The Sims have made it to consoles before but not without reducing features that just wouldn't fit and sacrificing some of what makes the PC version so special. With the success of The Sims 3, it's not surprising that the Sims Studio is bringing the game over to next-generation consoles so that a wider audience can experience the joy of starting a sim family from scratch. We had an opportunity to see The Sims 3 for the Xbox 360 at the EA studio showcase in Redwood Shores, but this time, we played the PlayStation 3 version to get an idea of how the controls would feel. It's definitely not going to be as easy or as intuitive as a mouse, but everything of importance is mapped to one of the many buttons on a controller. So as long as you have those down, it should be relatively painless to navigate.
We didn't have a lot of time to spend with the game, but we did get to create a brand new sim to see how the editor transferred over. Like the PC version, we were able to pick a sim from various age groups, so we decided to go with a toddler and mess around with some onesies and face paint. Every detail can be tweaked, from eyebrows to beanie patterns, and everything you make, including houses, other sims, and patterns can be saved and uploaded to MyStudio. MyStudio is accessible via the main menu and lets you share what you've created with the community.
We were told that all the PC features have been moved to the console, with the exception of the ability to be able to customize everything you come across in a neighborhood, and there are loading times when you move from one location to another. Because we couldn't start the game with a toddler without a parent, we picked a random sim and jumped right into the game. As soon as you're placed in a home, you're given a seven-step tutorial that teaches you the basic controls. The L stick controls a green beam of light that acts as your cursor where you can highlight your sim and other objects of interest. The X button brings up all the options available for the highlighted item, and you can always reset your camera to your active sim with L3 or use R3 to center on your cursor. When you're in a building with a second floor, the L2 button lets you see what's happening upstairs. At first, it does feel a bit unwieldy when you're so used to pointing and clicking, but everything of importance is easily accessible. The R2 button will display a message log if you need to refer back to something the game is trying to tell you, and the square button gives you all the details you want to know about your sim.
To jump from one location to the next or access the newly added features, the select button will bring up a menu of things to do. Karma powers and the challenge system have been placed here, where you can build up karma points to use special powers on yourself or on other sims. The challenge and reward system is similar to achievements, where you'll have a list of 300 things you can complete throughout the game to earn points, which can then be used for shopping.
As we mentioned in our earlier preview, karma powers provide a way for you to change the story instantly. There are eight good powers and five mischievous ones. They include things like being able to raise a dead family member, causing an earthquake, and cursing a sim for a limited time. These powers do take points, so you can't continue using the power to magically clean everything, but when you do have the points to spend, they will yield amusing results. For example, we caused a minor earthquake while we were at the beach--just to see the reaction of the neighboring sims. To further torture them a little, we used the karma power epic fail on a young boy and watched how things panned out. When a sim is cursed with epic fail, everything he or she does will come with negative results. It didn't matter whom he talked to, but those negative relationship points just kept dropping with whomever he interacted. There are other devious ways to mess with your neighborhood sims, but we eventually ran out of time.
If for whatever reason you couldn't play The Sims 3 on the PC, you will find that there is much to do in The Sims 3 for consoles. The controls do take some getting used to, which is the downside to having two analog sticks, but the features have been carried over and some new additions have been made, making it worth a look if you've been itching to check out the game. The Sims 3 will be released on the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Nintendo Wii, and DS on October 26.