Try before you buy has been a marketing scheme that has worked wonders for consumers over the years. In gaming however, and in the UK particularly, our local Blockbuster and Choices stores that allowed game renting are no longer a reality and the closest we get to try before you buy is the EA Access App that’s available to Xbox One players.

Downloading the trials of upcoming games not only gives us the opportunity to play the finished product several days before release, but also allows us to get a general feel for everything we can expect when the game finally arrives. The Sims 4 is the latest game to take advantage of the EA Access Play First trial, so after years of waiting for the life management sequel, how does the game shape up on Xbox One.

The Sims 4 starts players off in the way we’ve come to know over the years. First you create your family, be it one Sim or a full family of up to eight Sims, before choosing the neighbourhood you wish to live, and whether you want a fully furnished home, an unfurnished one, or simply an empty plot of land from which to build you biggest dreams provided you have the Simoleans – Sims cash – to fund those ideas.

When you actually get into things though, there’s not that much of an immediate difference from the usual Sims experience. That doesn’t mean there isn’t plenty to do of course; each has their own goals and lifetime aspirations to achieve, and with bills to pay, and needs to fulfil – the usual Bladder, Fun, Hunger, Social, Energy and Hygiene options all returning – the life of a Sim can very quickly become as challenging as real life itself… other than the fact that my toilet doesn’t tend to leak after every five flushes.

If you’re hoping for a story of some variety, then you’ve come into things with the wrong approach. In The Sims 4, as indeed every game before it, your story is what you make it. If you want to become a world class painter then that option is yours to work towards, if you want to be a rebellious party goer, then that’s also a possibility. If the family oriented lifestyle is more for you then why not go all out and manage the lives of your family for generations from birth to death – hopefully without too many casualties along the way.

Whatever you choose as your goals within the game, it’s fair to say there are a wide variety of ways to make sure you achieve them. But it’s not just gameplay choices that come in abundance, and those who find joy in customising their homes to perfection will find an incredible amount of content available to ensure you can make your home unique. The layout used to find all the items is presented in a nice way too, and with a quick look at the Build Mode menu, players can find items to fit every room in the house in a layout that would make the showroom kitchens and bathrooms in your local Homebase weep.

Admittedly, some of the items within the game feel like a simply pointless addition, such as the Mission Control space program launcher that is apparently an option for the low price of 705 Simoleans for the aspiring astronauts out there, but in general the sheer volume and variety of items that can be used to customise your game and your Sims is certainly an impressive upgrade over the options we had in The Sims 3.

As for the gameplay, and well, The Sims 4 plays much like every other Sims game has in the past. The option to control time is still there and is as necessary as ever if you want to have a hope in hell of keeping your Sims sane for more than 24 hours. Progressions bars for things such as skills learnt, items fixed, activities completed, and friendships made are still all in place with their usual green bar to show how well you’re doing, although it could have been made so much better with the latest release if there had been a little more thought put into it, such as more information or a different type of progress bar available other than simply a full bar means job done.

Visually it’s probably fair to say there isn’t much in the way of change, but given the fact that we’re now on an entirely new console generation, there’s no doubt some improvements, but in the general scheme of things, The Sims 4 still looks and feels a lot like a typical Sims game. Whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing is probably justified by your own thoughts on the series in general, but for me, it’s not terrible and still looks as great as I’ve always remembered.

There is one thing that I truly despise from my first ten hours with the game, and that’s the god-awful cursor that is used to navigate the screen. After just five minutes it became pretty apparent that the guys over Maxis haven’t done much in the three years since The Sims 4 arrived on PC to ensure that the Xbox One version feels like it actually belongs on Xbox One. With a cursor ripped straight out of the PC version, and movement feeling near identical to it as well, it’s hard to believe that this isn’t simply just a quick copy and paste from from PC to Xbox.

The early signs are good, though. The Sims 4 feels, looks and plays like a Sims game should, and it has clear improvements over its predecessor that whilst not exactly game changing, do feel like a warranted return. There are no signs that the huge amount of DLC content will be available any time soon, but those who want another shot at the popular life management series will certainly want to check things out when the full release arrives on Xbox One.


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