The Sims 4 Preview And Gameplay Overview

The Sims 4

Even though the removal of toddlers and swimming pools has caused quite a ruckus within The Sims community, there are still a ton of gamers excited about giving EA their money like an addict hands over their life force to a sometimes incommensurable activity. Nevertheless, the game is coming and it’s best to know everything you need to know about The Sims 4 before you dive headfirst into the experience.

So the real big change about the game – which obviously isn’t the graphics, many of you should know that by now – is with the customization features. Instead of traditionally picking and choosing body parts like in previous Sims games, you now drag and pull on various highlighted body parts to get the results you want.

The Sims 4

You can protrude, retract, stretch, pull and tug at various body parts to get the desired look you want. There are also various predesignated body and facial structure types to fit the look you want, in case you don’t feel like tugging and pushing on polygonal meshes to get your Sim looking fine and dandy.

For more refined customization, Maxis has enabled users to zoom in and make finely tuned modifications to a Sim’s face in order to sculpt the perfect character (or replicate a celebrity or two). This means changing nostril, eyelids, eyebrows, cheek structure, the iris and even the pointed little tip of your Sim’s chin.

The only slider bars present in the game’s customization for characters are for making characters thin, fat, muscular or flabby.

The Sims 4

I’ve never really been into The Sims, and I always thought that the customization features were pretty crude in previous games. However, I will admit that the built-in tools for The Sims 4 actually look quite cool for the base character creator.

Customization upgrades don’t end there, though. You can also outfit your character with accessories and multiple clothing options – accessories are also now 3D models instead of textures pasted as layers on top of clothing items.

Clothing items also now have sub-categories for customization, so you can choose patterns and colors instead of having to modify the clothing item outside of the game and then import it just to get a different pattern. There could be a major drawback to this, but I’ll get to that later.

The Sims 4

In addition to being able to choose your clothing options, you can also use a content filter to find exactly what you’re looking for. This means you can highlight a category and have the game find you clothes within that category. Only want to scope out the jeans? Or yellow pants? Or hats? No problem, it’ll organize the list and only show you want you want. You can literally pick out items based on style categories.

You can also setup multiple clothing options for your Sim based on their scenario. So you can have sleep-wear, workout clothes, or beach attire already primed, ready and customized for when the time comes for them to engage in the selected activity. You’re also not limited to what attire they wear for what occasion, so if you want them going to the beach in a tux and tie, that’s completely doable.

Supposedly Maxis will continue throwing up new clothes and attire throughout the game’s life-span, but don’t expect all the updates to be free (besides it being EA, I’ll tackle this topic a bit later).

The Sims 4

The team tossed in new emotional states that are supposedly attached to the new traits and aspirations. It’s mostly the same setup as The Sims 3, but you’ll get three traits to choose from and this time the traits will greatly affect how various attributes can be upgraded and affected by certain activities. So for some characters – depending on their traits – they might get more energy when working out while angry or they might get more motivated to accomplish something while with friends. The game’s supposed overhaul in the animations to reflect these changes in traits and emotions is allegedly part of the reason why toddlers were removed, but I don’t really buy that.

A brand new Build Mode is also making an appearance for the first time in The Sims 4. The new and improved mode is hewn around the game’s drag-and-pull feature that shapes the character customization. This means you can literally build your house just by taking blocks and dragging, pulling and moving them around exactly the way you see fit. Again, I know EA is known for doing some bull-crappier in their publishing lifetime (mostly just throughout the seventh and eighth gen, though) but I do think the Build Mode for houses is a pretty slick design.

The Sims 4

What makes it so impressive is that house meshes – the 3D structures of the house – can be easily modified by just pushing and pulling on the parts. This even still applies as you manually customize the house, as tugging or moving around the walls of the structure will actually keep the furniture in place. Slick, right? Yeah, I admit I was impressed.

You can also drag and drop in prefabricated room designs, so building your dream house can be made a heck of a lot easier than before. Prefabs are also made across various design styles, so you can customize your house exactly as you like. Heck, you can even modify home accessories using the same pull, tug and push feature, so items can show up and appear exactly where you want. Simply put, home decoration can be adjusted and moved around on the fly.

The Sims 4

The Build Mode also has a brand new foundation height adjuster, so you can set just how high you want your home, especially if you’re building a castle for giants. It’s doable. The landscaping feature still follows suit with the rest of the game’s overhauled customization features; just drag and drop. It reminded me a heck of a lot of Far Cry’s map editor.

If all those features sounded like rocket-busting amazing news, it’s time to drop the disappointment hammer like Calista Flockhart dropped her Hollywood career. That’s right, it’s now time for all the bad news.

The game is no longer open world. You don’t just to scroll to wherever you want. Neighborhoods and locations are now broken down into segmented instances, so that means bringing back the good ‘ole loading screen. The upside is that you can keep all your characters and game world entities, no matter where you go. It’s also possible to easily select a Sim and take them into another player’s game; as cool as that sounds you will have to deal with the fact that you’ll no longer have access to as many locations right off the bat in comparison to what you had in The Sims 3… not without expansion packs, anyway.

The Sims 4

Speaking of expansions… the game sports a new subscription model for content. It’s possible to import new custom items into your game without exiting The Sims 4 using the new in-game gallery. However, there’s a bit of a catch: not all the content from the gallery will be free. Some of it will require subscription access to new content and material, as sleuthed out by Eurogamer.

Given the instanced areas, the subscription model and the creeping sensation of possible truckloads of microtransactions and mini-expansion packs, I get the feeling that The Sims 4 could be a real money sink for whales.

So far, I’m not going to deny that a lot of the new features – the new ways to die, the new ways to interact, the new ways to build and the new ways to share content – are cool, because they are. Of course, you still have to question: are the potential cons of The Sims 4 less criminal than the pros?

You’ll have to decide for yourself if the game is worth purchasing when it launches on September 2nd. You can learn more about The Sims 4 by paying a visit to the official website.

(Updated 1 August, 2014 @ 22:31:40)


Billy has been rustling Jimmies for years. The GJP cried and their tears became his milkshake. Contact.

  • Lord Darque

    My wife and I both played Sims 1 & 2 to death. Downloaded more stuff for it than any other game I have ever played. For Sims 2 I got a whole set of fully detailed bodies and of course killed the censor blur.

    I liked many of the things about 2. The vampires and the ability to turn your home into a little club. But what I did not like was all the new micro-management it required. I really prefer to let the Sims mostly live and act as they wish rather than me leading them around on a leash all the time.

    So for this version I really have 2 questions. The first is how much do you have to take control to keep them happy and active. The second has to do with custom content. Will it still be possible for users to make and release new items? I loath micro-transactions with a bloody passion so I would not being using their little cash store. Frankly they are slowly pushing me out of gaming. The very notion of pay-to-win makes me want to vomit. The most fundamental thing about *any* game should be a level playing field. Skill and perhaps luck is supposed to matter not how much you spend.

    • Billy

      Two excellent questions.

      There’s a level of automation involved with how Sims go about their business, but EA didn’t detail if the overhaul/evolution of the emotion/traits system makes them more or less dependent on player interaction.

      As for the second question… EA has been extremely tight-lipped about how much control users will have with custom content. We know you can edit and upload things to the gallery, but just how much control you’ll have over that content hasn’t been fully revealed just yet (I expect they’ll keep it close to their chest until release rolls around).

      I imagine EA’s probably attempting to find some way to get in on monetizing user content and the gallery might be their way of doing that. But we’ll see just how far they go with that concept.

      • Lord Darque

        Thanks. I guess we will have to see what happens.

        It has been a while since I spent time on Sims 2. For all the good things I remember there was a new addition in Aspirations I believe it was called. The Sims would almost never do anything about these on their own. So the choice was to make them do things or just accept they would always be a little unfulfilled. Didn’t much care for those.

        If EA tries to charge for user content in any way that will be beyond vile. User created content has been a huge part of the game since the beginning. If EA wants to sell it’s stuff to people willing to buy it fine but not things created by others.

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