The Sims
System: X-Box
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Developer: Maxis/Edge of Reality
Released: March 2003
Genre: Simulation
Capabilities: Memory Unit

Review Written: April 28, 2003

If you haven’t heard of The Sims by now then I don’t want to know where you have been since February of 2000. That was when The Sims was originally released. It went on to become the best selling PC game of all time. The real life simulator proved to be such a success that it spanned several expansions, and now an online-only title simply titled, The Sims Online. So it would only be natural for the PC-craze to get a console release. The developers at Maxis made sure to throw in some console-exclusive goodies in addition to the free play mode that is available on the PC version such as a objective based single player mode dubbed, “Get a Life” and two player support in free play and special mini-games. The PS2 version surprisingly ousted GTA: Vice City in the sales chart as #1 selling console game, and now it is ready to tear it up on X-Box.

First off it is worth noting that only two of the five PC expansion titles for The Sims are included in the console release. All additional items that appeared in the first two expansions (House Party and Livin’ Large) are in here and in tact along with a host of other console-exclusive items. However, the elements that debuted in the PC expansions of Hot Date, Vacation, and Unleased are not found in here. That means you cannot take your sim-girl/boyfriends out on dates downtown, nor can you take the family out on a vacation, and most regrettably you cannot adopt pets. I can live without the dates and vacations, but adopting pets was one of most enjoying things to do in the PC version. I can only hope this isn’t a marketing ploy by Electronic Arts so that they make us waste another $50 on an “expansion” game which includes all the elements from the three left out expansions.

Anyone who has played the PC versions of The Sims can assure you that it’s easy to get the hang of gameplay in no time. First, you’ll want to move your sim (or sim-family) into a pre-made house, or construct your own. The second you get to control your family in the new homestead all there is to do is simply point and cl-----err press (more on console controls in a bit) the A button to have your sim do one of the functions available. Weather it is to walk to a certain area, watch television, or to just take a dump, the Sims can practically do anything you desire.

There are four main panels with attributes that heavily affect your sim. The panels are for the sim’s personality, career, relationship, and motives. Each one plays an important role, and you’ll want to keep on eye on each one. The main two to focus on are the career and motive panels. The career panel has attributes in several categories which are vital towards your career path. As you get promoted in your career path you’ll have to gain attributes in specific areas to keep up with the workload and to be in good shape in order to keep getting promoted. The motives panel is the main one to keep your eye on. It has life-bars in eight categories which all deplete/fill up at their own unique pace. These bars show you when your sim needs to rest, eat, shower, and so on. If you don’t watch these meters carefully, your sim might just pass out, or even starve to death!

A “buy” mode is the menu driven way of buying all the necessities for your home such as beds, televisions, toilets, refrigerators, and whatnot. If things are getting cramped up at home there is the “build” mode where you can add extra rooms, doors, windows, and the like. Oddly enough, you cannot add floors to your home, I have no idea why the developers leave us with single story houses. Of course, all this stuff costs simoleans (the name of the currency in The Sims), and you’ll have to find your sim a job to meet their costs for food, bills, and all the goodies you get from the buy and build modes.

So how did the formerly mouse driven control scheme adapt to the X-Box? It didn’t turn out so bad after all. As a matter of fact I was surprised at how well the developers at Edge of Reality came up with such a robust control scheme to perfectly match your average controller. The four panels mentioned above are accessed by holding one of the four directions on the digital pad. The control stick is the cursor, and A button is used to do all the activating, while B is used for canceling actions. The actual movements of the sims is a bit on the slow side, so make sure to hold down the R trigger to fast forward the gameplay speed.

In all the past PC versions of The Sims there was no storyline involved whatsoever. It was a straight up life simulator with you living out your life the way you want it, complete with choosing your own career path, decorating your home to your own desire, and perfecting your lifestyle. That free play mode from the original is still here, but so is a brand new, console exclusive mode where it revolves around actual objective based levels, and contains an actual ending. As noted above, this mode is called “Get a Life,” and it starts off with you living with your mother. She is fed up with you milking your life at home at her expense. There are several goals to meet here such as obtaining a job, and saving up 800 bones. Every time you meet a goal you unlock an item for to get in “buy” mode. You’ll move onto several more levels after you move out of your mom’s, from leasing a place from a friend, to moving in with a buddy.

The Sims heavily revolves around the “Get a Life” mode. Actually, it’s the only mode available to play from the first to time you load up this game. After beating the first level in Get a Life mode is when you unlock the endless mode. The free play mode is fantastic and you can practically play forever anyway you want. Want to live as a bachelor? Go for it, or be the family man by starting off with multiple Sims to control. Controlling all of them simultaneously can be quite troublesome, that’s where the brand new two-player mode comes in handy. A unique diagonal view splits up the screen, and it worked very well to my surprise.

The graphics got a bit of a upgrade for the console release, which is quite odd considering most PC ports usually downgrade their visuals so the game can run at peak performance on the console. But when you’re dealing with a graphically inferior game such as The Sims the above scenario is not an issue. You see, the PC version used simple sprites for character models, while the console version uses actual 3D models for their characters. This results in much more diverse character creation. The actual building designs still stay the same, and they do suffer from a bit of noticeable jagginess, which is a shame the developers didn’t touch up from the PS2 port.

The animations for all the character actions are shockingly realistic, but The Sims maintains a “PG-13” theme in mind with curtains going over sims when they change clothes and pixilated blocks covering up their privates in the bathroom, and when they engage in sexual intercourse. The frame rate stays steady and smooth throughout all the single player gameplay, but in multi player there are random moments of slowdown which lasts for several moments. I appreciate the boosted character models, but also wouldn’t have minded if the developers took an extra couple of months of development time to touch up the flaws while porting over the PS2 version.

A trademark in The Sims is their gibberish language they use to communicate with each other. It is here in all its glory in the console release. One would think that their random whacko talk would grow on your nerves in no time, but I actually found it be quite humorous and got use to it in no time. The sound effects get the job done just fine, and everything sounds the way you expect it too. One of my favorite things to do in the PC version was uploading my own MP3’s into the radio stations you can listen to during gameplay by using a stereo system. I was hoping the developers would’ve used the X-Box’s custom soundtrack function to make this possible in the console release, but it ended up as another X-Box feature not utilized. The actual tunes used for the radio stations are decent as is, and yes, they also make good use of the gibberish language spoken by the sims.

The seven levels that make up the Get a Life mode take approximately an hour each to complete. It’ll be worth completing a couple of times to make sure you unlock all the items and two-player mini-games. The mini-games I could do without however, they simply place you and a buddy in a random location competing against each other to see who can make the most friends, grill the most burgers, or some other lame goal. They may be fun for the first time or two, but they grow mundane fast. The free play mode is where you’ll spend the most time after completing Get a Life mode. It is even more fun with a friend in two-player. My buddy and I have clocked in about 25 hours alone in that mode.


Graphics: 7.4
Sound: 7.9
Gameplay: 9.3
Replay Value: 9.0

Overall: 8.4

The Sims on the X-Box is just as much fun as it was on the PC. The added Get a Life mode and two-player support are much welcomed additions and gives people everywhere a reason to get the console version. It is just too bad the developers couldn’t of gave the X-Box version a little more development time to get rid of those bad graphical flaws from the PS2 port, and utilize some of those great X-Box specific features such as custom soundtracks, and X-Box Live downloads. Regardless of that, The Sims is still one of best simulation titles out there and is a recommended addition to your gaming library.

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