Reviewed on: Playstation 4. Copy supplied by publisher.
These days, it’s relatively easy to port a console game to PC, it happens all the time, but the reverse isn’t as common. This is largely because PC games are often made specifically with the PC gamer in mind, and because the technical elements of the conversion can make it very difficult for a developer to make that jump from home computer to console.
The Sims 4 is just one good example of this, and although the end result is a serviceable, and even an often very enjoyable effort, it can’t escape the limitations of the console platform handling a game developed for, and always intended for the PC.
Coming will all of the goofy charm EA’s life simulator is known for, Sims 4 on PS4 is at first sight a success. Visually, it has that familiar charm, with the lovable Sims milling around doing their thing while conversing in Simlish. The colourful, idyllic neighbourhoods are the kind of place you’d like to live in real life, and the world they live in is a far more welcoming and friendly one than the often depressing real world of its players. It’s always been a game about true escapism, and this hasn’t changed to this day. Want to leave your problems behind for a while and live a life free of those troublesome woes? The Sims 4 will fit the bill.
The problems with this port, however, do come quickly once you’ve spent a good few hours in the very accomplished creation suite putting your virtual self into the game. Instantly you realise one of the biggest challenges in porting the PC original to PS4 was the controls. It’s often that case with PC games that utilise keyboard and mouse, there’s just not enough input options on a console control pad to make the experience as smooth as the PC original.
The developers have done a pretty impressive job of handling this, though, and the control scheme here is certainly usable, but it’s far from user friendly, and takes a lot of time to get used to. Of particular note is the lack of any option to control the cursor speed, a single setting that may have made the game much more approachable. As it is, a big part of the learning curve is mastering the basic controls, and that’s not a challenge any game should deliver. Controls need to be easy, fluid and second nature, right out of the gate. When a game is designed and developed well, they are, but often, and in the Sims 4’s case, this isn’t true.
Once you get used to the controls, though, you’ll find an actual Sims game that’s among the best the series has to offer, at least with regard to the Sims themselves, their personalities, and development. I found the way the game handles the Sims, and the approach to goals and aspirations well handled. The personality traits here are perhaps the best I’ve seen yet, making your Sims much more like real, breathing people, and less like virtual puppets simply acting according to simple AI code.
For example, your Sims can develop multiple strong personality traits that really do make them into unique characters who react very differently to their experiences. The mother of my Sims family, for example, is very family oriented, and requires a lot of interaction with family members lest she become sad. Watching romantic movies puts her in a flirty mood, which plays well with the serial romantic personalty of her husband. This ability to define and grow specific facets of a Sims personality, and create Sims who have natural compatibility with each other means relationships can be interesting to cultivate. The addition of children to the mix, a PC update that’s part of the core PS4 game, adds to this even more, as your parents are not only growing their own relationship, but nurturing a toddler too.
This is all handled very well, and the addition of a nifty aspirations and goals systems for your Sims, such as a desire to become a master chef, add to the personalities even more, as these goals can greatly affect their daily lives and relationships.
As good as this element of The Sims 4 is, though, it can’t hide some ugly problems. For one, the game has bugs, plenty of them. Audio and sync glitches abound, I’ve seen a few load and save crashes that have even lost progress, and the frame rate, although I believe is more solid on PS4 than Xbox One, still suffers from time to time.
There are also some gameplay issues that bothered me too, such as a lack of any indication of your current funds in the build menu, and a distinct lack of automation. Here, your Sims are either totally unable to fend for themselves, or they make decisions so fast, you don’t have time to intercede should you need to. There’s no middle ground, and a better balance is required. Sure, The Sims is all about micromanagement, but even here there needs to be a modicum of hands-off time available so you can concentrate on other Sims or duties. The Sims 4 forces you to hover like a worried deity over each and every member of your virtual family.
This lack of automation is helped a little by some useful options, such as an ability for a Sim to earn money from home, and the chance to send your toddlers to child care, but even with these, you’ll feel drawn to each and every Sim to ensure they’re not in trouble.
As with the PC version, there are expansions that can also add a whole lot of extra content to the game, all of which will expand your Sims experience in many, and varied ways, but these expansions rarely touch the core gameplay, so any issues here will likely be present, even if you happen to dabble with vampires or other crazy additions to the vanilla, more down to earth Sims content.
Despite the shortcomings, I still enjoyed The Sims 4, and there are many good reasons here for PS4 owners to delve into EA’s life simulator. It’s not perfect, but it’s still a charming and rewarding simulator, and one that’ll have you absorbed into the wee hours.