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The Sims 3


Can the console version stack up to PC awesomeness?
Following up on the popular Sims 3 release on the PC, The Sims Studio and EA decided to bring the game over into the console world, specifically the XBox 360 and the PS3. The original Sims made a successful jump onto the Gamecube and original Xbox, but Sims 2 didn't fare as well on its conversion onto the PS2 and Xbox. The core concept of the game hasn't changed considerably over the years. You are thrown into a virtual world and instructed to create a sim or a family of sims. You can completely customize their look, characteristics, general demeanor as well as completely design the home that they will live in. You can also set them down a path of success or failure. Will they slide though society and profit with a live of crime or end up getting caught? Will they work hard to better their careers and become filthy rich? Will they end up starving to death because some sadistic bastard locked them away in an inescapable room? This is all up to you.

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The console versions of the Sims 3 introduces a couple new concepts into the mix compared to the PC version, Karma and Challenges. Karma points are earned by fulfilling Sims wishes throughout the game, typically the smaller requests. These points can be spent on Karma Powers, both good and evil. You can watch your Sims freak out when you reign down a horrific fireball attack or you can bring dead family members back to life with a little divine intervention. You unlock these powers as the game is played and they can help your Sims reach their life goals much faster. The game also keeps you in check from overusing the powers by punishing households that overuse them. It may be nice trying to make your household insanely rich, but be careful of the balancing karma coming your way.

Challenges are a bit more complex, but offer greater rewards. Did you work hard at your job and get a promotion? Here come the challenge points. These points can be spent on unlocking Karma powers or other cool household objects that will help your Sims become more productive. If you have played any of the Sims games previously, you aren't going to find a great deal of difficulty in earning the Challenge points.

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One of the great aspects of the Sims has always been the creative community of players. Just like the PC version, players are encouraged to create new clothing / furniture / household objects and upload them to The Exchange. Shockingly (considering this is EA), there's no charge for uploading or downloading new products. If you aren't the creative type or don't have time to create, perusing the exchange for new gear is a great time saver. This also gives the game a bit more life in terms of the missing multiplayer component. I'm sure there are plenty of casual gamers that may just want to sit around creating new clothing and seeing if it becomes a popular item on The Exchange.

The achievement set is broken into a very diverse set of tasks, both for those that play 20 minutes a day and those that will spend countless hours fulfilling wishes. There's achievements for something as simple as getting your first kiss or throwing a raging party. There's also achievements for building a $350K home or getting 250K happiness points on a single Sim. There are a couple diabolically clever ones in there too like burning your house down for the insurance money. All in all, this is one of the more creative sets I've seen this year. There's plenty of tasks to strive for regardless of the amount of time you put into the game.

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Graphics

  • While you will notice much similarity between the PC and Xbox 360 version in terms of design, you won't see the same effort in creating smooth graphical performance. Basically, the developer had to chop up the town into small sections. Each one of these sections requires you to stare at a 15 to 20 second loading screen while the new area is created by the graphics engine. Want to go into a building? Watch the loading screen again. It's amazing that the load times are this bad, even if you opt into the hard drive install before starting the game.

  • It's even more astounding that the engine can't handle the smaller areas without jerky framerate issues. Zooming around the landscape or pulling up character options will result in performance issues constantly. Honestly, it feels like the Sims 3 needed another 6 months in development to fix the stuttering problems. To top it off, the Sims 3 environment really isn't incredibly detailed compared to other RTS games that I've played. Anyway, don't expect great performance on your next gen console. (The PS3 version has the same issues)

Audio

  • Similar to all previous Sims games, the light, bouncy music is excellent in the background while building your house or adjusting your character. It never really gets annoying despite the hours that you put into customizing the world. Identical to Sims games of the past, there's no voiceovers on your virtual characters; just plenty of sound effects to alert you to their moods. The friendly presentation of the title is definitely supported by the great audio work and will keep you entertained while playing.

Conclusion

As expected, the virtual playground that is the Sims doesn't convert very well into the console world. Even with the added gameplay components like Karma, the experience is very much like Sims 3-lite compared to the larger world in Sims 3 for the PC. The conversion created two glaring problems; a convoluted interface and a smattering of performance issues. If you love the Sims series and have a beefy PC, you would be doing a disservice to yourself by purchasing either the Xbox 360 or Playstation 3 version over the PC version. But for those with older PCs and are perhaps new to the Sims series, the Sims 3 on the Xbox 360 offers a sizable taste of what makes the series so addicting to play. I'd recommend renting the game first to see if you don't mind the performance problems and then purchasing if you get addicted to building up your virtual Sims.



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