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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 windyrectum

What a. Shame I was really looking forward to this game. I guess I'll just have to get a real life now instead

Avatar image for BradBurns

@windyrectum No! Anything but that!

As a nerd, you're supposed to spend day and night building fake people online, but never pour even an ounce of effort on yourself. Then you might gain self-esteem and stop being a dork! NOOO-AAAH! Come back!

Avatar image for usernameonetwo

Another mediocre EA title. They pulled off the most features from the game to sell them for the little girls. I pay only for a full game. If EA doesn't want my money it's ok. Argh!

Avatar image for superbuuman

Very nice voice Mary Kish..tho need to relax more...sounds abit stiff. :P a 6??..should have been a 5 ..*kidding* :P

Avatar image for tekyondo

Kevein! you were with Summer Holiday too? gahhh no wonder she was acting all strange around me. She's a devious one stay far away wench!

Avatar image for jemoedr

So in a sense it is a dressed out Sims 3 with better graphics and new interactions at the cost of all the improvements made in 3. Right, not worth a penny while it was already ridiculously expensive.

Avatar image for Sargoroth

@jemoedr Correction: according to most people, the graphics are worse than Sims 3's ;)

Avatar image for jemoedr

@Sargoroth Well that makes it even worse :P

Avatar image for GH05T-666

To much has been removed from The Sims 4 compared to The Sims 3 to be worth anything over a 6/10

You cant design your own things with textures and there are not many color options, if you liked building houses in The Sim 3 then most likely you wont like it in The Sims 4.

Avatar image for Dark_Rage

Can't believe this.

Avatar image for wristbreaker

I swear, my chemistry professor talks livelier than this girl...

Avatar image for Sargoroth

@wristbreaker Kinda sounds like a funeral speech. "RIP Sims, we will miss you."

Avatar image for ---Cipher---

YAY!!!! Glad to hear this got what it deserved. I mean, CoD at least has the decency to update the maps but keep all the features.

On the bright side, I started playing Sims 3 again recently and that is a fairly good game!

Avatar image for Sargoroth

@---Cipher--- It got what it deserved? Like best selling game of the month in UK or something like that? EA never get's what it truly deserves ^^

Avatar image for wristbreaker

EA... FU...

Avatar image for wexorian

Ea should had wasted 400 million in marketing and gamespot would had give em 10/10

Avatar image for Verenti

The video review's delivery is perturbing. The tone is entirely wrong for this. She kept jumping between impassioned to story book narration. This is bad because I don't want either in my review; I want a sober and dispassionate assessment of the material. It was really distracting and I had difficult concentrating on the content.

Avatar image for neo-rtsd

@Verenti I was thinking this the entire time the video was playing. Something just seemed off. Her neutral voice is pleasing, but the way she read was just not right.

Avatar image for lilmcnessy

@Verenti she?

Avatar image for n0xinab0x

@Verenti Oddly enough it seemed as if it were Kevin was speaking in a female monotone voice. Good execution Mary.

Avatar image for solidmaster

Typical EA is typical.

Avatar image for uninspiredcup

- Announce 600 peices of DLC mounting to over £400

- Say EA was has listened to the fans criticisms with this being an answer


Avatar image for nothingformoney


Avatar image for hsmgaye

The Sims 4 is nothing more than downgrade. EA have no idea what they are doing.

Avatar image for simuseb2

Yeah I can't exactly disagree with the score despite thoroughly enjoying the game. For me, the series took many steps forward with this game, but it is the lack of content that ultimately brings it down. Honestly it feels like a blank canvas at this stage. A great canvas at that. The game looks and feels better than every Sims ever did. Multi-tasking made their lives feel more natural, path-finding has been improved, performance is superb, create a sim is amazing, build mode is actually really great. Its not gimped, just easier and faster to use. The sims in this game feel much more varied then they did in the past. The emotion system is fantastic. Skills are better. Dating is better. I even like the careers better in this one. Also, they improved the interface.

I have to disagree with something in this article though. I'm glad that they got rid of the laggy, buggy open world. Now we no longer have to waste precious time as our sim travels for hours towards their destination. Now there will no longer be empty community lots. The whole game just feels more focused as a result.

All things considered, Sims 4 is a vast improvement over its predecessor, but it lacks content. It's as though they made the perfect engine but forgot to make the game the engine was built for. An analogy would be what if Bethesda made Skyrim but without it's sprawling landscape. Yes. What if Skyrim had its improved combat, graphics, magic system, streamlined leveling system etc. You know, the entire base of its game... but then they made the world tiny. One small town with 10 npcs and one dungeon That's exactly how the Sims 4 feels.

Ultimately at this stage, the game is not worth it's full retail price. It's more like a starter kit. The real game is yet to come.

Avatar image for epichotcheese

EA didn't develop this game, the original creators from Maxis studio did. EA just make sure they rush the product with tons of DLCs and expansion in the near future.

Avatar image for nintendoboy16

@epichotcheese Maxis is owned by EA the same way Retro Studios is owned by Nintendo. Hell, they are even called "EA Maxis" now

Avatar image for warriors30

Are they even trying? It seems like EA doesn't really care about making great games anymore.

NHL 15, Sims 4... Meh. You're better off playing older (better) versions of these games.

Avatar image for BuBsay

@warriors30 "EA doesn't really care about making great games anymore"

I can't honestly name a game where EA went out of their way to have their developers provide quality in the past decade, not sure why you're noticing this just now.

Avatar image for TJsimulation

@BuBsay I agree partially with this only because of games like Dragon Age and Mass Effect 1. Every now and then, EA lets one of their developers try something new and branch out as well as take time to actually make the game probably thinking it won't do well. Then when it does and it receives critical acclaim, they speed up the process to try to recapture that success in the sequels only to crash and burn from rushing to money grab (the recycled environments, small world and weak DLC in DA2, lack of closure and pay-to-win/pay-to-customize Multiplayer micro-transactions in ME3).

I've got *some* hope for the new DA, but not much.

Avatar image for BuBsay

@TJsimulation But it's worth noting that I don't think DA 1 and ME 1 really count as "EA games".

Because the development of both started well before Bioware signed on to EA.

Avatar image for TJsimulation

@BuBsay that's definitely a good way to look at it.

Avatar image for ahpuck

@BuBsay @warriors30 NFS:MW came out 9 years ago, so yeah.

Avatar image for banderweir

@warriors30 Nah, they just prefer to sell you the rest of your game at a later date.

Avatar image for Sound_Demon

@warriors30 I don't know why you are addressing this matter NOW. It's been like this for years with all their games, I haven't bought an EA game since Dead Space but those a different devs (EA's just the publisher) Ubisoft is the same thing now.

Avatar image for ahpuck

@warriors30 EA doesn't care, we all know that. I'm sure they are like, "hey, they can't make hell any hotter".

Avatar image for BradBurns

Like any good corporation, you just keep chasing that short term profit off a cliff, EA! Go on with your bad self.

Avatar image for Sargoroth

@BradBurns Can't really call it short term profit. They've got much success with what they're doing for years now, sadly enough...

(Btw my avatar likes yours)

Avatar image for BradBurns

@Sargoroth @BradBurns Actually, if the brand is damaged to the point that sales will continue to decrease with each new release, then they are only thinking about short term profit, like most corporations.

They're taking advantage of the brand's mass appeal but eventually that won't be enough to increase sales release after release.

Just look at the million selling Sonic franchise. After so many low quality releases, the usually multimillion selling blue hedgehog's latest non-Wii U releases barely reached a million, since the the brand was damaged so badly.

I've even seem angry "nongamer" girls complaining about The Sims 4.

I'm just saying, if EA keeps it up, the brand will take a hit and eventually sales will decline.

Avatar image for obiken

Another Dud, where's the review for Dynasty?? First NHL 15 now this?? What a dogfood season.

Avatar image for 00J

If you've been curious about the Sims 4 go out and buy the Sims 3. I continue to play the Sims 3, the Sims 4 just can't equal how much work has gone into the Sims 3. You can even buy cars in the Sims 3 and you can control your sim at work!

Sims 3 is great, but you won't know just how great when you see this attempt at the Sims 4.

Avatar image for kidflash2000

@00J Yeah, I didn't like Sims 2. That turned me off of the series for good I think.

Avatar image for 00J

@kidflash2000 @00J Yup, the Sims 2 was better than the Sims, but when the Sims 3 came along, everything they did with it was going in the right direction. If you look at the Sims 3 options list it gives you everything that should be impossible to provide, what a game, you get pets, magic, fantasy sims, like vampires, genies, you can even make a ghost sim.

The sims 3 is openworld! You can leave your house, and run to the grocery store, no loading screens, you can even watch the other sims in the world going about their lives, making and having dinner, living in their homes, and going to work and stores.

It's amazing that the maxis group were sitting around the development table and agreeing to remove the open world aspect of the game, remove cars, and bikes etc, shrink the lot size, shrink the world size, cut out the natural terrain, i could go on all night...

What were they thinking? Maxis is suspect now, first Simcity and now the Sims? Someone needs to be replaced whoever is being allowed to make these decisions needs to go.

Oh, i forgot to add this should have been called

The SIMS PERSONALITIES this is NOT the successor to the Sims 3~

Avatar image for Celsius765

pitty I had high hopes for this game

Avatar image for Lord_luke

more review voice overs from this lady please!

Avatar image for fast2ghl

@Lord_luke I was thinking the same thing.... I could listen to Mary's voice all day long.

Avatar image for neodean19

I haven't posted on this website for many years, but I must say Mary you have an amazing voice for reviewing games.

Avatar image for MigGui

@eloquent_win I understand this is how they operated. but the series would be milked much longer if they could keep releasing good games every now and then. it's not good business if it's short lived. makes no sense to develop and release a bad game just to kill the series, and believe me, if the sims 4 stays like this they won't recover the money spent building it.

Avatar image for Vittorio877

I've been holding my laugh since the start of the review, just to burst when I read the "about the author". Kevin is the best

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