Is The Sims 4 Any Good Now In 2020?
The Sims 4 was first released in September 2015. Five years later, it is still being updated with new content, mostly paid via the 32 (!) DLC packs, though there are free options too.
But is it any good though? PS Plus subscribers got the base game for free this month. And there’s plenty of discounts on the PC version. So I decided to revisit the game of life (or “a dollhouse simulator” as some referred it to way back then).
I used to play way too much The Sims. But when The Sims 4 was released I decided that’s the time to move on and away from the franchise, for various reasons that shall be touched.
But now in 2020, is it any good though? And is it worth playing on consoles?
Here’s a bit of context about The Sims 4. This is the follow-up that seems to regress a bit. One-step-forward, two-steps-backwards. You see, in The Sims 3, the developers essentially made the game open world, with the whole neighbourhood accessible to your household, including neighbouring houses, a small town hosting various workplaces your Sims actually have to travel to and various other community lots, all without a loading screen.
The Sims 4 runs on a new engine, but has dramatically cull that feature. You still get access to a lot of the area outside of your lot, but it’s not the seamless open world of before. I get it, The Sims 3 runs like a bogged-down car by the end of its support, it was too ambitious for its own good. What makes The Sims 4 egregious was it culled way too many features at launch.
Pools, a staple for the game since the 2000 original arguably more famous for its ability to kill Sims than its actual, designated function, are not here. More frustratingly, a whole life-cycle of Sims is gone- babies just grew up skips straight to being children rather than toddlers.
The very barebones base game is the reason I call it quits. I was expecting most of the DLCs you need to buy will continue the tradition of selling content we’ve seen before (it did). And I don’t have a good PC back then. It’s the best time to move on.
Fast-forward to today, I gave The Sims 4 a shot. First I tried the PS4 version. The Sims on consoles has always been a thing- there was a period during the PS2/OG Xbox/Gamecube era where we got console-only spin-offs that were ahead of the mainline PC version. It moved to 3D models first, new unique objects and features were created for the console Sims first. And there was a spin-off game featuring The Black Eyed Peas crew as Sims. Such times.
Essentially, The Sims on consoles were totally different from the PC, even the ones that shared the same title. But with The Sims 4, that changed. It has feature parity with PC, selling all the same DLCs too. If you are playing on console, you’re not missing out.
The Sims 4 On Console Impressions
And on a base PS4, it runs pretty well too. A small lot with one active Sim hits 60fps at ease, though a busy nightclub can drop the frame rates in the low 20fps range, but still playable. Visually it looks on par with the PC version as well.
The main gripe of the console editions, however, is the control scheme. The UI see little changes, and The Sims 4’s UI is very mouse-focus. In the console version, you get to switch to two different control modes- a menu-driven one where you move from one UI element to another with the d-pad or left analog stick, the other activates the mouse cursor.
Now here’s the problem. That mouse cursor is horrendous. The default setting is abysmally bad. It’s too slow at first but then flies off to the end of the screen. I had to spend some time fiddling with its sensitivity and acceleration settings to make it workable for me.
*Angry Sim Mumbling Sounds*
And since the UI is essentially the mouse-focus design from the PC, some of the buttons and features are just harder and less intuitive to reach. You can switch to another Sim in the household directly by clicking their portraits. And sometimes there are contextual settings available by clicking the small icons on those portraits, like a button to make them go home or change their work rate when they’re off at work.
These buttons are so, so tiny and it’s cumbersome to reach with the cursor. Expanding the extra moodlets is just a waste of time of misclicks.
The d-pad and left analog stick navigation works okay. But, for the most part, the UI is laid out all over the place you really have to guess if you can move that precise button you want to reach. UI navigation shouldn’t have guesswork. If it does it failed to do its job.
Imagine having to juggle the needs of a full house of 8 Sims, with 1 bathroom because you’re piss-poor at the start. Thanks to the controls and UI, it involves a lot of wet stains and embarrassed Sims for two in-game weeks.
The good thing is that there’s an auto-resolve option where you can click on a need meter and have that Sim sort it out on their own. But micro-managing each task, something I enjoy doing in The Sims for whatever reason, is daunting thanks to how much it’s needed to fight the controls.
*More Angry Sim Mumbling Sounds*
What’s more infuriating is that there are solutions and better workarounds. The original The Sims on console has a beam of light that’s in the game world used to highlight objects (with an extra contextual prompt should the cursor lands on multiple objects), with all your stats toggleable with other buttons. Granted, The Sims 4 is now more complex and probably outgrown that system.
But then you look at many other games successfully created a mouse-like cursor for use with a controller. Guys, look at Destiny. Many other games are copying Destiny’s cursor. It works. Go copy that. It’s miles better than this default atrocity.
The cumbersome UI turned me off from spending more time on the PS4 version I got for free via PS Plus. So I bought The Sims 4 on PC.
The Sims 4 Base Game Impressions (2020)
Now this is more like it. As much flak as The Sims 4 gets for its barren base game, the fundamental changes are great. Sims now multitask much better. They can take their drink and food to the TV, eating, while talking with another beside them. Socialising is also more seamless thanks to this. Sims can socialise in a group, making getting friends much easier. They also don’t just stand around, if there’s seating they’ll go find it. More reason to add more sofas in the living room.
It’s not perfect. The AI tends to be weird about choosing which seating when eating and which sink to wash the dishes. But over time they will start making sensible choices.
You can also have Sims form groups. Imagine the times where you want everyone to hang in the hot tub together, or go to the dance floor and dance away. You either have to manually select that for each Sim, or have one Sim doing that activity invite the rest. Now, as a group, you can just do the same things together, or go chat at the lounge area with comfortable seating. It’s these little quality-of-life changes that makes the experience so much better today.
It’s Good Now
I love the improved Build Mode tools too. The fact that we can now drag a room to be wider rather than having to remove each wall, put up the new walls and add the matching floor and wallpaper inside and outside is awesome. Building a house is much simpler. You can even select a sample room, fully furnished, and plop it down.
It’s powerful and versatile enough to make a Malay kampung house now all with built-in tools. So it’s that good.
As for the base game’s content, it still is barebones. But it’s in a much better state than five years ago. There are more career options now, added via free updates. Though some classic career choices like Scientist, Doctor, Politician, and Military are available via DLC.
Pools and toddlers are now available, so the angry mobs surrounding the game have now settled. The base game also got new Create-A-Sim options (clothing and hairstyles) with the July 2019 patch, which gave the game a fresh new interface and logo change. And there are other updates that add clothing stuff like this as well, like the one that added hijabs. And even more recently, they’ve added a hot tub for all players- another iconic The Sims item previously only available in DLC.
While most players these days play The Sims for its ability to create your own stories and fantasy life, I play The Sims in a very video game-y manner: embracing materialism so I can have the biggest mansion with all the coolest furniture in town. If you play like this, the base game’s selection of furniture is just okay. But you can have Sims indulge in other hobbies like fishing, gardening, building rocket ships and play video games for money.
As you would expect, a lot of cooler furniture items require purchasing some of the packs. But the variety of interactions and things to do in The Sims 4’s base game has enough substance that you don’t feel forced to pay extra to get a baseline good experience.
Also, a cool feature is the Gallery. Lots and households can be shared with the rest of The Sims community. And as you’d expect from a 5-year-old community, there has been plenty of awesome work done in this regard. Navigating the households can be a bit daunting, some of them use mods. But if you just want to get a celebrity, or your favourite Disney princess, or a hot-headed celebrity chef, or your favourite K-Pop boy band, it’s as easy as hitting the download button.
It has cross-platform support too. I created a Sim on PS4 and can transfer it to PC. The process is not as straight-forward, but possible.
The Sims 4 the base game has significantly improved over the past years. I am both blown away and disappointed with the console version, but for those without a capable PC it’s still worth playing on there.
But if you do have a PC capable of running it (the system requirements recently got bumped- requiring a 64-bit system for support of all DLCs), The Sims 4 is worth getting should it be on sale again, or via Origin Access. The life simulator is now in a much better state. And any lapsed Simmer may want to check it out again to see if it’s worth your time again.
Though if you’re looking for more content, it’ll cost extra. As always.