It’s always a touchy issue when a PC game is ported to a console because inevitably some of the cooler features are lost in translation. It’s even touchier when a beloved, fairly complex god-game like the PC version of The Sims 3 hits the consoles. But Maxis is promising some beguiling new bells and whistles to add to the console versions that may even lure tried and true aficionados of the PC offering.
Unfortunately, there was no hands-on play offered during the demo. I was bummed, but understood. There are intricacies to The Sims 3 that only a devoted fan of the game could appreciate. Because I haven’t played it since a month after its initial release in June, 2009, I was pleased to be taken by the hand.
So here’s the deal:
As far as construction goes, you can erect a building that’s as tall as five stories, a first in the Sims series and a big plus for McMansion lovers. You can check out and explore the whole neighborhood from the parks to the business district, not just your general home area. But the home area’s fascinating, too. Sometimes ghosts will haunt your house, Amityville Horror style, and sometimes, the ladies get, well, very aggressive at a party.
That’s part of what The Sims has always been about – doing things you wouldn’t normally do in real life. Got a cranky significant other? Make a Sims that cheats on his or her lover – multiple times. Want to slap that annoying party girl who drinks like a fish? The Sims 3 is where you do it. Want to have five hot TV hosts go ga-ga over your bod? It’s all possible in The Sims 3.
Probably the most promising addition to the console versions is the superior Karma Power, which is an updated feature from god games that harkens all the way back to Populous (where you could end everything in the world with the press of a button). With Karma Power, you can do good things to Sims, or very nasty things. First, you have to purchase Karma Points, which you work for by finishing those ubiquitous little quests called Wishes. Additionally, you can choose to indulge in any of over 300 challenges to earn points. If you’re really proud of something you’ve achieved (or if you’re just a social networking addict), you can post these accomplishments to Facebook or Twitter, the lands of the likeminded.
During the demo, one of the party guests who had been hitting on a female Sim wouldn’t leave. So he received a serious dose of Bad Karma with a kind of evil spell which reversed his abilities. Hilariously, he immediately lost control of his bowels (lots of green-colored gas was emitted). He left the girl and sped to the bathroom – for a long session of farting, and more. Thankfully, The Sims 3 doesn’t have Smell-O-Vision.
At midnight, right as the Witching Hour chimes, you’ll be judged on your actions of the day. If you’ve been naughty and not nice as far as using Karma Power goes, you won’t get much of a boost in abilities. If, however, you’ve been an upstanding Sims citizen, you’ll be rewarded, not necessarily handsomely, but appreciably.
While we chatted about some of the game’s features, a fire started in our Sims household. I was thinking, Which one of these Sims is a dirty serial arsonist? I didn’t find out because the Maxis rep didn’t get to put out the blaze for about five minutes, and one of the Sims died. Since it was not one of the demo expert’s creations, he couldn’t bring him back to life. The Grim Reaper even came by to collect the soul, singeing himself a little in the process.
Overall, I loved the Karma Power because it’s a quick fix; you immediately see the consequences of your actions – in dramatic fashion. Along those lines, the challenges are fast ways to enter the game and exit in a short amount of time -- when you just can’t live in this open world for hours and hours at a sitting. In other words, you set forth to do a challenge and still have time for lunch at Taco Bell.
While all that’s cool, one question that still remains surrounds the online aspect of The Sims 3 for consoles. Uploading, downloading and sharing content is a ginormous aspect of the PC game for fans. What was shown was an outdoor lounge chair that had been made and uploaded by a Sims fan. The rep said you can go online by pulling up your build menu without having to go, say, to the PS3 browser to download items. Once he got the chair, the developer showing the game was able to change its pattern. But I saw nothing that was actually uploaded or downloaded before my eager eyes during the demo. Maybe Maxis and EA are saving that for yet another preview.