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Critical Reception: EA's The Sims 3

This week's edition of Critical Reception examines online reaction to Electronic Arts' life simulation franchise sequel The Sims 3, which reviews describe as "a broad and ridiculously charming game" -- comments, consensus within.

Danny Cowan, Blogger

June 10, 2009

4 Min Read

This week's edition of Critical Reception examines online reaction to Electronic Arts' life simulation franchise sequel The Sims 3, which reviews describe as "a broad and ridiculously charming game." The Sims 3 currently earns a score of 87 out of 100 at Metacritic.com. Samantha Nelson at The Onion's A.V. Club gives The Sims 3 a grade of A-. "A nearly overwhelming amount of options, data, and details come packed into The Sims 3," she explains. "Improving on everything from the last two editions, the newest game about running digital lives feels far more organic and customizable." These improvements range from noticeable to minute. "Everything from the angle of characters’ chins to the pattern on their shoes can be altered according to players’ whims," Nelson says. "Ornate houses can be built from the ground up. You can craft personalities from dozens of options, building anything from a charismatic, schmoozing party animal to an insane genius who dreams of becoming an evil overlord." "One of the most dramatic changes is the lack of load screens," Nelson continues. "You can watch your Sims as they jog to the park or drive to work, and they can socialize with people they pass on the street." Nelson feels that the game is worth a purchase for series fans who want more precise control over their Sims' lives. "The opportunity to make highly intricate social and career decisions is sure to appeal to any control freak," she notes, "or anyone who’s dreamed of trying out an entirely different life path." Game Informer's Joe Juba rates The Sims 3 at 9 out of 10. "In the nine years since the original Sims released, the franchise has been the subject of various sequels, spin-offs, and expansions," he begins. "After all of those iterations and evolutions, I am amazed that The Sims 3 holds the same magnetic charm for me as its predecessors." The Sims' core gameplay has been overhauled to focus on long-term goals, rather than on immediate needs. "The meters representing your sims’ basic needs are still present, but they are no longer the main factor driving your decisions," Juba writes. "They drain slower and fill faster, which shifts your attention away from constant mood-juggling and allows you to more time to explore more rewarding pursuits." Juba continues: "Your moment-to-moment play is driven by a series of clever aspirations that provide a steady stream of opt-in activities, which makes the whole world feel more hospitable and rewarding. Take a few days to write a novel, and you’ll find it in the local library for all to read. Head to the gym for a workout, and you'll see an improvement in your physique." "While the basic concept of guiding a virtual person through the trials and triumphs of everyday life remains unchanged," Juba admits, "the nuances have reached new highs in this installment. If you think this series is still about eating and sleeping while trying not to pee yourself, you need to see the strides The Sims 3 makes." At Eurogamer, Alec Meer scores The Sims 3 at 8 out of 10, praising the tweaks that make the Sim characters more realistic than ever. "I made me, as every good little egomaniac does in a Sims game - and he ended up behaving like me, living the life I lead," Meer relates. "The game's jumped from the abstract wish-fulfilment dollhouse of the past into a strange, sprawling thing of character-simulation/assassination, the out-and-out fantastical (sim-me eventually escalated from jaded hack to best-selling author, before expiring and then haunting his old house), and community-created content." The Sims 3's open-world setup is also an improvement. "It's now set in an open world, rather than every location being an isolated cell you teleport between," Meer notes. "Wherever you go, you'll find other sims bimbling along, ready for a chat, scrap or impromptu game of chess." "It's all a little too neat to feel truly like a living world - those sims remain very much simulations - but it allows for so much more anecdote-fuelling randomness," Meer continues. "I also found it a useful way to indulge more sociopathic tendencies - a grumpy itch could be scratched by harassing some poor pensioner in the park, rather than upsetting an existing sim-relationship." Meer finds The Sims 3 worthwhile, despite its lack of interior and clothing options. "The Sims 3 is a broad and ridiculously charming game that manages to significantly expand upon its critical formula without ever becoming overwhelming," Meer concludes. "It may suffer a few glaring compromises, but it's an essential play for anyone with an interest in what videogames can achieve outside of a targeting reticule."

About the Author(s)

Danny Cowan


Danny Cowan is a freelance writer, editor, and columnist for Gamasutra and its subsites. Previously, he has written reviews and feature articles for gaming publications including 1UP.com, GamePro, and Hardcore Gamer Magazine.

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