It seems strange that we've waited so long for gaming's version of reality television to appear on the Xbox 360. The Sims series seems to be a constant in gaming - certainly on the PC a new Sims title arrives every five minutes and they always sell by the truckload. On console, though, they're rarer and generally far less popular.
Of course, this isn't because The Sims doesn't appeal to us joypad jockeys. There's something fundamentally compelling about the interactive soap opera that is looking after little computer people. Creating your mates in particular and watching the alternate reality play out is an extremely entertaining way to while away the hours. What The Sims 3 gets right that the previous games didn't is the level of autonomy that your Sims enjoy.
Whereas before you often had to wait on them hand and foot, ordering them to feed themselves and take showers, in The Sims 3 you only interfere with the simulation when you want to achieve something. You can be sure your Sim won't turn into a reeking, urine-soaked pervert while you make a cup of tea.
Annoyingly, the old, odd controller-based issues remain. It's nowhere near as quick to flick around the house with analogue sticks as it is with a mouse, the more complex building options can be fiddly and some features are hidden away in nested menus. Still, it's usually only a temporary inconvenience and switching between the Sims in packed households is streamlined and intuitive.
What's a little more irksome is the performance of the game. Even as you launch a new game, The Sims 3 suggests that you install the game to your Xbox 360's hard drive for a better experience and you'll notice stuttering during play and frequent loading screens, even switching between Build and Live mode.
We're not sure what complex maths are going on, but it does cause the kind of irritating performance issues we're not accustomed to on the Xbox.
Despite this, there's plenty to love about The Sims 3. There's a huge town area to explore if you want to take your housemates out on the lash and the addition of ridiculous Karma powers means that if you get bored of playing things realistically, you can shake things up with firestorms and poltergeists.
Even the options for creation will easily keep you busy for hours alone, building elaborate houses and playing dress up like a theatrical five-year-old. The facts remain - there's nothing quite like this on the Xbox 360 and the series is wildly popular for a very good reason.
The world's best digital doll's house
- Sophisticated life sim
- Vast creation options
- Less hand-holding
- Occasionally fiddly controls
- Performance issues