The Sims 3
Our verdict on one of the biggest PC releases this year.
The Sims Studio
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My first attempt at a new tiny person came in the shape of Tugboat Mackenze; a fat insane scientist who considered smoking jackets both casual and formalwear.
While things got off to a nice start, with Tugger telling his neighbours stories that had them in fits of laughter - possibly about monkeys on unicycles - it all went a bit tits up come bedtime.
Tugs went to sleep, but his energy didn't recover, meaning he stayed in bed forever.
Tuggy-B didn't even bother waking up to go to work. He didn't get up and wash, or eat. He didn't even make a perfunctory effort to stand up and piss his pants, nor did he awake to pass out - as the command list in the top corner informed me he was going to.
Tugboat Mackenzie didn't even wake up to 'expire', as he was meant to. He didn't even get up in order to die.
Unperturbed by this apparent game-breaking bug, I began again. This time, my Sim would hopefully get out of bed at some point.
Yes folks, it's The Sims 3. Can you guess what game(s) it happens to be just like?
Between the release of The Sims 2 in 2004 and the eight expansion packs, more little additions and half a dozen different release versions that came in the interim, it may seem like the series has never been away.
It may also seem like there's no real point in picking up the new Simmy title, seeing as the fifteen million add-ons galvanised the second title into something far more than the original release.
But that would be a pretty stupid view.
That isn't to say you will be blown away by what you get with The Sims 3 - not by a long shot. This is strictly Sims-by-numbers, and anyone with even a perfunctory grasp of the last two titles will be able to pick up and get stuck right in to the new game.
However, that's not to say The Sims 3 is a bad game at all, it's just the majority of the experience is one we've all had before.
It's refined to a near-perfect formula and it can be just as much fun as you've had in past iterations - plus it scales back quite well so will work on PCs and laptops of a few year's age. But this doesn't stop the fact that it is simply The Sims for the third time.
Where the second game took the idea to new levels, introduced reams of new features and generally gave the first game - which was more of an experiment than a game - a kick up the arse, the third merely expands a little on these ideas and doesn't seem to take anything to any great heights.
It's a logical extension and it works - adding a fully-featured town to the neighbourhood just makes sense. Other additions come from expansion packs, throw in a few more hints of progression for the series and take the whole 'life' thing to a whole new level, allowing all Sims in the game - human controlled or not - to live complete lives. The problem is that it isn't very daring in what it adds and the game tends to retread terrain that's been very, very heavily trodden already.
As for the bits that were in previous titles but aren't in this one? Place your bets on how many expansion packs there will be for the new title. I'll put a fiver on fifteen.
But that's hardly the point.
The Sims 3, just as the two previous titles, is a game all about an individual and their story; what happened with their tiny wo/man; what happened when their child grew up, married their neighbour and then died in a bizarre piss-stained incident where the walls magically closed in (as if controlled by an invisible higher power) and left them trapped in a box room for a few days without light, toilet facilities or food.
The incident with Tugboat Mackenzie is one that can be ignored - it was a one-off bug that I didn't encounter again, but it's still a funny story to tell. Other than that it was business as usual; the inability to do everything you need your chap to do in a day, the ease of which you can get a wife, chatting up every member of the same sex you meet just to disgust your partner, attempting in vain to get off with the paper boy - it cannot be said that The Sims 3 does anything wrong on these counts.
So it may well be the same thing again, but it's so bloody good, still so astonishingly addictive that it really doesn't matter. Where the masses of expansion packs for The Sims 2 may have come across as cynical and left many with a bad taste in their mouth (as happens when your Sim eats leftovers from a cheap fridge, apparently), this is a fantastic piece of software.