Lacking content holds back this otherwise decent sequel.
I think it's safe to say nine out of ten people who go on this site have played 'The Sims' sometime in their life whether it be the original, Sims 2 or one of a million expansion packs and console versions. If you didn't like those forget this because you won't be liking this either. However for those of you who do enjoy it or even have gotten a bit sick of the series it might just pull you back in all over again.
The game holds the same core structure of the other Sim games. You have a Sim, they live in a house, get a job, make friends, have a family, get stuck in a room without a door and starve to death(Don't tell me you haven't done it!) but the main addition this game adds is no more loading times between areas. The game is one big open world and that is a huge thing. Not only does going out to the shops or a friends place seem easier and less annoying than it did before and no longer pauses time in your home lot meaning when you leave an area at 10pm, it's 10pm at your place too. Trust me, when you play it you'll see that it's probably the best addition in this game.
Another addition is the personality traits which take the spot of the personality point system the other games had. There are tons to chose from such as 'Evil', 'Computer Whiz', 'Loner' and 'Good sense of humour'. Some are traits that will be good for your Sim making him more likable and easier to handle and others will be bad making your Sim have bad days or have a harder time getting along with other people. Why pick bad traits? It helps mix the game play up a bit and gives your Sim that extra level of depth. Each trait also unlocks some options for you such as being able to brighten a persons day, troll on a forum or overclock your PC.
Other changes to the game include the removal of some of the needs bars(comfort and environment are last weeks news) but adds a mood system meaning if your Sim relaxes on a nice couch rather than raising his comfort meter they'll get a boost in mood making them happier and more productive. However, if for example the room they are in is filthy and unappealing they'll be in a worse mood as long as they are in that area. It doesn't dumb the game down but makes thing that little more streamlined and overall better off.
The user interface has also gotten a nice little clean up making it simpler and easier to use. One thing this game has going for itself is that it's fixed up a lot of little things that end up making this game that bit more enjoyable. This isn't a cut and paste job.
The audio is...well, you've played a Sim game, right? It's like that. I mean exactly that. There are some different or slightly remixed tunes in the game which in my opinion aren't as good as the last game but hardly a thing to complain about. The Sims speak in 'Simlish' again as they always have but this time you have a choice of three difference voices for each gender and are able to tweak it even more giving it a higher or lower pitch mixing up the voices even more. Strangely no 'Rock' station on the radio but with the ability to have custom music playing most will end up cranking their own tunes out of the stereo anyway.
The graphics have gotten an update too. Sadly though not as much as one would hope although being a very casual game I understand why EA would want to keep it as requirement friendly as possibly.. Everything now is a little sharper, a little cleaner and the night and day lighting is very nice. Some textures look weird though. The clothes have a shiny almost plastic look to them rather than cloth making some of the clothes I was looking at seem down right stupid on my Sim. A basic black T-shirt looked like it was almost painted on.
The Sims them self are the biggest difference graphic wise looking fairly different to what they did before. I have to say they are pretty damn ugly. I haven't found a single Sim yet I thought was decent looking. The Sim exchange online fixes it though with people uploading quite a few nicer(or crazier) looking characters you can add to your game...just watch out for all the 'Twilight' Sims, ugh, please no more Edward's!
The game runs as you'd expect and should be fine on almost any system. The auto-detect settings are a pretty dreadful(It set my game on medium, no AA at 1024x768 when I have a PC that can easily run at at max on 1080p) and seeing as a lot of people who play the game wouldn't even know about setting options of what their PC can do that's disappointing.
The one big issue with this game is it's lack of content. After the ton of expansions and new features The Sims 2 has gotten this has been heavily trimmed back to also the original game plus a few minor bits out of the expansions. No longer can you own a pet, run a business, live in an apartment, go to collage or have a holiday. One area I found very lack and surprisingly was the Sim creator. You have much less things to pick from than you did in even the original Sims 2 with a very limited amount of hair styles(10 or so and none that great) and clothes. Considering there is a small collect of them already up on the Sim store(which you have to use REAL money to buy items) it seems they left them out on purpose.
The furniture has a decent amount but again there are plenty of items on the Sim store you'll remember from past games, except this time you have to buy them separately. But surely they'd only cost a few cents each, right? Who'd pay a lot for a few minor in-game items? Well, yes individual items cost anywhere from 25 points to 100 points(100 = $1US). However if you want a matching set(Which includes tables, chairs, bed, windows ect) you have to pay...2000 points! $20US for a set of in-game items! There is already 4 sets up to buy as well meaning to get everything the store currently has(which really isn't a massive amount) is over $80US! More than a full priced new released game! What a joke.
One thing that annoyed me in-game is many of the lots outside your house you can't view. Even the diner your Sim will walk in and you will be forced to just stare at the outside until they leave again. Same with any work buildings, supermarkets, bookstores...in fact it seems the Gym is one of the few buildings you can enter and see inside apart from homes. It just screams "Buy the expansion which adds these buildings in!".
If you love the Sims, you'll like it. Simple as that. The refinement changes and additions of things like personality traits rather than points really help mix the game play up and adds a new level of depth making it a better game. However the game is lacking in areas where it really has no excuse to be. This game was build with expansions in mind and we might have to wait for the first 2 or 3 before we really see the features that we have come to expect be added back in.