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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.

No Caption Provided
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 BuzzLiteBeer

It still baffles me that EA is still in business. While many of us who are actively engaged in gaming culture boycott EA, most others aren't even aware of EA's manipulative and profit driven approach to making/selling games. EA is wildly successful despite all the negative press and user feedback and it will continue to thrive no matter how much they are exposed.

Avatar image for deactivated-58e3156c76d0d

@BuzzLiteBeer EA is doing well? News to me. Try Googling "ea quarterly loss" and see what show sup.

Avatar image for TJsimulation

A loss here and there does not mean they aren't thriving from people who don't know any better.

Avatar image for PinchySkree

This game just got KevinVanScored.

Avatar image for befo72

@PinchySkree And it sounds as if he was a bit KevinVanBored.


Avatar image for KostasFavatas

Whaaaat?..They gave The Sims 4 a 6..while Deadpool got a 5.5 and TES Online a 6???

Are they serious?..The Sims 4 should be named The Sims 1 HD...instead of making The Sims series even better they took a huge leap always EA is disapointing me unstoppably..or sould i say lectronic Art$ is only thinking of ways to get more and more money...

Avatar image for Hekteur

@KostasFavatas yeah.. The Sims 4 is EXACTLY like the first Sim game... with upgraded graphic... and multitasking... and emotion system... open world actually being present (NO, loading screens doesn't remove the "open world" from a game The Elder Scroll and every other open worlds always had loading screen), all the new customization options, that new solid Sim creator, that entirely new game engine, tons of new interaction, tons of new skills (do you actually remember how many skills there was in the first Sim game???), and while I could keep the list going for long, I'm just going to stop right here.

Avatar image for XHawk222

Well, as awesome as Kevin can be, and as right as he can be,I just have to say that I still think this whole review has been overreacted from the get-go. He obviously made it known that it was going to be low, just 6 is again too low... A 7 could have been fair.
The thing that bothers me though, is that especially Kevin always has these big speeches about how games should be super hard, so hard that you will just have a heart-attack from annoyance. Yeah, over-doing it a little, but htat's the point, because EVERY game Kevin talks about, is too easy (Well, believe me Infamous can be easy, but Kevin, for the love of god, do you really not realize that not everyone wants that? or can handle it? That me, with my visual impairment, had a few problems here and there, and that it was kind of "hard" instead of SOOO easy as you make it sound)
BUT, the biggest thing is that everything always has to be SO innovative and new too (Apart from when it's Destiny or Evolve, I mean, those games are such basic ideas, just graphically a little impressive and having a few good game modes, but INSTANTLY those are the most amazing games ever >.<) So why the heck is it that when the Sims does something new, for once, in all those years, and in all those overly amount of DLC packs, it's suddenly SUCH a bad thing, you give it a freaking 6? It's just hilarious in a way that it's just never okay anymore obviously. It's never hard enough, it's never new enough, or when it's new, it's too new and we can't wait until the game gets updated again or something.
*Sigh* It just really dissapoints me that time and time again the last few months, this site and it's credibility is going so much down the toilet again...

Avatar image for loafofgame

@XHawk222 It's a number. It doesn't matter. It won't make you enjoy the game less or more. Just read the review, see whatever arguments Kevin brings to the table and see if it resonates with you. And then complain about his arguments. Why do you (and so many others) have to complain about that meaningless score? It could have been a 0.87, it could have been a :-P, it could have been a banana. It doesn't change anything about the content of the review. This shouldn't be about the arguments justifying the score, this should be about the actual arguments.

Avatar image for krayziestryker

@XHawk222 Yo its just lacks in anything, i could give you a list why its a bad Sims. But no i won't had enough to state my opinion. This Game lacks just not only Sims 3 Base Feature it lacks in much more, this is a literally milk cow game to DLCs and lots of EPs, its not a actual and ready Game and not 50-100 Bucks worth.

I would give it personally only 5/10 cause EA and Maxis should learn, that we don't want this content lacking Games from them.

I did prebought it cause i am a Sims Fan since the beginning from the Sims Franchise. I did it bought blindly and was more than just disappointed, it wouldn't even bother me that Sims 4 is back to its roots. But it lacks just basic contents and thats is unforgiveable. I am just saying its missing, firefighter, burglars, police, newspaper ect. Thats common Sims NPCs, also they cut many Jobs and didn't bother to cut more content off. And only brought a raw Game for me.

So for me its a fair Score. So enough said

Avatar image for bezza2011

@XHawk222 Your saying this over the Sims, it got a low score because it's gone backwards from Sims free, them lots are so small, loading screens??? I thought we was passed that on PC, 6 is fair it's above average, but most be people have come to realize that The Sims is a money grab at best, Where are the swimming pools??? you know the things which have been in the game since the original, where are the Toddlers??? just another thing to tick on the least of what else they can make money out of people who are so blind, you can't put out a sequel which is featureless and so backwards from the one before and expect a good score, compared to the sims 3 this game is bare bones

Avatar image for digishah

No offense Mary but your narration doesn't have that oomph that Kevin does....

Avatar image for mappyislove

@digishah as much as I agree with your comment, she does have a very hot voice :)

Avatar image for RedWave247

I'd complain about this game, but I'd be afraid EA would take the complaint and make it DLC.

Avatar image for nbf4548

@RedWave247 Hey that's a brilliant idea. $4.99 User Feedback Content Pack.

Avatar image for karkar88

The game feels like an Early Access from steam.. the hair, the clothes, the stuff i mean almost everything... EA deliberately make all this incomplete for them to make sure we will buy a DLC... lots of DLC...

Avatar image for Hekteur

@karkar88 You clearly never even tried an early access on Steam. Don't just throw out some random insult that makes you look like you know the subject. Go out there and have fun with the billions of early access still looking like first playable material (first playable means even earlier than pre-alpha btw) and with barely one update every 3 years.

Avatar image for karkar88

@Hekteur @karkar88 I know what Steam is.. What I am talking about is the quality of the game.. its like Early Access from Steam.. becuz the game really feels like an early stages of development. Its playable but unfinished...

Avatar image for krayziestryker

@karkar88 i agree everytime after my game session i think its lacks here and there. Lol

Maybe they gave us a Early Access Game and just charged us with the Full price haha 30 h waste of my life Thanks EA FU

Avatar image for wezkilla

@karkar88 thasts why you pirate the sims dude

Avatar image for Shelledfade1

@karkar88 the amount of dlc that still exists for the sims 3 is ridiculous. To buy the sims 3 and expansions costs over 200 dollars right now.

I can't imagine what their plans are for dlc regarding the sims 4. DLC for 20 dollars that barely gains you any extra content is ridiculous in the first place. Weather, pools, pets, that kind of bs should be in the main game to begin with.

Avatar image for karkar88

@Shelledfade1 expect for worse... esp after removing some a basic stuff in the vanilla game... I except lots of lots of DLC

Avatar image for ripperoni

Well written review. Pretty much nailed it. Gamers as consumers need to be rewarding innovation, improvements and progress. Sims 4, NHL 15, are all steps backwards in terms of that. They not only fail to take the gameplay to new heights, they actually have less content and fewer features than their predecessors. As far as I'm concerned Sims 4 and NHL 15 would ideally be both huge financial failures. Send a message and maybe they'll stop doing dumb stuff.

Avatar image for cvantu

@ripperoni gamers are too stupid to reward innovation. If anything innovative comes out, they just call it a "gimmick"

Avatar image for brunod_f

@ripperoni Unfortunatelly, on this case, both games and especially Sims 4 has a huge fanbase that will buy just about anything they throw at, no matter how terrible it is.

Avatar image for vadagar1

let me just finish digging this grave here... next to RIP C&C and RIP dead space and RIP...... oh god there are so many so many ....

Avatar image for Dav_id83

I can understand that they wanted to get the annoying performance issues out of S4 that S3 had like Sims getting stuck somewhere in the town or for what I have had recently the game working in Buy mode but then locking up completely in play mode only for the camera and features like TVs or water fountains working my Sim stuck in place. But the game doesn't use anything of modern hardware why because in a sense if they had to take away Create A Style it must of been that what was causing issues with loading textures and seem to me like S4 engine is nothing more than a strip down version of S3 which is sad.

Maxis/EA will release expansions and I can say the city will be one

Avatar image for DefconRave

EA, it's not in the game (but will be in paid dlc later) [Full game not included]

Avatar image for vadagar1

@DefconRave LOL

Avatar image for vadagar1

@eloquent_win 6 for me is crap and dont forget he has to score this game as a SEPARATE ENTITY

if its a compared to SIMS3 kinda thing then it would be a 1/10

Avatar image for odolwa99

Start your watches ladies & gentlemen. Someone is going to hack this any day now & we'll be able to do all the stuff that was already available in Sims 3!!

Avatar image for vadagar1

I want Kevin's voice : /

Avatar image for JJMikhail

Review of games is hardly going to block anyone from actually buying the game, ultimately you won't know until you play it, you may end up liking the game even though the review is correct on the aspect of the modes, features etc not being there but in the end we do get bored of the old games and like to try something new.

All companies are guilty of this, it isn't just EA.

Avatar image for jenovaschilld

@JJMikhail Very true post, but you should know millennials and younger are more educated buyers then ever before, and many of them check reviews before purchase. and like all fans of a game as we get more jaded or just tired of the formula EA sims games need to replace those fans with new. And where will they get those new fans with this game getting panned by journalist left and right.

Avatar image for khankalili

@jenovaschilld @JJMikhail

Millennials? Educated buyers?? Are you serious or joking? You're talking about children, who get their money from their parents (and maybe a paper route) as adults whop are good with money. I bet some are but most are definately not. What about the microtransaction thing with mobile games: parents won a law suit because their children (aged up to 16!!) were spending their money too easily.

Checking a review is not a smart/sensible thing to do. It doesn't make you an educated buyer, and if there's one thing I 've learned it's that bad reviews do not stop children from buying things (especially with money they haven't even earned through labour), or asking for things form their parents.

How long did you play with your christmas/birthday presents?

And how many times did you get something bad from relatives (who definately don't check reviews), cause it's not just children who don't make the best decisions.

Avatar image for iambateman

Great review Kevin!

EA just seem to have built a lot of their games on the simple fact that they're by the most part played by casual gamers, I'm looking at you The Sims and Fifa! From what I got The Sims 3 was when the series hit its peak (personally I'm happy enough with my free legal copy of The Sims 2), and my copy of FIFA 11 is just fine for some matches against friends.

It'll only be when people stop buying these games that EA will just continue to build on their products with DLC (or more likely abandon them altogether)

Avatar image for game_gt3

why is kevin not voicing his reviews? is he having any troubles talking? i hope thats not the case.

Avatar image for nothingformoney

@game_gt3 Maybe he's just unavailable at the moment?

Avatar image for Ballock

@nothingformoney @game_gt3 one word: Destiny

Avatar image for Sir_Claude

Mary Kish did a great voice over for the video review... really cool

Avatar image for deactivated-57bac25e99ee3

Well it looks like EA can only continue on it's path of self-destruction. I bet we'll see Dragon Age Inquisition have a bad launch next.

Avatar image for TJsimulation

I'm holding onto hope for that one because I would hate to see such a wonderful series and IP fail because of a terrible and impatient publisher/developer, but I'm definitely still apprehensive. I don't know for sure if Bioware learned from ME3's lack of closure or not. If they have to patch in an extended ending again I might flip a table.

Avatar image for mari2kde

Who cares...

My GF likes it, and thats all I want.

Dont tell me there are actually (gamer) guys that play this....

Avatar image for BoxOfPocky

@mari2kde So basically, you're stereotyping and saying only females play The Sims? Can I also infer that you are also one of those people who thinks only males play FPS and MMOs? Guess The Sims aren't the only thing backtracking.

Avatar image for DuskStrider

@mari2kde Yeah, how dare "gamer guys" play a game I perceive to be aimed at a female demographic...

Avatar image for TJsimulation

@DuskStrider right? Let's continue gender stereotypes and make men believe they should feel uncomfortable for liking a strategy game based on life, says the super butch "I kill everything" "Be a man" boy. I bet if a girlfriend tried to play CoD he'd take the controller away from them and tell her to make him a sandwich.

Avatar image for Caldrin

EA strikes again..

Avatar image for froggiestone

First the hugely disappointing sim city last year and now this ? what is going on ?

Avatar image for skyx26

@froggiestone EA???

Avatar image for nardak

Thumps up for Kevin Van Ord. Nice to see a review where the content of the review reflects the actual score.

Avatar image for BradBurns

Oh, Van Ord, you doll!

I was hoping someone would call EA out on this slop job. My faith was not misplaced on you.

This is probably the most crude attempt at selling you half a product yet.This is almost like a demo that you pay full price for. I'm glad you gave it an appropriate score. Reviewers have to be responsible and inform consumers on scams like these.

Avatar image for Sargoroth

I really liked the quote: "The Sims 4's biggest problem is that Sims 3 exists"

That really sums up everything that's wrong here.

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