Sims 3
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The start of something new - and well worth the wait

It came this morning. Having seen a delivery van outside my house, I ran downstairs, my hair still skew-wiff from my sleep, and was greeted at the door by a miserable delivery man with a slim Amazon parcel. Snatching it out of his hands as well as slamming the door in his face, I ran to my shiny blue LED rig, slammed the disc into the tray and finally, after so long of waiting, had to sit around for another 20 minutes as it installed. Nevertheless, The Sims 3 was running, and after so much speculation as well as so many people trying to convince me that it was merely a re-branded version of The Sims 2, I could experience the new Sims 3 from my own perspective.

The first part of this paragraph is ever so slightly untrue. Just a tad.

"You never get a second chance to make a first impression"

Admittedly, I was quite over-impressed with the game at first. Not having to deal with Steam was quite relief as most games which prompt online updates - as does The Sims 3 from its new EA Manager feature - take quite a while - at least for me. However, I chose not to accept the prompted update as I dived straight into the mystical realm of simulation. As usual, the menus still remain very "Sim-y": glossy blue menus, elevator music, etc. However, it seems more care had been taken whilst building them. Now, instead of having to fish through a string of unidentifiable mini-icons just to change your resolution size, a range of text-based options have been added to the introductory screen making it much easier for the user to mess about with before heading off into the neighbourhood. Its new simple layout was quite a catch, I though, as I clicked on the first neighbourhood and began living it up Sim style.

Before I could even reach the neighbourhood, or at least pan around to see what's new, I was greeted by notification after notification prompting me to take every tutorial the game had to offer. Although I understand this is to help with the new features, I even clicked the "Don't help me" button to which I was still hounded. The audience playing The Sims 3 will mostly consist of fans like me wanting something newer, something better. As each prompt remains individual, it means you will continuously be asked throughout the game to take part in tutorials as you explore new things. Thanks, EA, but no thanks.

The Create-A-Sim feature remains as Sim-y as ever. New and important features have been added throughout the creation process meaning you can fine-tune your Sim right down to the colour of their socks - literally. This is perfect for such an in-depth simulator but I can't help but feel it's a bit - or rather very - overdue. Nevertheless, the additional clothing features and customisation tools are a wonder. Whether you want a swanky new bracelet or huge biceps, you have the ability to continuously choose both size and colour! When it comes to the clothes and hairstyles, however, I often wonder if the creators sit in underground bunkers all day completely unaware of life on the surface. The clothes are what I expected: basic clothes that a mother would buy for her son. It seems the latest fashions aren't really a big thing to the developers, which I can only thank the ability to add custom items for saving us, but a game with such prestige should surely be covering these bases. Even the male hairstyles are a bit of a pushover. Not once in the entire series have I looked at a hairstyle and thought "You know what? That actually looks pretty cool." I'd honestly consider making a search for some custom content if you want to get a little more personal than that a beige polo shirt.

The aspirations did impress me, however. For the ability to have such a range of aspirations in the past, it meant forking out even more money over expansion packs just so you could unlock a few new careers. It seems the new outlook really has got your Sims mind pre-planned from the start. Whether they're ambitious, lazy or athletic, your Sim is built with a frame of mind - something the Sims have never really had before and only briefly introduced in The Sims 2. To say the world works around money, aspiring to the be the best has certainly moved up on the ladder of importance and you're now able to select an all-time goal for your Sims being the career position they want to achieve: CEO of a company, superstar athlete or even an astronaut!

Still fighting off the tutorial prompts, I finally got into the game with my freshly created character. The graphics are slight step up from The Sims 2. More detail has been given to areas such as the grass, individual objects and most importantly your Sim. The entire house is also customisable. The Sims 2 only offered the option to change the colour of the object from a range of pre-set colours, but it seems now, using the paint tool, you are able to paint the walls to the computer in a sparkling pink or even an alluring purple - if you're that kind of guy. Three things, however, really did take my notice: food, sleep and the toilet. Finally, all of these things have been branded with the phrase: "less often." You couldn't even play a game of pool in the previous versions without needing one of the three! Sure, they are still basic requirements and mandatory parts of living, but your ability to go for longer without them not only adds to the realism but as well to my relief. Now, after one bowl of cereal, your Sim really is set-up for the day and ready to go - as opposed to 3. Well done, EA. Yeah!

The new neighbourhood outlook is something also very cool which I commend the developers on. Not only are you a lot on the neighbourhood, you're literally living in it. At any given time, you have the ability to zoom in on what your neighbours are doing, call to the gym or go fishing at the beach without having to sit through a loading screen starring at a picture of a cab. In fact, if you want to hop around even quicker, the ability to own and drive a car is here! Again, as ridiculous as it might sound that I emphasise such a feature, in the previous versions, an expansion pack was required just to unlock them and even then they weren't as good as what the Sims 3 has to offer. If your Sim's belly starts to get a little on the large side, there's not even a need to run to a yellow payphone and stand around waiting for your taxi: simply click on your Sim, tell him/her to go the gym and watch them jog along the neighbourhood to pump some iron or go for a dip (swim).

Finally, your ability to explore the world and all of the newly added items never really seems to stop. Whether you'd prefer a day fishing at the beach over a game of fussball is entirely up to you - not to mention the neighbourhood and range of careers to explore and excel in. Unlike The Sims 2, I don't find myself thinking "this is just like the last one only it has better graphics and my Sim doesn't become confused by a chair partially blocking their path." It truly looks like a very good game with many hours of fun playing to be had. With expansions, I imagine the game will be a sensational blast from what we've previously seen, but my adventure has only just begun.

The game is currently retailed at around £20 in the UK and is well-worth the buy. From my current playing experience and only some of the points listed above, I'm going to score the game with an accomplished 8.5.