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The Sims 4 Review

  • First Released Sep 2, 2014
  • Reviewed Sep 10, 2014
  • PC

The minigame of life.

GameSpot may get a commission from retail offers.

Control-shift-C-"motherlode." It's a series of commands that every Sims player knows, the one that infuses your bank account with precious simoleans for buying the fanciest lamps, laying the plushest carpet, and landscaping with the most impressive of shrubbery. Few games are so defined by their cheat codes, yet if you want to move a digital family into an upscale abode without devoting dozens of hours to building up funds, this code is your ticket to affordable maid service and plush window treatments.

This approach treats The Sims as a dollhouse, a role that The Sims 4 fulfills with some aplomb. If you want to build but prefer not to micromanage the details, the game comes with various prearranged rooms that you can fit together like Tetris pieces, but if you're devoted to the arts of architecture and interior design, you have the series most streamlined set of buying and building tools yet. Buy and Build modes share the same interface, making it simple to mix creation and decoration rather than forcing you to approach each activity as an opposing side of the same simolean. Stretching and dragging walls into properly modular rectangles? It's as easy as knowing how to use a mouse and keyboard. Not sure what category a chess set falls under? Just type a keyword into the search field and select the best match. Given the conflation of two modes into one, and the amount of categories to sift through, The Sims 4 does a creditable job of leading you right to the objects and tools you're seeking.

On the surface, there would seem to be more than enough styles and objects from which to choose: sofas of various shapes and colors, tiles for making your bathroom as 1970s-era-tacky as you'd like, and other means of personalizing the homes of your little computer people. When the time comes to set up a life of leisure, however, the boundaries become more rigid than they first appear. The Sims 3's Create-a-Style options, which let you texturize and paint your surfaces and textiles in intricate ways, has been dropped, leaving only predetermined colors in their place. Color can make a great throughline for aesthetically linking various shapes and styles, but should you gun for an eclectic interior, you quickly find that objects don't always have the same hues available between them. Mixing and matching can make a room look more random than refined; the Create-a-Style option provided a means of connecting disparate decor, and its loss diminishes creativity.

In fact, The Sims 4 as a rule feels diminished when compared to even the vanilla version of The Sims 3, before it had the benefit of add-ons that let you be a ghostbuster and live in high-rises. Much has already been made of the features that didn't make the cut, but even if you don't have a list of those features on hand when you play, the squashed purview is apparent. I didn't mind the small lot I initially laid claim to until I decided to splurge on a telescope, an item that at one time was compact enough to fit into a small corner of the yard. By contrast, The Sims 4's starting telescope, a gargantuan beast that most amateur astronomers would kill to own, couldn't fit, and I ultimately erected it on a public lot, in front of the library. Previous Sims modders (and a Sims 2 expansion) had introduced microscopes to the mix, but I had no room for the lab-quality colossus in The Sims 4. Limitations, limitations, limitations. It wasn't The Sims I had gotten used to over the last several years.

Creating a nice home is simple--provided you don't want a basement.
Creating a nice home is simple--provided you don't want a basement.

The Sims 4 doesn't just take away. It has presents to give, too, in the form of new kinds of social interactions, objects, and other charming detours that make keeping an eye on your sims a sheer delight. Multitasking is at the forefront of these changes: sims greet visitors without putting down their cereal bowls and chat while gardening. Using the toilet is also not an event your sims have to fully focus on, and I laughed heartily when the digital version of myself sat on the john while playing games on his tablet; it really was like peeking in on a little me. My sim daughter, meanwhile, felt it was appropriate to drink her orange juice while peeing, a combination of activities I am not sure I can support.

I am not sure I should share my misgivings with the young woman, though. In The Sims 4, sims are quite moody, getting embarrassed should you send one sim to the shower when another is seated on the toilet, and getting randy when they're in the vicinity of their spouses. You're constantly pushed to take advantage of these moods, earning points for small accomplishments that you spend on rewards that provide temporary buffs (get energized immediately!) or permanent enhancements (never get fired!). Sims also gain access to new kinds of social interactions when they get moody--angry sims want to get in fights, embarrassed sims need reassurance, focused sims want to play chess, and so forth.

No Caption Provided
Hand buzzers and holographic video games: Entertainment at its best!
Hand buzzers and holographic video games: Entertainment at its best!

Changes in mood are accompanied by predictably ridiculous exclamations in the gibberish language known as simlish. One sim I closely maintained was particularly mischievous, fooling neighbors with a hand buzzer and insulting anyone that dared assemble at the club while she sucked down a nightcap. I would have her make fun of other sims' clothing, which she did in an adorable snotty tone, causing her victim to recoil in horror at her obnoxiousness. I gave that same sim the snobby trait, and selected a default walk animation which had her head tilted upwards so that she could look down her nose at the plebeians that dared walk the same Earth. Watching her strut her stuff was consistently wonderful, though she wasn't the only digital person worth keeping an eye on: miniature me would use books as puppets, opening and closing them like mouths and mimicking what they might say before cracking them open and actually reading. Watching your sims in action means having a frequent smile stretched across your face.

Turning these individual activities into long-form stories isn't as compelling as it was in The Sims 3, however. The previous game's open world, which allowed for seamless travel and smooth multi-sim control, has been replaced by smaller lots separated by loading screens--a system that harks back to older games in the series. Having to stare at a loading screen when you want to travel to the park is distracting enough; moving back to your home lot to maintain other family members and finding them standing stiffly in front of the house, waiting for your commands rather than naturally going about their business, is even more so.

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Death and woohoo. The circle of Sims life.
Death and woohoo. The circle of Sims life.

The deeper you wish to go, the more roadblocks you stumble upon. Perhaps it's sensible that a game with no large spaces to traverse would not feature bicycles, but I still miss riding across town, zooming over hills and through valleys until I reached the graveyard and harassed the ghosts there. Not only is transportation gone, but so are the hills and valleys, all of them smoothed out into a uniformly flat surface that doesn't support basements or terraforming. Elsewhere, the emphasis on specific tasks detracts from the freeform noodling. When giving my first birthday party, for instance, I was so focused on fulfilling assigned tasks like serving drinks that I failed to notice how differently The Sims 4 handled birthday cakes than its predecessor. I missed being able to simply buy the cake, scatter around some balloons, and have a wonderful time. When I had failed to please the birthday girl, I didn't feel as though I hadn't given everyone a good enough time--I felt like I hadn't clicked on the right things in the right order. It is in that distinction that you find the difference between The Sims 4 and its predecessor.

In short, The Sims 4's biggest problem is that The Sims 3 exists, and describing where it stumbles by necessity means looking at where the series has been. This is a lovely and lively game that elicits constant smirks, but The Sims 4's moments never feel like part of a bigger picture. Spontaneity is limited in turn, which brings me back to that gargantuan telescope now sitting in front of the library. Gazing at the stars means enduring a loading screen, and while I appreciate the top-level commands that I can issue to family members playing in other lots, simultaneously spending time with other sims means enduring even more loading screens, or forcing my family to travel together. I love looking at and listening to The Sims 4, but those little digital people aren't so enchanting as to keep me hooked--not when a decked-out version of The Sims 3 is far more inviting.

Back To Top
The Good
Colorful visuals and fantastic audio make watching your sims a joy
The core build and buy tools are both robust and accessible
Moods and multitasking lead to hilarious sim actions
The Bad
Cramped structure limits personal stories and restrains multi-sim control
Far too many series features have been frustratingly pruned or removed
About GameSpot's Reviews

About the Author

Kevin VanOrd can't count the number of times he wearily dragged himself to bed at four in the morning while playing the original Sims. He has nurtured two large households over the course of 30 hours or so for this review. He still feels weird having watched the maid walk around his digital sim's dead body while she cleaned the kitchen.
488 Comments  RefreshSorted By 
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Avatar image for MugenTheKing

Really all I want from this game is a livestream of this game with all of Seinfeld built out in Simworld. Then I can occasionally tune in and see what is going on.

Avatar image for MAD_AI

Wait for a sale with several DLC packs a year or two down the road.

Avatar image for Anigmar

@MAD_AI This game won't hold the current high price for long, it simply can't.

Avatar image for Lord_Vader

Kevin is the most honest reviewer on this website. I'm glad he gave this piece of trash what it deserves.

Avatar image for Stevo_the_gamer

@Lord_Vader The review hardly calls the game "trash" -- it's still a game that can be worth playing, but it's too stripped compared to its predecessor which obviously as irked a few.

Avatar image for chuckles471

@Stevo_the_gamer @Lord_Vader We all know that no matter what games websites say, a 7 is average, and anything below that is a negative rating. All reviewer's say they don't do that but most seem to conform to it.

C'mon even the actual games developers see anything less than a 8 as a failure.

Avatar image for Kevin-V

@chuckles471 @Stevo_the_gamer @Lord_Vader I like this game. If I didn't, I would have written so. Trust me, I have no qualms giving out 2s or 5s or 3s or whatever to games I think earn those scores. In any case, I think this is a decent game--and I think "decent" is a good descriptor for 6s. Or "fair," of course, which is our official descriptor.

Avatar image for Jacanuk

Kevin you are being way way way to generous with that 6, The Sims 4 is what happens when Maxis and EA sits down and makes 95% of their game DLC based and all you get is just enough to get the most diehard fans happy and content and the rest content. There are so many things missing that i am surprised that this is even being considered a actual release.

Avatar image for mtouchprod

It's almost as if it was designed for an eventual mobile port.

Avatar image for balrogbane

Is it becoming customary on Gamespot to not post video reviews now?

Avatar image for Kevin-V

@balrogbane We had major layoffs. A video review is coming, just a bit later.

Avatar image for dolchi21

@Kevin-V @balrogbane sorry to hear that

Avatar image for Raizak

@Kevin-V @balrogbane That's a shame, but at least we still have you. Keep up the good work!

Avatar image for balrogbane

@Kevin-V Dang! well that sucks. I kinda feel bad for asking.

Avatar image for donutking7

@balrogbane I suppose it's because Kevin is doing the Destiny review as well, so he is probably swamped right now, and since The Sims 4 is such a meh experience he decided to focus on something more worthwhile. On and not to mention that he steps in for people on Gamespot all the friggin time.

Avatar image for balrogbane

@donutking7 just recently several games have not had a video review NHL and Madden to name a few.

Avatar image for dreminemike

@balrogbane better. i'd rather read it. can read it later or on the train or while at work in a meeting. video limits that shit. and some of the reviewers are just awful to listen to, even though their writing style is great.

Avatar image for fabs1

@dreminemike @balrogbane Carolyn.

Avatar image for Glic2K

I'd been looking forward to this review. Nicely written, albeit a bit short.

One mistake I'd like to point out, however: those goals the game presents when you have a birthday party are strictly optional. If you want to host a party without the goals, you can uncheck the box that says "prestige event" or whatever it's called.

Avatar image for fabs1

@Glic2K How does that make sense compared to real life?

Avatar image for Gamerno6666

DLC: the game.

Avatar image for balrogbane

There "Captain DLC" stood staring from afar at the great trash heap that was the Sims 4. He then leaped into the fray grabbing dollars left and right from scared and confused early buyers. He then shouted triumphantly to the buyers that he had fixed the colossal wreck that was the Sims 4. The buyers were now more confused then ever. Had they been helped or robbed? In either case "Captain DLC" was sure to return soon and make the Sims 4 a little less sh1t......for a price.

The end.

Avatar image for zaku101

Great Review!

Avatar image for Random_Matt

I love DLC.

Avatar image for fabs1

@Random_Matt Put another dime in the jukebox baby!

Avatar image for Grodoboldo

@Random_Matt Haha, nice try Andrew Wilson.

Avatar image for shamz2648

Great Ea, Great move, if you do anything more like this than you are gonna be freaking bankrupt.

Avatar image for xsonicchaos

Why hardcore gamers need to avoid this game, Jess!

Avatar image for Gamerno6666

@xsonicchaos Man the way she was defending the game on youtube. Just sad.

Avatar image for Gamerno6666

David cage is gonna like this game because of all the emotions.

Avatar image for greenkidd529

what is the game that made David Cage's ame so famous?

there are many video game writers and only David Cage and Ken Levine get mentioned by name.

WHy is that?

Avatar image for Stebsis

@greenkidd529 @Gamerno6666 Because they're not just writes, they're head of their studios, unlike most writers, and are in charge of the game projects and designing them. They're in the games media a lot because they're usually the ones who talk about their game, some developers don't even have really an identity but it's the publisher who's kind of in charge what game the dev is making, but not with Irrational Games and Quantic Dream. And Ken Levine is respected game developer, he is famous for System Shock 2, Thief and Bioshock, they're critically acclaimed games and about always ending up in top games lists in sites like Gamespot etc. And David Cage did Indigo Prophecy/Fahrenheit, Heavy Rain and Beyond Two Souls, many like them, many don't and say what you want about them being interactive movies and not really games etc. but they've been very successful. There are also people like Cliff Bleszinski, Hideo Kojima, Shigeru Miyamoto etc. who are mentioned by name because they've been in charge of very famous games and been in the foreground talking about them. Ken and David didn't become famous because they write the game, but because they're in charge of the game, designed it themselves, and shown they can do something special that people will remember for a long time

Avatar image for Stebsis

@Gamerno6666 But there are no QTE's so he might feel a bit conflicted

Avatar image for leikeylosh

It's a shame, really. I mean, they could've improved so many details in the main game, like the motherfreakin' time it takes a Sim to just switch from one action to another. My Sim was late for work four days in a row because he was doing some other stupid thing which took almost an hour in game's time.

Avatar image for Glic2K

@leikeylosh Well, they did improve that, actually. Unfortunately, one of the ways they "improved" it is by simply removing cars and carpools completely. Now when your Sim goes to work, he disappears and he's instantly at work.

Avatar image for chemicalegypt

DLC ready for deployment !

Avatar image for Gamer3344

This is like 1/10 of the full game, don't buy it.

Avatar image for Grodoboldo

Can you hear it?

It's the sound of ALL OF THE INCOMING DLC marching this way.

Hashtag Profitz.

The Sims 4 More Info

  • First Released Sep 2, 2014
    • Linux
    • Macintosh
    • + 3 more
    • PC
    • PlayStation 4
    • Xbox One
    The Sims 4 is a simulation game that lets players create new Sims with intelligence and emotion.
    Average Rating362 Rating(s)
    Please Sign In to rate The Sims 4
    Developed by:
    Maxis, Electronic Arts
    Published by:
    Electronic Arts
    Content is generally suitable for ages 13 and up. May contain violence, suggestive themes, crude humor, minimal blood, simulated gambling and/or infrequent use of strong language.
    Crude Humor, Sexual Themes, Violence