you may well find that you get stuck in that constant cycle of eat, sleep, wash, pee, work. Things don't seem as critical as before and Sims 3 does let you know how long it will be before things start to affect your mood. One of the big problems with Sims 2 was chronic depression that sometimes just ended in your Sim dying. It's always difficult when your virtual girlfriend is buried in the garden of your virtual house.

But the Sims world doesn't just chug along happily. There is still that huge irritation of delay between actions. You want to greet the person at the door, but by the time you've put down that book and walked downstairs, they've gone. Every Sims gamer has also had that 10-minute face-off trying to get through the toilet door.

It's a shame as it suggests the system is slightly too complicated for its own good. Waiting for a Sim-on-Sim interaction to finish so you can empty your bursting bladder is hugely frustrating, especially when there seems to be no way around it.

The ability to speed up time has also been an essential element to the Sims, but here it seems slower than ever. There's a risk that you'll be sitting around wasting valuable (real) time, whilst your Sim sleeps.

You can now video your Sims in action too, with the ability to stitch together movies, if that takes your fancy.

Verdict

It's a shame that things detract from the gameplay in what is an otherwise excellent game. Yes, we've seen much of it before and essentially it is the same game, but the advancements here do mean you have more options that ever available to you. Whether you take advantage of them, or lead a simple happy life is up to you.

Writing a review on Sims 3 is practically impossible because of the number of variations. But at the same time, this isn't a flash-in-the-pan first person shooter that one day you'll complete. With online downloads, customisation galore and the promise of more new items every month, there is plenty here to get your teeth into.

The question really is whether The Sims will hold your attention for the second and third time around. We love the new features, but find ourselves still frustrated by the same old things.


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