The Sims: Livin' Large Review
PII 233, 32MB RAM, 2MB Video Card, 175MB HD
|ESRB rating: T
release date: Aug 27, 00 (released)
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I'd really hate to repeat myself in writing this review... I've been playing Livin' Large for some time now, but I've actually spent more hours thinking what to write on the subject. How do you score an expansion pack? What do you review it for? You might say, I'm a big Sims fan; I even wrote the review for the game when it came out, and apart from Counter-Strike, I could name Sims as the game most likely to cause serious dehydration, and the absence of essential amino acids from the body.
But even though I'm a self-admitted addict, I still have shreds of dignity left. Meaning, I won't go shouting that the expansion pack is the second coming of Jesus just because it's based on the excellent original. So, before I go any further with this text, let me just stick a little disclaimer to it. The review is aimed at the improvements and the added value of the expansion pack over the original. It's not intended to critique those features that made the original so good, and so popular. In other words, if you're a Sims fan, don't go flaming my ass just because I laid the smack down on the expansion pack! I've grown weary over the years, seeing so many excellent franchises become just a routine stream of mediocre projects almost solely depending on the once innovative concepts of the original. There are several reasons why such things happen: the original author gets less and less involved with the franchise, corpo-heads not wanting to experiment with the steady inflow of cash, lack of fresh ideas... I'll give you just a few examples: Highlander original movie (which kicked butt), and the later crap, Tomb Raider (need I say more), and even the Warcraft series (back to the conservative RTS style - Warcraft III decision)... (Yes, I'm referring to sequels, but the given examples reveal an indicative pattern.)
Don't get me wrong... I'm not saying that The Sims franchise is heading in the same direction. I hope to God not! Will Wright is still very much active on the project, and Maxis is hard at work on their upcoming multiplayer version of the game, but if we were to judge from the expansion pack... Hmm, depends on what you expect from an expansion pack really! I guess I was spoiled by Will Wright's genius, and I expected more than just a simple updated "Sims Shopping List", or as they would put it in economical terms - increased supply and demand for Sims Goods. Sure there are new neighborhoods, all sorts of new interior d'cors, new fashion tricks, and a whole lot of jobs and high-tech toys, but is that all the developers could offer? I guess there are many that would go with a resounding "YOU BET", but as I said, I guess I was spoiled and I expected something more... I didn't even feel like importing my original Sims family, although there was an option to do that. I felt like starting fresh, and just picking apart one new option after another...
Unfortunately, it doesn't take long to realize that some of the options that I've been looking forward to the most are again absent from the expansion pack. It's surely a difference in opinions, and desires, but I hoped that the expansion pack would bring improved pathfinding, more accurate passing of in-game time, and a partially automated micro-management option. The Livin' Large Sims are, as usual, getting stuck in bathrooms, and taking the longest possible route to the trashcan; and sometimes, their wacky decisions aren't caused by my lack of architectural skills. I know it was unrealistic to expect better pathfinding in the original, as the AI coding was demanding enough, but Maxis had enough time for the expansion pack. I didn't expect all that much, just a tiny bit smarter pathfinding, but, to my disappointment, I thought that the Simsonians were even more perplexed around the house than before. I though their confusing paths maybe had to do with my awkward design of the house, so I placed the little buggers in a pre-defined (came with the box) pimp-style mansion, but to no avail. So much for improved pathfinding... It still takes about half an hour for the Simsonians to take a wiz (or realize they need to do it without my assistance). Consequently, I never had enough time to keep up with the demanding job, and make enough friends. One of the two just took too much of my spare time, so I ended up making my Sims sleep for no more than 4-5 hours.
Livin' Large offers a whole slew of new job opportunities. It includes careers in extreme sports, music (rock band musician), journalism, and even lifeguarding (wow, Mitch B. better baywatch out). So, there's even more reasons to forget completely about your social life in the game. The developers made it extra hard for career-hungry players by including an interesting feature that's best explained as Social Incompatibility. Making friends in Livin' Large is not a simple matter of chatting away with the "wished-for, potential friend". The expansion includes one more variable that decides the general compatibility of the two Sims --- you can try your ass off, but you won't get it on with a Sim unless your profiles "match", and you pretty much enjoy similar activities. The helpful interface suggests you should try a different approach, but, in actuality, this usually means that you'll just pick another victim to bore to death with your lousy joggling, and odd sense of humor. Social Incompatibility is really one of the rare conceptual additions to the game, and as such is highly commendable. Although it increases the playing hours needed to get to that desired promotion...
During the past several months, I had a chance to read a ton of original Sims reviews, but it was CGO's piece that stood out from the pile with a couple of well-made remarks. The observations also hold true for the expansion pack, even more so than for the original. The CGO reviewer suggested that the game focused too much on the consumer mania, lacking any somewhat higher spiritual goals. At first, I thought it was a slightly over-exaggerated, philosophical remark, but as I went on with the game, I began to realize the appropriateness of such a notion. Needles to say, Livin' Large just adds to the "consumer obsessed politics" by adding more than a hundred new objects in the game ($15,000 high-tech robot, anybody), and providing for a lot more opportunities to increase your living standards. Some of you will say: hence the name, stupid --- Livin' Large, but I beg to differ. Couldn't livin' large stand for: "the best thing in life's for free"? I know that many of you might think that my comment is out of place, but including emotional/spiritual goals in the game seemed like an achievable task considering the time-frame. The added goals could've provided more meaning, and subsequently more fun, since the concept of making friends, and being well fed to get a job promotion (buy more stuff) does get tiring after a while.
Gorgeous, polished, clever and exciting; you get to pilot tanks, weird flying craft, drive a buggy with your teammates in it...
TV resolutions, the fucking game pad, no character depth whatsoever and the gameplay models could've had a bit more polys.