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In the past, The Sims games were split into two distinct categories. In the first category were the hit PC games, which sold millions of copies and changed the way that people looked at simulation games as a whole. Then there were the console spin-offs, which mostly played like lackluster knockoffs of the real thing. Sure, they were still decent games, but it often felt like EA had to sacrifice some of the depth and flexibility of the PC games for a more “console oriented” approach. This created a large divide between the games, one which EA has finally filled in with the release of The Sims 3 on consoles. This is the closest you’ll get to a pure Sims experience without booting up a computer.
Like in the PC version, you’ll start each game of The Sims 3 by crafting your own virtual family from scratch. The character editor is immensely flexible, so if you can imagine it, you can probably create it. Tweaking a character’s facial proportions, clothing options, and life story can eat up hours of your life if you so desire. Adding further depth is the personality system, which will allow you to assign certain character traits to each Sim that will govern how he or she reacts to different stimuli. For example, an insane Sim can pass time by talking to himself, while a Sim who hates children will often refuse to interact with the young ones. The depth of these systems really is quite astounding. On the other hand, it’s still simple to jump right in to a game with a preset or randomized character and have just as much fun.
This flexibility extends to the main game, which is again nearly indistinguishable from its PC counterpart in its feature set. Sims can form complex social relationships, get jobs, have children, go shopping, throw parties, and much more. The success of these actions will often depend on the attributes that you assigned to your Sim during the creation process, which is a great way of ensuring that no two games will feel the same. Couple this with the massive amount of home furnishing options, and The Sims 3 becomes a very deep game. Make no mistake, this game can last you a very long time if you so wish.
The console version of The Sims 3 actually has a leg up on the PC version in terms of replay value thanks to the addition of karma powers. Every day at midnight, one of two things will happen. Either your Sim will gain karma points, or some sort of disaster will occur and set your progress back. Karma points allow you to perform minor miracles in order to influence the game in a certain direction. For example, if your Sim is tired but you don’t want him to sleep, you can use karma to regenerate his entire fatigue bar. Karma can also be used for less savory purposes. Ghosts can be summoned to scare Sims, and earthquakes can be caused to destroy property, to name just a few. To ensure that the system stays balanced, using karma powers will lead to an occurrence of the opposite karmic alignment later on in the game. For example, if you restore your Sim’s fatigue meter too many times, an earthquake might blow up parts of your house. This helps to keep the game feeling fresh and unpredictable, and fixing the damage is often funny and never frustrating.
Unfortunately, all is not sunshine and roses for this console port. The one area in which the game really falters is in the user interface. Of course it would be impossible to make the game as intuitive as it is on PC, but using a game pad can still feel limiting at times. Actions that would only require one click of the mouse on the PC might require you to dig through an extra menu or two on consoles. This is by no means a game breaking issue, but all of the time spent trekking through extraneous menus does add up.
The PS3 edition of The Sims 3 also sports some lengthy load times despite a large required installation. It will take a little while to get in to a game, but once the loading is done everything will run smoothly. Graphically, the game looks extremely crisp and colorful. While it certainly can not compare to most high budget games on the PS3, the textures and character models are still nice enough. The audio package is kind of bare bones, but appropriate for the game. The Sims’ gibberish language is funny for a while, but it can start to get a little grating after hours of playing. What sound effects there are sound perfectly fine, but you’ll still see why it is standard practice for PC players to keep their iTunes open in the background during gameplay.
When all is said and done, is The Sims 3 for consoles as good as its PC counterpart? The answer is not as simple as you may think. The UI and load times have certainly taken a hit in the transition. However, for players who seek instant gratification, the karma powers more than make up for these relatively minor hitches. Every other facet of the experience is virtually the same, which is to say that the game as a whole is great. Thanks to a huge focus on customization, The Sims 3 gives you the ability to tell the story that you want to tell; whether that be a complex tale of a man rising to power in the world or the simple plight of a family trapped in a swimming pool for the entirety of their short lives (and let’s be honest, it is probably the latter,) you can make it happen. The Sims 3 for PS3 is the first console Sims game that is as easy to recommend as it is to get addicted to.