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The Sims 4 Eco Lifestyle review: It's trash, but in a good way

The Sims 4 has tried to do eco friendly in the past, with the Laundry Day Stuff and last year’s Island Living Expansion. But where those were half-hearted, Eco Lifestyle shows a real commitment to the cause. Eco Lifestyle has recycled the game and my interest in The Sims, with a playful and thoughtful take on environmental issues.

It drops us into the new town of Evergreen Harbor, and from the map alone you'll see the new eco footprint mode - the state of environmental effect every neighbourhood in the town is at. Evergreen Harbor comprises a few different neighbourhoods; Conifer Station, Grim’s Quarry, and Port Promise. Each of these neighborhoods is at a different level of eco-ness - Conifer Station is neutral, Grim’s Quarry is green, and Port Promise is industrial. These three neighborhoods look significantly different when you visit each of them, and breathing down a gulp of air in each neighborhood will yield different results. If the area is industrial, expect your Sim to be uncomfortable and have a coughing fit. It's nasty stuff. But Evergreen Harbor in general looks gorgeous when you first play it. The difference in neighbourhood designs are a breath of fresh air, really helping to set it apart.

Eco footprint can be seen in all worlds apart from StrangerVille and the destination worlds, and that’s partly what’s great about this: the world of The Sims 4 is no longer perfect. It’s being turned on its head and filled with trash. It’s about time The Sims 4 gave us some proper consequences, with areas of Evergreen Harbor changing as the environment gets better or worse. Nearly every decision you make will have a direct impact on the environment around you. From flooring to wallpaper, these changes affect the eco impact, fire and flooding risk, and household bills, amongst others. New build and buy items are cute, and there are some really beautiful pieces of furniture that you’ll be able to work with in almost any build. You can also go dumpster diving and grab some iconic Sims 1 furniture.

Eco Lifestyle has even brought me back to The Sims in live mode, something I haven't done in months. There's a good reason to be nice to people; Influence. You need Influence points to pass different neighborhood action plans. These are things like looking after your water usage, making everyone wear paper bags on their heads, keeping Sims fit, free love, having consistently “juiced” (aka drunk) Sims, becoming self-sufficient and more. And this, just like the wallpaper you chose, has an effect on the state of the world.

There’s also a new community space - one in each neighbourhood. This new lot type can change as your community votes. It starts off as a normal community space - mostly an empty bar with a few useful items like the voting board or a recycler. But it can be transformed into a community garden, a maker space, or a marketplace, and these can change depending on how Influence points are spent.

Dumpster diving is a big deal in Eco Lifestyle, and for good reason: you can find trash, meals, deals, recyclables, and compostables. It’s great for Sims who want to get things for cheap, although they'll be a bit trashed. It's a neat way to deck out a new pad and stay within budget, as well as recycling rather than spending on new items. If you’re a fan of the Rags To Riches challenge, these dumpsters are going to be your lifeblood.

I have conflicting feelings about the Create-A-Sim in this pack. I love the new hairstyles, the new piercings, and the new stretcher plugs, but I really hate some of the clothes. I’m not even bothered by the fact they look handmade - that’s the point. But a lot of them only really look good on slimmer Sims, and that isn’t cool. Maybe The Sims has leaned a little too much on the hippy vibe. You can save the world, but I'm not sure you look good doing it. Still, the traits are impressive and lean successfully on the environmental lifestyle; Green Fiends are happiest when living on an eco-friendly street, Recycle Disciples get off on recycling. The Freegan trait means Sims get better treasures when dumpster diving and those with the Maker trait are happiest getting creative - whether using the fabricator, candlemaker, juice fizzing, or woodworking.

Eco Lifestyle breathes more life into The Sims, adding replay value from save file to save file or world to world. It feels like it's deep enough to make full-on trash towns or eco havens, with a substantial pack that lets you get creative and genuinely affect gameplay even once the novelty of washing your 1000th yoghurt pot wears off.

The Sims 4 Eco Lifestyle was reviewed on PC using code supplied by EA.

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