Telling a person from 1987 (the era when Paperboy was the equivalent of GTA III) that the best selling videogame of the future would entail getting a job, making friends, reading a book and going to the toilet you would have been laughed off the face of the earth.
After numerous expansion packs and hours wondering how the controls from keyboard and mouse would transfer to joypad, EA have released The Sims on PS2, with GameCube and Xbox versions still to come.
Even without the mouse, the point-and-click gameplay works fairly well with you controlling a vertical beam of light and being able to select any item or person at any height. Selecting an area where there are more than one-item or person results in a sub-menu popping up with the list of available subjects. Although this is as practical as possible it’s still a pain if you are trying to select things in a hurry. Luckily you can pause while you select, and even speed up for when your sim is doing an activity. However the speeds are slower than in the PC version meaning plenty of time spent twiddling your thumbs watching your sim sleep or waiting for it to come back from work.
You select items to buy for your sim but many at the start are locked, so you have to complete the new ‘get a life’ mode which single-handedly destroys the very purpose of The Sims with one fundamental flaw- objectives.
After making your Sim you are dropped into various scenarios which contain buildings and other characters. Completing goals opens up various furniture and completing them all within a level and you’ll be ‘promoted’ to the next scenario. Early levels give you control of only one character so you have to do even more waiting than usual. Even when you get to control any other characters its only your Sim you should be interested in as its him/her that can only complete the objectives. Given that this mode is essential to open up all the locked items its becomes part of the game, but if it weren’t then I wouldn’t recommend giving it a second look as without freedom The Sims just isn’t the same.
Compared to Half Life or Soldier Of Fortune, The Sims is a much more respectable effort for a PC to PS2 port. Its very clear that work has been done to distance the game from the PC original but this may have changed the structure too much for its own good. The absence of items (until you have unlocked them all) and the lack of downloadable ones (hopefully EA will notice that the Xbox has Live enabled now) that kept the original from getting stale means there’s not really much here to keep your interest for long. Items from the various expansion packs haven’t made the jump to Sony’s machine and it only fuels speculation of add-on packs to the game. After all it was only released on a CD and not a DVD.
If you have played the PC version then you may well be disappointed with the console version. While no-where near as bad as it should have been too much work has gone into making this a different game. Sims on the PC had everything balanced just right and this is almost entirely lost in the translation. It’s not about fearing change- it’s just that it has changed for the worst. Fair play to all involved- porting The Sims to PS2 (where there is a wider audience) was a monumental task and it hasn’t done badly at all. With such a reputation to live up to it’s hard to imagine the console version ever re-creating the experience. Newcomers to The Sims wont notice a thing and should lap it up but there’s no denying that this game should have been closer to its PC namesake.
Seven out of ten