The Sims may have been usurped by Minecraft and Fortnite in recent years, but I grew up as part of the generation that was obsessed with The Sims 2. I’m not afraid to admit that it’s been a bit of a guilty pleasure of mine over the years: I sunk countless hours into the PC version growing up, but also owned copious spin-offs on the PlayStation 2, including The Sims 2: Pets and The Sims 2: Castaway.
When The Sims 4 launched as part of PlayStation Plus recently, then, I hurriedly downloaded it – before promptly getting distracted by more pressing matters. But with the coronavirus stopping any small semblance of a social life I happen to have, I figured that I may as well live vicariously through an infinitely more attractive virtual character for the time being.
I know EA’s name is effectively mud in the hardcore gaming community, and I understand all the reasons why, but my opinion has generally been that you can rely on the publisher to produce a relatively polished, good-looking game. I assumed when I played The Sims 4 on the PlayStation 4 that it’d at least be optimised for Sony’s console – but I was wrong.
This is a travesty of a title in so many ways, and it’s made all the more frustrating by the fact that at its core it’s so cool. Being a contemporary console release means that Maxis has done away with standalone spin-offs, making add-on packs such as an island getaway and a Harry Potter-inspired wizarding village available as expansions.
There’s a lot of money you can spend here, but the content is genuinely incredible: you can go to college to help develop your career or live a celebrity lifestyle – heck, there’s even a full add-on designated to raising and playing with your very own pets. Like so many games on the PS4 these days, there’s enough content to keep you occupied for 1,000s of hours – and more on the way.
The problem is that it’s all borderline unplayable. For a game targeting the most casual audience imaginable, I’ve been flabbergasted by how badly The Sims 4 runs on Sony’s console: loading times are outrageously long, there are micro-stutters whenever you click on anything, but the biggest cardinal sin of all is that the user interface hasn’t been adapted for couch play in the slightest.
For starters, fonts are microscopic. This is an issue that plagues practically all games at the moment, but I’ve never seen anything like The Sims 4 – unless you plant your face against your television screen, you won’t be able to read anything. This kind of interface is fine for a PC, where you’re generally going to be closer to the display, but I can’t believe there isn’t even an option to increase the fonts here.
Nothing has been optimised at all. You navigate with a cursor clumsily mapped to the analogue stick, while the camera pivots around imprecisely. Interacting with objects in the world is fiddly, and almost everything comes with framerate hiccups. There are no real controller shortcuts, so tasks take twice as long as they should, and build mode is practically impenetrable on a DualShock 4.
It’s such a shame because when you’re training astronauts and getting married to ghosts this is a wonderful experience that’s unlikely anything else available on the PS4 at all. But for a game designed with everybody in mind, it’s an insult for it to be available in this state. Maxis continues to release expansions, but clearly it doesn’t care about the issues at the core of the package itself.
You know, I can forgive the loading times and framerate issues – this is a complex simulation, and the PS4 is getting long in the tooth. But the failure to adapt the user interface; the complete lack of accessibility options for a game targeting an enormous audience – it is, quite frankly, an abomination. I started playing The Sims 4 to escape real-life, but I think I prefer a pandemic to this sloppy port.
Have you attempted to play The Sims 4 on console at all? Have you been equally flabbergasted by how poorly optimised the experience is? Complain in Simlish in the comments section below.