EA has yet to give us a great lean back version of "The Sims." I feel like that has a lot to do with the PC-focused legacy of "The Sims" than anything else. Even console-exclusive joints like "The Urbz " continued to utilize many of its brethrens' mechanics and systems, making for a clumsy title despite EA's obvious aspirations for "The Sims" console domination. Alas, things were supposed to be different this time around with the release of "The Sims 3" for consoles, and while I'd love to scream mission accomplished I just... can't.
"The Sims 3," like the 800 other games in the series, lets you micro-manage little people who need to pee every fifteen minutes and can't manage to do anything productive after five hours on the job. You play as a god of sorts, an overseer that is capable of guiding a group or a single Sim through the joys and monotony of life.
In this latest specifically, you'll be able to assign and complete daily tasks and long-term goals. You'll also be to create more lifelike Sims by assigning them quirks or traits. The most impressive addition, though, is that of the virtual city, a living world beyond your Sims house that he or she can train and interact within. On the technical side, nothing substantial has been changed in the console versions other than the addition of controller-friendly menus and UI elements.
It's The Sims!
The best, most inspired bits of design in the series are in "The Sims 3." You'll be able to construct your own narrative by living out the life of a digital person. You'll see all that he or she sees, be it trials, defeats, toilets, or accomplishments. And you'll also be able to build your Sims' world, either by broadening their skills via books or tools, constructing a new house or an addition, or creating new families with loved ones. These aspects, for whatever reason, have always failed to feel stale. There's a certain magic to them.
Jerk By Design
One of the most interesting wrinkles in "The Sims 3" comes via the character creation mechanism. During the process, you can assign very specific traits that define who your character is, making it quite possible to create complex characters with needs, desires, and immediate wants that extend beyond "Hunger" or "Rest." (I should note that this doesn't pan out AI-side too well -- dialogue spam will still get you whatever you want out of a person, no matter what he or she likes and doesn't.)
The Open World
If you've played "The Sims," you've spent a lot of time getting the cash needed to buy objects that raise skills. Wave goodbye to that, as this games' virtual city will give you places to practice and learn. The list includes everything between gyms and libraries. In a neat twist, this "open world" gives you more options to do things with other Sims (like go to a restaurant or a club).
This Feels Like 'Morrowind'
It's obvious that this version of the game wasn't optimized for consoles. You have to sit through two loading screens just to access your save file and then you have to wait through another one after you find your file. And if you want to leave your house and go anywhere you'll be met with more -- and this is with an install of the PS3 version.
Heavy And Unintuitive
There's a lot going on under the hood. Karma points (tacked-on currency that can be exchanged for special attacks on others or bonuses to your Sim), skill points, job points, wishes and desires, relationship points, rest, hunger, and still more points are added and subtracted every second in the game. All of these are shown in bulbous and cumbersome bits and pieces of UI that are hard to navigate and even harder to understand, mainly because the pop-up tutorials are terrible.
This Terrain Can't Get Any Flatter
There's a weird bug in the PS3 version that makes it impossible to continue building on property you've purchased. Level terrain is often not considered level by the game's standards, meaning you can't put down house foundations. On a slightly related note, I'm disappointed with the lack of build and item options, but I'm sure the game's "Exchange" -- which will allow EA to micro-transact us -- will fill out the gaps.
Time Is Still Thy Enemy
I've never spent an hour evacuating my bowels or washing dishes, but my Sims sure as hell do. The timing of actions as a whole is just plain off, making it hard to do time-sensitive and much more meaningful things in the game.
"The Sims 3" is a solid "The Sims" title. In fact, it's the most solid, most complex and game-like iteration yet. But it's still "The Sims," meaning time is always too short, aging seems a little too fast, and some of the core mechanics, like socialization, are cheese-able.
This console version is not the best. The game looks, feels, and plays like a port of a year-old game that was built specifically for the PC. If you're looking for a hearty console life simulation game that is less a sandbox and much more goal-oriented, I say go for "The Sims 3," but just be aware that it's cumbersome and nowhere near as fluid as the PC version.