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The Sims 4 Review

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

The minigame of life.

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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 shamatuu257

why do you peoples still play these kind of games?

Avatar image for karkar88

@shamatuu257 mostly girls are the one who playing this game.... and girls dont pirate

Avatar image for indzman

Meh. Why play these kind of girly games, better play action packed fun games as Black Flag, Wolfenstein New Order, Dead Rising 3.

Avatar image for Scarshi

The problem with the open world of previous versions is that it always created loopholes or bugs. Cars/people/objects would get stuck and create memory leaks creating the slowdowns the sims games were famous for. I've actually had no problems yet with Sims 4, mostly due to the neighbourhood being a closed environment and the AI being that bit better at not complaining about everything blocking their path.

I do miss some of the enhancements of Sims 3 and 2, but considering I still have those games, its not a problem to go back and mod the heck out of them again. If only to justify playing it "my" way.

Sims 4 is moddable thank goodness. This makes the game have potential no matter which way you play.

Avatar image for jesseb

@Scarshi "Potential."

I'm not sure if you are aware, but the Sims 3 - with its CPU-intensive open world and Create a Style - came out in May of 2009. That, 5 years later, you have to revert to a lesser product is nearly unbelievable, when there have been continuous advancement in terms of hardware and coding experience. You can't take out core features you once touted and call it a sequel. "Potential" is another word for "lacking." $70 should get you something at least as good as $60 got you 5 years ago. This doesn't even come close.

Avatar image for Scarshi

@jesseb I am aware. Been playing since Sims 1. Gaming was so much simpler in the 80's and 90's. Sequels were all about more and bigger. Now its about streamlining.

Hardware isn't gaining in speed as much anymore. We're hitting more barriers than open ground. Smarter software is what is needed. But you can't rebuild the same way exactly as before. That only creates the same problems. Sims 4 doesn't have everything as it was but I'd rather take a step back than hit the same barriers.

Avatar image for jesseb

@Scarshi @jesseb ... but that is exactly what a sequel isn't supposed to be. Running into the same barriers means working around and through those problems - not deciding they're impossible to deal with entirely.

Too CPU intensive for Create a Style textures? Fine. But there's no longer even a color wheel. It was a much touted feature, and a vast improvement over both previous games, and they eliminated it without attempting to improve it first.

Open world too hard? Fine. Add loading screens. No what's not fine? Having worlds that - even with loading screens - have a quarter of the lots of the base Sims 3. Both neighborhoods in the Sims 4 combined are half the number of lots as in Sunset Valley.

And don't get me started on other removals that nearly break immersion, from no toddlers (magic expanding babies, coming to a game near you!) to no landscaping to no basements to no pools to not even a friggin dishwasher. You're telling me it was necessary to include not one, but two virtual reality simulators... but we can't have dishwashers? Or cars? Or any transportation? Or coastal lots? Or swimming? Or any other features that have were possible a decade ago, but apparently aren't now? That's a farce.

This isn't a "step back" to avoid hitting the same barriers. This is a step back, period.

Avatar image for Scarshi

@jesseb I think you are right on many things. They are things I miss.

Although ... lecturing me about it does nothing. Get onto and start a petition. Get your voice out and get some signatures to prove something to EA.

One last thing; if you want to lecture somebody, and be heard, fill in your Profile. Seriously. Being anonymous may feel protective, but it just makes you a nobody with a lot to say.

Avatar image for cgobeil

I'm glad that I decided to not buy another EA game ever again after the SimCity fiasco, good review!

Avatar image for saturatedbutter

I've heard some good things about the new emotions system, so I was very much interested in this. No longer would relationships and skills and ability just be the same exact formula. Discuss, Discuss, Hug, Kiss, Woohoo. Sometimes it was just that easy. Now you have to use the emotions to efficiently achieve your goals. It's an added layer of strategy that I was looking forward to.

I've also heard a lot of bad things.

I don't know how I could go back to a Sims game without open world though. The open world was enticing. It was always so easy to go out and explore and just stumble upon things. I remember in Sims 1 and 2 going out was a task. You had to know what you were going to do. You had to have a plan in mind. Something you're going out for. In those games I would spend 90% of my time in my own lot. Why go out? Unless I needed something there wasn't a reason to do so. The open world made it so simple. You didn't even have to take your sim out of the home to explore. You could just scroll your mouse wheel back and float your camera across town to see what others are doing right now, maybe you'll want to join them? It was inviting. Putting up the walls again is such a disappointment.

Avatar image for 00J

@saturatedbutter yeah, unfortunately the designers took out the open world free roam aspect of the game. This is what really adds to the game, also they took out story progression.

In the sims 3 the world you start out in, changes throughout the game, sims get old and die, new sims move in, i just the other day made my sim read the newspaper and i was interested to read 3 new sims families had moved in to the world, this was so cool, i immediately made my sim go visit them.

Avatar image for hystavito

@saturatedbutter I guess it's kinda like SimCity, they are really looking to expand the audience and are willing to upset the older fans to do so. They give a boost to the complexity of certain elements, but then majorly scale down the overall.

It's confusing though, because in this case it doesn't seem to make as much sense. I can understand what they tried to do with SimCity, they bragged about how they were simulating each and every citizen and so you could only handle 100k of them at a time, and they wanted to bring multiplayer into it, etc. I can kinda see that some people could be won over by that.

But with The Sims, it's already a hugely successful franchise with a lot of fans, many being casuals that won't care much about a new deeper emotions system anyway. I feel like the most of the audience for The Sims would rather have an open world than a new emotions system. Of course, maybe the open world just wouldn't work on very weak hardware, maybe they are going to launch a full version of it on mobile and didn't want different experiences? Who knows.

Avatar image for DanZillaUK

@hystavito @saturatedbutter Or maybe they made an error with the release date and only gave themselves a weekend to make it, fearing not releasing on time and getting fired for being lazy. Who knows?

Avatar image for bizuit

I really liked the way she did the review, even if it was Kevin who wrote it.

Avatar image for ShienYeh

It should be given 3 as a half-product selling 59.99 price. The game became shallow and broken because so many features from The Sims 3 vanilla were cut.

Avatar image for jeremy-

Who did they fire and hire to make so many mistakes on Simcity and Sims 4.

I can almost look past the blatent money grabbing, but the loading screens and plot size restrictions on both games. Cant they just optimize performance for the low-end PC users by downgrading the aesthetics? Why do they have to GIMP 90% of the PC market with loading screens for the 10% of PC's that would have trouble with the game.

It seems like a bunch fresh college graduate would make better (re)design decisions than this team. Wow, just wow.

Avatar image for XxXeroxX

I actually wanted to give The Sims 4 a chance. Yes, I wanted to give EA a chance.

LOL Psych! After the debacle that was SimCity, I had absolutely no doubt in my mind that The Sims 4 was going to fall into similar paths. I always trust Kevin's reviews, so I have no doubt he hits the nail on the head with this review.

Avatar image for baosquall

Simcity is limited to the small village, Sim 4 is limited to the same small village. "We need to trade-off these" - Maxis. Oh can you believe that? Next gen ? And yet people still agree to buy it. For me, I will never buy a single game from them again.

Avatar image for MigGui

this doesn't look like the sims 4. it looks like a bad clone of the sims 3, made by a company that had half the money maxis had to spend. time to fire everyone onboard and start fresh. maybe they can fix this game with patches and free content, but that wasn't really the pattern before, was it?

Avatar image for Shelledfade1

@MigGui they won't be able to patch in a seamless world like there is regarding the sims 3. These loading screens and all that bs is how whatever this game engine they used operates. They may end up giving some free stuff in patches due to the backlash this is getting but in terms of the way the town works and the loading times, that stuff won't get changed.

Avatar image for MigGui

@Shelledfade1 @MigGui they probably could develop and release a new region which has a seamless world like the sims 3. they undid much things they "couldn't undo" in sim city...

Avatar image for Evamorgana

@Shelledfade1 @MigGui

What in the hell were they thinking.

Avatar image for timthegem

~ key, tgm, enter. That's my huckleberry.

Avatar image for RapidFirE53211

I'm glad to see an honest review of the game. I haven't played The Sims since the base version of TS2 and have been curious about how the game has come along. Looks like getting TS3 is the way to go.

Avatar image for Shelledfade1

It's not only that stuff was removed though. It's that it was designed like it was supposed to be played on a freakin iphone or something with all its cut-up loading screens, small and flat lot sizes, and you can't customize your own damn town.

Avatar image for lunchbox2042

Have you tried playing sims 3 with all of the expansions loaded? It gets really laggy, especially with certain worlds that have pathing bugs.

Avatar image for DanZillaUK

@lunchbox2042 Who can afford ALL of those? Even during sales.

Avatar image for katerinafm

I think the game would have been a lot more successful if it came after the Sims 2. The Sims 3 introduced a lot of new cool stuff and it's not surprising that even fans of the series are scratching their heads at the sudden steps backwards. Even the lack of an open neighborhood alone is reason enough to think the Sims 4 is extremely limited compared to the previous one.

Avatar image for Shelledfade1

@katerinafm it really is the sims 2.5.

They didn't even take a step forward in terms of game design, they just went completely ass-backwards regarding absolutely EVERYTHING. Not even the visuals are better, they added blur and bloom to the sims 3 graphics. Good job EA, dumbasses.

Avatar image for saturatedbutter

@Shelledfade1 I believe in Kevin VanOrd's review-in-progress he said "I've come to refer to The Sims 4 as The Sims 1 HD"

Avatar image for sjawz3288

Still addicting for a game. Just a shame so much has been removed. Every time I have an idea of something I want to do with my Sim, chances are it's missing and that's disappointed. ESPECIALLY when we all know it will be resold as DLC. Fun, nonetheless.

Avatar image for Martyr77

This game should be a 3 at best. They ripped out a ton of content from the last game just to charge with no real improvements. What a joke.

Avatar image for nl_skipper

@eloquent_win Well perhaps. I never like to assume such things based on intangible evidence or pure suspicion though! Not saying it doesn't happen though, because we've seen it before...

Avatar image for davefantino

Mary Your voice is just Fantastic! Please review more things for us:) GAMESPOT HEAR MY DECREE!

Avatar image for nl_skipper

@eloquent_win Yea, it's not a good one either, no need to assume there's bribery involved. It's along the lines of the NHL 15 review, a solid core game that's seriously lacking content, so it gets a very average score.

Avatar image for nl_skipper

@eloquent_win Well I don't think the game sounds terrible, it's just lacking content. A 6 sounds reasonable from what I've heard of the game, it not exactly a generous score...

Avatar image for deactivated-5b797108c254e

For a second there, I thought that was a pool...then I realised it was a fountain...

Too bad there are so many things missing, otherwise it seems like an upgrade...the city being more "closed" doesn't bother me, if that's what it takes for the game not to run like ass when it gets 20 expansions even if you have a good pc, then I'm all for it.

Avatar image for Kryptonbornson

How can Kevin be reviewing The Sims 4 AND Destiny? That's doesn't make sense. Obviously time would be taken away from one to do the other.

Wonder if the Sims 4 allows homosexuality...heard something about a glitch disallowing g*a*y names. Wonder if that's part of the reason for the lower score.

Avatar image for xaldin257

@Kryptonbornson You can create a homosexual family in The Sims 4 if you wanted

Avatar image for Kryptonbornson

@xaldin257 K, just wondering.

Avatar image for steve_esquire

Yeah the thing I think you're talking about was some g*a*y filter on something. They didn't have it and thought it would be offensive and then people were like "no it's fine, we want it in" so now it's supposedly going to be added

Avatar image for Eincrou

A note to whomever produced the voiceover audio: please remember the DeEsser filter. The narrator has a pleasant voice (though her delivery could use some work), but she produces a lot of harsh sibilance. Make sure your audio processing does your narrators justice.

Avatar image for SoulScribe

Yeah EA see that review. That 6 means FECK YOU!

Avatar image for RASquints

Kevin Vannord, you sound so sexy in this review xD

Avatar image for karloss01

It may not be hurting them now but taking their best known franchises and either rushing them to completion or cutting them up for DLC is going have people stung by these tactics not wanting to invest in additional sequels or games published by EA. They stated that they didn't want to be named worse company in America again but they seem to be really good at doing it.

Avatar image for foodrules

Kevin sounds so different these days

Avatar image for Shelledfade1

@foodrules hahaha. She did a decent impersonation though.

Avatar image for foodrules

@Shelledfade1 @foodrules It's by FAR the most serious/stern I've ever heard Mary Kish sound. Definitely channeling her inner Kevin on this one. Very cool

Avatar image for Shelledfade1

I haven't played the sims since sims 1 and 2, I skipped 3 for some reason. I heard how awful this game is and was thinking about just getting the sims 3. So I go to origin.... holy SH**.... there's like, 10 expansion packs and they are all 19.99 lmao. I find it hard to believe they wouldn't just make some kind of "game of the year" version that I can buy for 50 bucks that includes everything. No, I have to spend over 100 dollars?

Man... EA seriously is out of touch with reality. No wonder their games get pirated out the ass. It's a shame the sims 4 sucks so bad but then again, after they royally destroyed sim city, is anyone surprised? I bet the sims 4 was going to be DRM like sim city, but due to the whiplash from sim city I bet they had to spend time fixing it and that's why its in such crap shape. Makes some sense when you think about it, I Mean every single thing about the sims 4 seems like a downgrade compared to 3. Hell... even the sims 3 looks better visually.

Avatar image for IgorSteinberg

@Shelledfade1 Skipping TS3 was a very smart thing to do! this game was just a big glitch. TS4 may be missing a lot, but is way better than TS3. And TS4 would've been so much better had the EPs cost less, but they won't, 'cause that's EA... I'm buying TS4, but I won't buy the addons.

Avatar image for Shelledfade1

@IgorSteinberg @Shelledfade1 by todays standard pc hardware the sims 3 should be ridiculously easy to run, kevin makes that point as well. There was really no reason to cut it up like this unless they intend to make it playable on an ipad or something.

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 Rating361 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