It’s hard not to have mixed feelings about “The Sims 4.”
The EA Maxis staple for PCs entered its fourth generation on Sept. 2 with plenty for dedicated players to love and to be excited about over the next few years. But, like every other new iteration of “The Sims,” the latest edition is missing many elements that were added over years of expansion packs, plus a few series staples usually found in the base game.
First, the good: Get ready to love multitasking. At long last, Sims can talk as a group while watching TV and eating dinner. This addition really opens up new doors and makes running your virtual family’s day-to-day activities so much smoother.
Managing a Sim's needs takes less effort in “The Sims 4” now that emotions come into play. A Sim’s low need for fun or socialization can be countered if he or she is feeling energized or confident. These emotions occur as the result of positive interactions or accomplishments. Of course, there are negative emotions too, such as feeling embarrassed - which happened to my Sims whenever the father tried to shower when his child was using the bathroom. That’s no fun, for sure.
Build mode is more streamlined than ever with the new search function. Sifting through menus will be a thing of the past now that users can enter queries for “dinner chairs” or “computers.” And if you’re a lazy builder who would rather be controlling the Sims themselves, there are prefabricated rooms ready to be placed into a home. It’s even possible to take specific elements from such rooms and move them in one-by-one, if the shape of the room isn’t ideal.
In today’s online community-driven world, “The Sims 4” also streamlines sharing content with other players worldwide by integrating menus into the game itself. It was a no-brainer at this point, but it’s executed pretty well.
Creating those Sims just got a whole lot easier, too. The overhauled Create-A-Sim tool makes it easy to pinch noses, enlarge ears and generally make a Sim’s look the way you’d like him or her to look. It’s not super deep at this point, but expansion packs likely will address that.
But that leads me to the cons. While series newcomers won’t notice at all, veterans will note that their Sims no longer have swimming pools to build. That’s a minor bummer, as it’s been available in every base game since the series’ debut nearly 15 years ago. Cars, which saw an expanded role in the last “Sims,” are gone too.
Also conspicuously missing is the toddler stage in a Sims’ life cycle. It was fun to have Sims raise their little tykes from babies to toddlers to children, and watching my Sim baby age up in the morning and attend grade school later in the day was strange, even for a quirky series like this one.
Of course, just about anything from pets to basements - elements added in “The Sims 3” expansion packs - are absent. Longtime players expect that, but this edition just doesn’t seem to add enough justification to abandon the last-gen game.
Also missing is the formerly wide-open neighborhood that allowed Sims to stroll down the street. It’s not that traveling outside of a Sims home isn’t an option, but it’s odd to be constrained again after “The Sims 3” opened the world wide open.
Odd moments still pop up here and there, such as when a few Sims get hungry at the same time but can’t process how to wait to use the fridge, so all but one ends up abandoning the quest for a meal. That seems like something a patch could fix any day, though.
“The Sims 4” still provides the same level of sandbox-style fun and creativity the series ever has. Just be aware of what you’ll lose when upgrading from the previous iteration.?