Update: I was unfortunately not aware of Shamus Young's severe criticism of Fallout 3 available here to link in the original piece and I regret that. It dovetails rather nicely with what I've written and it's much better executed than my piece. I strongly recommend anyone...
The Sims carries a strange stigma, as if a hardcore gamer like myself can't like the series without having my peers glare at me with a sort of "oh, so you like that dollhouse simulator, huh?" Oh, yes, please bathe me in your judgmental stares. I feed off them. Okay, I lied. My peers don't really care. They just want me to stop playing fake life and go outside where real life apparently exists. Escapism, our collective ass.
But really, The Sims 4 hits my guilty pleasure spot. Though the demo Electronic Arts showed was still in alpha, the smoothness of the character creation and the user interface was even more incredible than the two prior trailers showing the two. Seeing is believing, after all, and being able to sculpt a brand-new Sim like clay, just by pulling on its cheeks, shoulders, and legs without having to enter any numbers is the very definition of user-friendly.
The same goes for build mode, which allows players to combine two rooms together without having to worry about objects overlapping or different styles needing to combine. Walls and foundations can be adjusted with ease, and windows, objects, and landscaping can be placed without needing the engine to stutter and process for seconds at a time.
Sims come with Aspirations, similar to lifetime wishes from prior Sims titles, based on one of ten general areas like Love, Athletic, Nature, and Knowledge. Selecting the Computer Whiz from the Knowledge branch, for instance, gives the Sim the Quick Learner trait to build any skill at a higher rate. Also familiar, several traits can be selected that define the Sim's personality like Active, Goofball, Snob, Bro, or Noncommittal that will shape the Sim's actions and open new areas for conversation.
On top of that, Sims can experience mood swings depending on past actions, such as getting angry over losing a fight or energized after getting a good night's rest. Though being in a foul mood usually results in having negative interactions with other Sims, it can motivate a Sim to perform Sit-ups of Fury or Peeved Pushups that actually build Athletic Skills faster than normal ones.
The best feature of all, though, is the online Gallery, which is essentially a much better-implemented Exchange from The Sims 3. Every Sim and house created by one player can be, with a simple click or two, be inserted into the another player's game, sometimes at the cost of some in-game Simoleans. This means players can bring their friend's creations into their world, or fashion awesome or weird (or both) storylines where Chuck Norris arrives at a rager party when Kim Jung-un crashes the party and burns the kitchen down while trying to bake a cupcake. I didn't make that up; that was all in the off-hands demo I saw.
Of course, plenty of details about The Sims 4 have yet to be revealed, like careers, map traversal, and marriage. The only other pieces of information I learned was that Sims can die from laughter, Sims can be set to being ageless, and that a neat genetics system will be in place that can generate parents or a child procedurally given a Sim or two. The Sims 4 plans to release for PC in North America on September 2.