The Sims 4 review for Xbox One, PS4

Platform: Xbox One
Also On: PS4
Publisher: EA
Developer: Maxis
Medium: Digital/Disc
Players: 1
Online: No

Even though I haven?t played any of the games in years, I?ve always had a soft spot for the Sims franchise. One of my all-time favourite gaming memories is playing Sims 2 for hours on GameCube with the woman who?d eventually become my wife. I don?t generally go for emergent gameplay, and she doesn?t usually go for video games, period, but there was something about that game that just clicked for both of us.

You can imagine my disappointment, then, when I discovered that The Sims 4 didn?t revive that same feature. I know, I know: Sims 3 didn?t have it, either (which, I realize in retrospect, is why I don?t have fond memories of playing that entry), so I can?t be too upset about its absence this time around. I can lament what feels like a lost opportunity, but I can?t blame EA for not having a feature that, apparently, the rest of the world has moved on from.

What I can blame EA for, however, is porting a game designed to be played with a mouse and keyboard over to a situation where people have to experience it with a controller. As you can imagine, it?s a poor fit. The Sims 4 is built around giving you all kinds of customization options, which probably works great when you?re just clicking around a screen with your mouse. When you have to flip between all those options with a controller, it?s not nearly as precise, or intuitive, or responsive.

The problems manifest themselves almost as soon as you start playing. Creating a Sim should be a fun introduction to the game, a hint of all the different customization options to come. Unfortunately, it?s more a hint of all the frustration to come. Changing your Sim?s appearance should be the most basic, intuitive part of the game, except, beyond giving your Sim a name and a personality, it?s not. Not only does the game not make it blatantly obvious how to change clothes, it also makes changing them a pain once you figure it out, demanding precise clicks on the clothing item you want to change but not giving you a cursor that can be moved with that level of precision.

Or, to put it in more simple terms: it shouldn?t take me three or four passes with a cursor to change my Sim?s shirt.

These challenges mount as the game gives you more to do. Clicking on items you want to move, clicking on people you want to talk to, clicking on…well, pretty much everything in The Sims 4 is just a massive pain. And it?s not helped by a camera whose controls are, at best, finicky.

What makes it really frustrating is that The Sims 4 has so much potential to be great with so many customization options. The game even throws people like me a bone, allowing you to give your Sim clear motivations and emotions, and it tailors the gameplay around that. But, cruelly, it makes doing all those things a massive chore, meaning that unless you really, really like moving your cursor slowly around the screen, you?re not going to get much out of it.

In this respect, The Sims 4 reminds me a lot of Kerbal Space Program on PS4. It, too, tried making the jump from PC to console, and it, too, failed miserably at that task, with controls that just weren?t built for anything other than a mouse and a keyboard (Ed’s Note: the updated Enhanced Edition for consoles fixes many interface issues). It?s a shame, because you can see how the game could be fun in the right circumstances — but, unfortunately, these aren?t those circumstances.

Electronic Arts provided us with a Sims 4 Xbox One code for review purposes.

Grade: C-