The Sims 3: Generations Review
Who knew back in 2000 that any of us would enjoy playing a game where we do things like go to work, do chores and get stuck in toxic relationships? I mean, aren't these the very things we try and avoid in real life? Amazingly, the absurd idea of living out a parallel life not necessarily any more exciting than our own has proven to be the unshakable foundation of an entire franchise, and has made The Sims crazy-successful. Currently in its third incarnation, this month The Sims 3 welcomes its fourth expansion, The Sims 3: Generations and let me tell you, domestic problems have never been this much fun.
Sims expansions generally consist of new locations, activities and vanity items and Generations follows that pattern—sort of. Your Sims now have video cameras and treehouses and chemistry sets, but the real focus of the game is their progression through the various stages of life. Babies grow into toddlers, then to prank-pulling grade schoolers, rebellious teens, young adults, adults and elders and each stage of life offers uniquely silly things to do. Toddlers create imaginary friends (who with enough attention can actually become—shudder—real), older children dress up in silly costumes, enjoy kids-only hideouts, create noxious potions with home chemistry sets and torment their parents by booby-trapping household appliances or planting whoopee cushions and teenagers...well, they do what teenagers do.
You start by creating either a single Sim or a family of them and giving them attributes. In my case, I made a young, single adult male named Bill. Bill was a friendly, family-oriented guy, with a small three room house and a job at the local science lab. He went to work, he made friends, he kept himself clean and most importantly, did his damnedest to meet a woman. Early on, the game tried to foist a dumpy co-worker on Bill, but keeping Bill’s best interests at heart, I ignored her and instead sent him after the hot little blonde at the local gym.
Unfortunately, Bill was not the ladies man I hoped he would be and while he was able to get the girl interested, he couldn't “win her over”, if you know what I mean. I cut Bill's losses and sent him after two other women who did more or less the same thing. Much to our collective chagrin, we found out chicks don't dig skinny, four-eyed guys who want six kids and obsess about computers.
Finally, impatient to get Bill's life going, I resigned him to marrying the dumpy coworker. I planned a great bachelor party (where Bill got jiggy with the hired stripper) and a spectacular back yard wedding, only to have it all come crashing down around us. Come the wedding day, I had Bill all decked out in a tuxedo and ready to take his vows when out of the woodwork came three very angry women (including the stripper) who publicly denounced him as a cheater. The resultant shouting match exposed his philandering ways and ruined forever his chances of carrying a dumpy bride-to-be over the threshold and having a mess of dumpy children. Word of advice folks—if you mess around in Generations, it will come back to bite you in the ass.
This disastrous scenario was the hilarious result of the expansion's clever new reputation system which tracks every romantic move you make. If you try and juggle multiple love interests (especially in public) then trust me, you will pay for it. The game's new video recording mechanic adds another dimension of absurdity to these tangled affairs; if you buy your Sim a video camera, he or she can then record any activity, save it to disc and play it on TV.
If your Sims are more successful than Bill at landing a life partner, you can move on to the joys of family life and experiment with Generations’ other life stages. While babies don't do much of anything and toddlers and kids offer only a handful of new gameplay activities, teenagers offer a range of fun new things to do. Teen Sims do everything you'd expect (in a G-rated, Leave it to Beaver kind of way): they throw eggs at houses, sneak out at night, go to the prom, leave burning bags of crap on people's doorsteps and suffer insane adolescent mood swings that make them difficult to handle. The only way they might be improved is if both their crimes and their punishments were a bit more realistic. My Sims teen skipped school, slacked off, TP'ed the principal's office and dressed like a tramp, but even when she was brought home in a police car, I couldn't do much more than slap her on the hand. Sending her to juvy would've been much more satisfying.
Of course, in our world kids have it easy compared to adults and it's no different in The Sims. In Generations, not only do Sims have to deal with demanding bosses, leaking faucets and rebellious teens, they also have to face the inevitable mid-life crisis. Just like the rest of us, there's a point in their adult lives when things go kerflooey and they start wanting to wear age-inappropriate clothes and drive fast cars. If these wishes aren't fulfilled, they become despondent and uncooperative and you'll never get 'em to do anything. So if your Sim wants that fancy sportscar, then damn it all, give it to him.
With its reputation system and life stages, Generations is a solid, if not stellar, expansion. Its features are more subtle than those of previous expansions, being more behavioral than item-oriented and because of this, gamers looking for a slew of new locations or a truckload of new furniture are likely to be disappointed. Gamers interested in exploring further the depths of the human condition however, are likely to enjoy the challenge of managing (or bungling) life at every stage. They'll also enjoy collecting memories through the expansion's new video recording and memory collection system, the latter of which lets you share screenshots of memorable moments on The Sims 3's website or on Facebook. (Note: the Facebook function never worked for me and when I contacted EA's support I was told to search the forums for an answer—which I didn't find. Thumbs down to EA support!) Ultimately, your level of enjoyment depends on whether you define an expansion by its item catalog or by its gameplay mechanics.