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The Sims 3: Generations hands-on preview

The Sims 3: Generations is the fourth expansion pack for The Sims 3, taking some inspiration from a number of Sims 2 expansions like University and House Party. But what makes Generations special is how it brings out meaningful events from each of character depending on their respective phase in life.

Generations is one of the more robust expansions in the franchise, especially when it comes to the teenage characters, and it definitely looks to bring out their rebellious side. The new ability to pull off pranks epitomizes the naughty teen years – sometimes you just want to leave a flaming bag on the doorstep of a nearby household. It was amusing to watch our Sim creep stealthily toward the front door, plant the bag, watch her neighbor’s reaction and the subsequent bag stomping. What was equally amusing was how the teenage Sim did very little to hide herself. Soon thereafter our Sim added unknowing insult to injury by inviting herself to that neighbor’s home. For the record, that successful prank earned her +15 in Mood, as well as a 12 hour cooling off period before she could enact her next prank.

Much of the gameplay and enacting these events are as simple as any other Sim expansion. Pulling off pranks simply requires highlighting a neighbor’s house and choosing any of the selectable pranks. Aside from the flame bag, other options include throwing eggs or a pull off a simple doorbell ditch.

One of the more in-depth features is the opportunity to send teens to boarding school. Obviously this will be an opportunity for them to learn and enhance specific traits. Much of it depends on which school the player sends them to, whether it’s the expensive Smuggsworth Prep School or the School of Peace and Love, along with three other educational options. It’s a great test in commitment since the parents won’t be able to see their teen for a while, but at least they know she’s getting a good education. Aside from getting progress updates, players can also call their teen to see how she’s doing. For those who really can’t stand the separation, you can remove them and bring them back home.

There is something obviously meta about watching your Sims relive happy memories in their old age, but that’s what you get to do with the elderly characters. You can get them to fall into moments of nostalgia aided by watching home videos. This in itself is an extension of the series’ functionality of Memories in the past but it’s definitely much more fleshed out and worthwhile in Generations. One would think that there’s something redundant about watching someone watch themselves, but it is surprisingly entertaining here. Like many actions in The Sims, there are minor point bonuses for reminiscing.

Like many other expansions, Generations has its share of new items in Buy Mode. These items span across all item types from the ComPRESSOR waste compactor to an asteroids-themed Hopscotch court to an alarm clock that looks like a kettle. One of the key items in the game is the video camera, which does exactly what one would expect: recording the aforementioned home movies. Like many Sims products, there’s a variety in quality. The Sonyo VideoStop Triple for example is one of the higher-end models, one that has long playback and great video quality.

In many ways, the content of Sims 3 Generations feels long overdue for this 11 year old franchise. Many of the activities are practically rites of passage in real life, not that we’re predestined to have midlife crises. It also seems that Maxis has had the enhanced Memories feature planned for quite a while; they picked a good time to utilize it as it complements the momentous events that Generations brings out, although many gamers should find joy in the ordinary things in life as well.

May 17, 2011