Review: The Sims 4!

OK, so it's not a book, but I bought the Sims 4 yesterday and I have feelings that can only come from 14 years and thousands of dollars lining EA/Maxis' pockets. 


I downloaded and tried the CAS demo last week and I was pretty impressed. In a few minutes, I got a reasonable approximation of my husband, though I couldn't get a good me. (Round faces and ski slope noses will continue to be an issue.) I saved them and waited for the full game.


When I booted up last night, the two Sims I'd made were nowhere to be found. If the game and the demo integrate, I can't find it. Not a huge issue, I set to recreating us.The graphics are gorgeous. A monumental step up from the Sims 3 pudding faces. The pinching and pulling mechanic is not like clay; you can't take anything to extremes and most of the slider ranges are very subtle and limited. I haven't found any way to take a say, square jaw and round it out. What I found for my SelfSim is it's best to pick the roundest base and work off that, (even though it's otherwise a poor fit for me,) because there is no extreme I can pull cheeks/cheekbones/jawline to that will give a round face from any other base. Likewise, I can lengthen, widen, and make the nostrils bigger and smaller, but there's no way to rotate a nose tip into a ski slope. You need to pick the nose with the best fitting tip and work around that way. It's frustrating, considering we were promised more customization than ever and I feel like we're back to picking base 1, nose 4, and lips 6, except now we can do minor tweeks to them.


Chin clefts are skin details, but, again, they can't be added to just any Sim. You have to pick a chin with one built in. (Same with eyelashes.) These are great details that I've been missing in other games, but I don't understand why they can't be added like freckles.


There are no color sliders for hair or eyes and design mode is gone for clothes and furniture. The preloaded patterns and colors are much nicer than Sims 3 base game, as are the hairs, (which you can sort by length! Helpful!), but after 4 hours of play time, I already noticed multiple Sims wearing the same outfits. Picking outfits is much the same as 3, though there is a new category to assign "party" outfits and obviously no swimsuits. There's a lot of sorting options for each category, (bottoms are short skirts, long skirts, pants, jeans, and underwear,IIRC.) It's nice.


Gameplay, again, beautiful. I told my husband the game was all worth it when my SelfSim's thumbnail changed to this: 



(Sorry for the phone shot. I did take an in-game screen capture, but I haven't figured out how to retrieve them yet.) The moodlets show that she's happy (green) and flirty (pink), leading to a positive, flirty conversation with her husband. The autonomy for conversations works a LOT better, and the new multitasking means they kept their flirty conversation up while she was reading and he was playing a game. You don't have to stop to grind social. 


There are now stages to lifetime aspiration that have to be met, like reading 3 books and leveling up logic to a 4, then reading 8 more books and winning chess matches. The best change is promotions for work. It feels a lot more intuitive that a programmer would have to create plugins instead of leveling up the cleaning skill or something. You also earn exclusive items from promotions, (we're on the programming and writing tracks and earned a sculpture of motherboards that increases focus, a new computer, a coffee maker, and a couple paintings from promotions.)


Unfortunately, while the gameplay at home is good, once you leave your front door... 


Look, I understand that EA decided to go back to loading screens to reduce strain. The game certainly boots much faster and ran like a dream, but "you can go anywhere in the neighborhood and only suffer loading if you go to a different neighborhood" is bullshit. The lot you're on and the streets load, so if you want to go to a neighbors yard, no problem. If you want to go to their house? Loading screen. An example, Danielle was feeling focused. Her focused want was to read a library book. I called a taxi and went to the business district, which took a relatively brief loading screen. By the time it loaded, Danielle was no longer inspired, so she didn't want to read the library book any more. (You can't save wants.) OK, as long as we're in the neighborhood, we'll explore. I tried to send her to the museum, which is in the same neighborhood. Loading screen. The museum was a bust, there weren't even any neighbors to talk to, and Danielle was hungry so I sent her to the nightclub. Loading screen. She had some chips and a drink, but now she was tired. (Needs seem to decay pretty quickly.) I tried to force her to stay out longer to make it worth the loading time, but no use. She started slumping around and grumbling, so I sent her home. Loading screen. I couldn't access Ryan at all while I was in town with Danielle. I can tell by my play style that I will only go out when absolutely necessary, the complete opposite of Sims 3 where I was constantly staving off the stir-crazy moodlet with trips to fish, garden, and explore. 


Aesthetically, the game looks amazing. It feels like a natural progression from Sims 2, and will probably work great for people who skipped the last gen. If this was the follow up to 2, I would sing its praises to the heavens, but following Sims 3? The mechanics are a huge step back. I can't believe we're back to loading screens and pre-selected design patterns in 2014. No toddlers, no pools, no weather, no college. The new inspiration system is nice. It's not too different from the moodlets of last gen, but actually seeing the Sims become happy or flirty or tense feels deeper. These emotions also unlock new interactions, like allowing you to write romance novels when you're flirty or self help books when you're confident. For a few surface upgrades to be sold at such a high price point, I wish I'd waited. I'll keep playing 4 since I have it, but it feels like an obligation right now.


Edit: I played again last night and I think the loading screens are manageable. That may change as expansion packs and CC are added, but right now nothing took more than two minutes.


I sent my Sims on two dates, one to the park, (which is pretty worthless as only kids can play on the playground equipment  and there are no adult activities but chess,) and one to a lounge. The dating/nightlife is built in to the base game. I like that there are objectives for dates, (flirt x times, have a deep conversation,) so you KNOW if you're having a good date or not. Finally. 


Cooking after level five unlocked a new "gourmet cooking" skill. I thought I heard there was a homestyle skill too, but I haven't seen that. Maybe that's just the regular cooking.