Review Price to be confirmed

Coming to PC
The Sims 4 release date: September 2

First Impressions from GamesCom 2014

Having only been allowed eyes-on access at E3 2014, actually getting some The Sims 4 hands-on time at GamesCom 2014 was a real treat. As a long time Sims gamer, I have been monitoring the Sims 4 announcements with some trepidation. Wondering whether the actual end experience will be worth some of the sacrifices that have been made to the series, like toddlers, pools and Create a Style.

We managed to get a good 40 minutes with The Sims 4 in Cologne. Although we’ve only scratched the surface of the new content, it was interesting to see how much was different from The Sims 3.

Most notably of course are the Sims themselves. The Sims 4 aims to take the series back to basics and focus on the Sims. Well, the game was originally built as a house building title, but it’s now heavily focused on telling the stories of its Sims.

The Sims 4

One of the major new additions to The Sims 4 is the completely reinvented Create a Sim tools. Instead of making adjustments to your Sims with a series of fiddly slider bars, you now customise your Sims by dragging their various body parts.

Now this might sound a bit bullish, but the Create a Sim tools make creating the perfect Sim a lot easier than before. You can refine individual aspects of your Sims' bodies with a click and drag of your mouse.

Those looking to make Sims versions of their friends or themselves will love the quick Create tools. Although there is a wide selection of pre-made heads to choose from, you can adjust cheek bones, make eyes bigger or minimise that pointy nose. This extends to other body areas too. You can add some abs or a beer belly, make arms and legs skinnier and much more besides.

The Sims 4

The new dragging technique can be a bit tricky to accomplish at first, especially on the more intricate areas like the eyes. We found it took a number of attempts to pin down the area we wanted to change, but we guess it will be a case of practice makes perfect with the Sims 4 Create a Sim.

As for clothing, even in this pre-release stage, there were lots of clothing combinations to kit our your Sims. Clicking on an item of clothing your Sim is already wearing brings up a neat semi-circle menu, letting you deck out your Sim with everyday wear, sleepwear, sportswear and formalwear outfits.

Although the Create a Style tools are gone, you are still offered a selection of colour options for each item of clothing. It won't fix the problem, but should appease a few fans.

After you’ve made your clothing and look choices, you’ll need to work out what personality they’ll have. Each Sim has three personality traits with an extra gained after choosing a Life Aspiration. You’ll also want to give them a walk style (there are several to choose from) and personalise their voice. Unlike the Sims 3, there are three different voice choices, each with the option to make higher or lower pitched.

The Sims 4

The personality traits you pick, along with walk style and aspiration, all actually influence your Sim’s movements and decisions. It’s a huge step towards truly lifelike characters and its effects are palpable in game.

When you eventually get into Live Mode, you are quickly made aware of your Sims’ moods and emotion. In the bottom left hand corner you have your Sim’s face. This is decked out with an emotion and appropriately coloured backdrop, along with a related facial expression.

These moods are completely reactive and change according to how you interact with other Sims and the world around them. We were using a particularly playful Sim who revelled in communicating and interacting with others. So his mood ranged from “fine” to “happy” to “playful” fairly quickly. After around 20 minutes we even managed to make him creep into the “inspired” state. This latter emotion enables you to eek out a few perks for your Sims such as building skills quicker.

What we particularly love about The Sims 4, aside from the more fully fleshed out Sims, is the refined user interface. When outside of Create a Sim, information shown on screen is tastefully discrete, hidden by expandable windows you can bring up as and when you need them. These include panels such as needs, skills and job stats.

The entire screen is dedicated to your stories, with only the left hand corner being an ever present fixture on your display.

The Sims 4

Even the action queue has been tidied up. In the Sims 3, any current or pending actions would stack up along the top of your screen in slightly ugly boxy icons. In the Sims 4, this has moved to the bottom left hand corner down the side of your Sim’s picture.

All current actions dwell within the opaque section, while any pending ones are added to a translucent tab above.

What’s great about The Sims 4 is its focus on making actions seem a lot more natural. Your Sims can now multitask, carrying out a number of actions simultaneously, which was never before possible in the series. For example, our Sim was chatting to a group of Sims, then took one special lady to one side to continue the chat while sitting on a bench eating a hot dog.

Another Sim was listening to the radio whilst waiting for the coffee machine to brew, taking mood improvements from both tasks.

Not only does this make The Sims 4 seem much more realistic and immersive, it also helps neaten up the interface. Actions being undertaken simultaneously will stack up on top of each other in a series of circular icons. These are a lot less skeuomorphic and cleaner than in previous titles and help streamline the Sims 4 experience.

The Sims 4

The neighbourhoods themselves still have a lot of loading times between them and actually seem more disjointed than in The Sims 3. No longer will you have a large neighbourhood with multiple residential and community lots in one loadscreen-free space.

Instead The Sims 4 is split into bizarre patches of plots: a couple of houses grouped together here, a single community lot there, a park over there. It doesn’t make much sense at first look and to really make the most of your Sims, you’ll want to explore the world a bit. Prepare to encounter a lot of loading screens.

Build Mode has a tonne of new tricks up its sleeves too for The Sims 4. We didn’t get the chance to extensively play with the Build Mode tools at GamesCom, but we messed around with some of the new features. You can now pick up whole lot or individual rooms to move to another lot location, or simply drop in a pre-made room to bulk out your new home.

All the new tools are easy to use and will make house building a lot quicker for those looking for the easy option and much more interesting for those looking to spend hours building their dream home.

We particularly liked the variety in door, wall and window heights too, which will help make each home a little more individual.

The Sims 4

Originally we were a bit skeptical of how The Sims 4 Gallery would actually function in game. But, during our lengthy demo we were delighted to see how easily it is to import fan created content straight into the game.
We downloaded a new room for our baby-faced housemates, and even added a new friend to the mix straight from the Gallery. It’s accessible right from the top right hand corner of the screen and we expect it be a great way to get fresh content for your game without having to splash any cash in the Sims Store.

First Impressions
Despite its obvious omissions, The Sims 4 is starting to feel like the true next generation of The Sims. It has style, polish and the new Create A Sim tools help make Sim creation more accessible. The increased focus on emotions and storytelling definitely has a strong appeal to hardcore fans, while the new interactions will help make everything seem that little bit more lifelike.

There’s definitely promise in The Sims 4, we just hope it can offer enough to those so loyal to the series.

Read more: Best games 2014

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