Last night I got to just sit down in my living room… with The Sims 4 on my Xbox One. Huge thanks to EA for sending us a review code for this article!
The Sims on console has quite a history. And as a Sims fan since 2000 who has also been a huge console gamer for about 12 years, I was excited to see the latest generation hit my favourite console!
So, let’s dive right in!
The Sims 4 on Xbox One and PS4 is exactly what it says on the box. There’s no compromises here. No awkward mechanisms have been added to make the game any less than it is on PC (the “fire meter” from previous console games is no more – build as much as you like).
The game launches you directly into Create-A-Sim when you start a new game, and this is a really similar experience to what we have on PC. Some of the controls are a little fiddly, it’s easy to get stuck in a sub-menu and then take a few moments that you need to “back out” of that menu to get to where you want. It’s worth remembering that on the back button (or the touch pad on PS4) will bring you out of all the submenus you’re in so you can go into cursor mode or start again in another menu. Using the back button / touch pad again will switch you back to menu navigation mode, which lets you zoom round the buttons, from corner to corner, very quickly.
I spent some time fiddling about in Create-A-Sim, and eventually came out with Avery Bacon, an aspiring chef with traits to match. Worth noting that our trait generator will still apply for console players if you would prefer to roll the dice and get yourself some more randomised traits.
Just like on PC, you can stay here and create yourself a family. But I decided Avery was going to be an eligible bachelor and moved him straight in to Daisy Hovel (you know, one of the affordable houses).
Throughout the game, the main difference between the user interface we’re used to on PC and on the console is simply the absence of the confirm and dismiss buttons, which is replaced by A to confirm and B to dismiss on Xbox (and similarly familiar on PS4 with cross to confirm and circle to dismiss).
I spent some time playing with Avery Bacon. Like many Sims he met, fell in love, and married a Sim on his first day in a new neighbourhood. All of this felt very familiar and it was great to be able to kick back on the sofa and play my favourite game on my TV.
As many people noted during the live stream on Tuesday, EA have also introduced a loading bar on all of the loading screens in between travelling and switching households. This is a small addition but it’s really nice and I hope they’ll bring it to PC too.
I think I’ll spend a lot LESS time in build mode on console than on PC. A controller does not lend itself to this kind of task.
With that said, I did begin to get used to some of the oddities of navigating the various build mode menus, and that was within just a few hours of installing the game. I managed to adjust Avery’s house to his changing requirements (building a nursery, adding a computer, and building a “summerhouse” to… deal with the extra woman who moved in with his new wife… she brought 20,000 Simoleons with her if I moved her in guys!)
Stuff I loved
Achievements! I love me some achievements. The Sims 4 has 50 of them for 1000 gamerscore on Xbox and I fully intend to complete all the achievements in this game. I’m sure it also has a similar amount of Trophies for PS4 players. Some of them will be a pretty serious time investment but they come with a score to match. “Alphabet Legacy” – play the same family for 26 generations or more – will net me 50G. But if you start using cheats, you will disable achievements permanently for that save, similar to when you put creative mode on in Minecraft.
This game also has almost everything that you will be familiar with from the PC version of the game. SimGuruDuke has described it as being “base game 2017” – and that’s exactly what you get. All the major features which have been introduced in patches (with the single exception, we think, of the lighting update), will be in your console. We can also expect to see at least some future patches from PC make their way over to console – though they are almost certain to release later on console.
Every career, every emotional state, it’s all here and none of it has been stripped back or dumbed down for console in any way. When I moved away from my sofa and started streaming the game to my PC I repeatedly forgot that I needed to use the controller and not my keyboard and mouse – it’s that close to the PC experience.
… stuff I wasn’t so happy with
A lot of the controls beyond the basic camera controls are just really fiddly. They haven’t added any methods of quickly queuing up interactions, which the game would really have benefitted from, and trying to select a specific object, for example a frying pan on a cooker so you can resume cooking, can just straight up be a pain.
I would definitely recommend that you download the phone app for your console if you don’t already have it, and use it to type. Searching in build mode is going to be your friend, but only if you don’t have to type on your console screen!
There’s also a few very minor controls which were in the PC version that I can’t seem to find on my Xbox – pitching the camera up and down isn’t something you have control of any more, it just adjusts the pitch for you as you zoom in and out. There is, however, the “free camera” mode, which will give you the full control over the camera angle to capture those perfect screenshots.
Some things just don’t seem natural to my console gamer side. The interaction pie menus don’t work “Mass Effect” style, instead you have to go up/down or left/right from the currently highlighted item. This seems like a shame and it does add to the general feeling of “fiddly-ness”. Menus with scroll bars are simply left thumbstick to move the selected item up/down, not left to select and right thumbstick to scroll.
Finally if you’ve got a controller with a slightly dodgy connection to your console or it’s running out of battery, you’ll notice you get kicked right out of any menus you were in when your controller disconnects.
… and of course, a few glitches
Well, it wouldn’t be a Sims game on console without a few little strange glitches.
Firstly, and I’ve no idea if this is just the TV and the monitor I tried it on, the screen bounds seem a little off-centre. I think that would work better if I could place the top left and bottom right corner of my screen. I would hardly notice this if it weren’t for the way the UI fits around the edges of the screen rather than “bleeding off” the screen. In particular, this is made really obvious when the game is paused, because the red border doesn’t fit around my screen no matter how I do it. I was using an approximately 4 years old Samsung 42 inch TV and I also tried it with game streaming to my PC on a 1920 x 1080 Dell monitor and had no luck getting the screen bounds to look right on either.
Secondly, even after several hours in the game, it keeps the “new” highlight with spinning “light” around the instruction that I can click the left stick to show the controls. While it’s obviously very useful to be able to get the controls on any screen I don’t know why this thing needs to keep flashing at me while I’m playing. I know it’s there now!
I also had a couple of occasions where for reasons I couldn’t figure out, the left bumper and right bumper would not rotate the furniture, which was irritating. Also if you select a wallpaper or floor with the eye dropper tool, you can’t then switch to “place by room” mode so you have to place it tile by tile.
Hopefully minor glitches like this will quickly be cleared up, and so far I’ve not had any more major game-breaking glitches.
So what’s the verdict?
I’ve had a lot of fun in a short space of time and I definitely want to spend more time at the weekend chilling out on my sofa and playing my favourite game on my TV. There are lots of aspects of The Sims 4 that sort of made it feel more like a console game to start with so this sideways step on to console is a really logical one for the current iteration of the series.
I do think though that I’d find this a difficult purchase to justify, much as I might want to. If you don’t have The Sims 4 on PC then I’d absolutely recommend it. In spite of the fiddly controls, the game is a full Sims game. If your PC is a lower spec and you want to play The Sims 4 on a smooth machine with high graphics settings, that also might make it worth considering switching to console.
Making a full on switch to console will come with a price tag though! The Deluxe Party Edition which includes a few extra items and 3 days early access will set you back £55 and the standard edition is £45 (before the EA Access discount, if you have one). That is just for the base game and if you pre-order it’s also one stuff pack (Perfect Patio). There will be a pack including City Living, Vintage Glamour and Vampires which isn’t currently listed on the Xbox store but we know will be $50 so I’d expect that to set you back another £35 – £40. We’re also still a little unclear on just how many of the packs that are available for PC will be making their way across to console – hopefully the live stream on Monday will clear things up for us! As a Sims fan it’s very difficult to imagine playing without every feature that the Sims universe has to offer – I’m already “missing” some of the City Living features in particular (which I would never have thought of as my favourite pack but there it is!) so I hope there will be plenty of content in some reasonably priced packs!
If you love console gaming and you love The Sims, I’d definitely consider grabbing The Sims 4 on Xbox One and PS4 next week. When it comes to console gamers who haven’t really played The Sims before, I can’t imagine many will see the appeal – but I hope some will give it a chance! Don’t forget that you can get a 10 hour trial with EA Access, which is just £4 per month with no minimum commitment – plenty of time to get used to the controls!
Note: a copy of The Sims 4 on Xbox One was provided to us by Electronic Arts for our review. Thank you, EA!