The Sims 3

PC

Life. Itís a funny old game, isnít it? We get up, we go to work (unless youíre a lazy bum who sits at home and watches Jeremy Kyle), come home, have something to eat, watch some TV, then go to bed. Next day, we get up, we go to work... For many, itís not exactly the most exciting of routines. So whoís the bright spark who thought this would be a good idea for a video game? Oh, the guy waving to us from his private island, using real cash (and not simoleans) to wipe his rear with, thatís who.

The Sims franchise is one of those games that people simply love or loathe Ė there is no in between ground. Those that love it, really love it. Itís not just a game about life: itís more important than that.

And itís not difficult to see how the franchise can become the crack cocaine of the games world. Governments should consider putting a health warning on it like they do cigarettes Ė itís that addictive.

So what joys of newness come with this version? Well, to be brutally honest, not much. Itís not only the same premise (which is fair enough) but also the same execution. You build a sim, you put them in a house, and then you control with what and with whom they interact. And then you die.

The Sims 3
What do you mean you're breaking up with me over my dress sense?

The big new bow with which theyíve wrapped this new addition is the ability to leave your house and... walk past the end of the street. Yes, your sim can now, for the very first time, go walkabout. In theory, this sounds like a revolution in The Sims world. In practice though, itís not that big a deal. Sure you can go into town, and maybe take in a show. However, as soon as your sim enters the theatre, you have to wait outside, like a tied-up old mutt, waiting for their master to return. And thatís the same for every building. No real people allowed. It would have been great if we were able to go inside the building and experience what our sim was experiencing, but alas, thatís not possible.

And that is it. All the other changes are simply tweaks to the existing game play. Considering that The Sims 2 was released in 2004, itís difficult to see what the Sims team have been playing at for the last five years; whatever it was, it doesnít appear to be The Sims.

If this had been a console game, say a part of the Halo franchise, and fans had been waiting five years for the next instalment, there would have been one almighty uproar if all that had been added to the game was a new level, vehicle and a gun that shot ice. However, being that Sims fans tend to be quite civilised folks, there will probably be a few anonymous moans on a game forum, and that will be that. In truth, they deserve better than this.

Itís a sad state of affairs that after a five year wait, one of the highlights of the next instalment is that you can buy cheese from a supermarket. Oh and you can go fishing for your supper too; and being that you fish outside, you get to see you sim actually fishing!

Even the perennial problem of time hasnít been addressed. If your sim has to go to work - and letís face it, most are encouraged to do so, so they can get paid and then go buy stuff Ė you have to just watch the hours on the clock disappear while they are working. Bizarrely, if you use the fast forward button on your time control panel, it appears to make hardly any difference at all. So you wait. And wait. And wait... If this is art imitating life, then they can take their art back. Either we should be able to see and further control our sims at work, or we should at least be given the opportunity to skip the work time completely and move on to some more fun things to do. Sadly, thatís still not an option.

Fans can argue (and boy will they) that the tweaks that have been made will certainly make the Sims experience a better one. This is true, but can all those tweaks really be justified over a period of five years? The answer to that, Sims fans, is no.

And it add insult to injury, you can bet your bottom simoleon that there are a number of exciting add-ons already lined up to improve your sims experience Ė all available with real cash, natch.

If youíve never played a Sims title in your life, then obviously this iteration is the best version to sink your teeth into. It has more depth than the London Aquarium and a range of variety that would make Heinz cry in their beans. But for die-hard fans, it will be difficult to not think that theyíve been seriously short-changed. And thatís certainly the kind of hard (real) life lesson they donít deserve to learn.

three out of five