By this point, the arrival of a brand new Sims 4 DLC pack is about as surprising as the rising of the sun, or that England will fall foul of the dreaded penalty-shootout in this year’s Euro Finals. EA certainly love to Dine Out on the hard-earned cash of the fanatic Sims fanbase, considering this is the now the eleventh piece of content to release for the game since its publication two years ago. But I digress: such cynicism isn’t necessarily befitting, especially when you consider the consistent high quality of the previous two Game Packs. In fact, The Sims 4: Dine Out the impeccable standards of The Sims 4’s Game Pack line of DLC, serving up a delightfully delectable course of steaming-hot content.
The core premise of The Sims 4: Dine Out is the ability to own your very own restaurant, with your Sim taking on the role of the manager. You can build your own from scratch or choose a pre-made lot from the gallery, and get to work creating your dream restaurant. As the manager, you have to hire staff, liaison with customers and extinguish the fires (both figuratively and literally…this is The Sims after all), all in the pursuit of achieving that coveted five-star rating.
Things start out slow, thanks to incompetent staff and a lack of public awareness, and without careful planning things can soon descend into chaos. It’s very easy to overspend early on and bankrupt your family, and while this faithfully mimics the real-world mortality rate of culinary establishments, I find it all too easy to fail in the beginning. That said however, once you grasp the basics to satisfying your customers and keeping the staff happy, the act of running your own restaurant is remarkably satisfying. You’ll glow with a sense of accomplishment as your star-rating slowly increases, and you’ll be pleased in the knowledge that it took a hell of a lot of blood, sweat and grilled cheese to get to that point.
As the manager you’ll mostly be micromanaging the daily goings-on of your eatery, such as balancing the books and keeping your staff motivated. While this is all certainly fine, enjoyable even, I can’t help but feel disappointed with the inability to take a more hands-on approach with the running of your restaurant. You can, of course, converse with the customers on a personal level, yet I want more. Why can’t I man the kitchens myself during rush-hour for instance? There is enough going on to keep you more than busy, but the absence of the nitty-gritty elements of restaurant ownership are a disappointment. Also, I’m baffled as to why I can’t fill my vacant posts with my own family members. In one instance I had a Sim who was an accomplished gourmet cook, yet I was unable to draft him in as my bespoke chef for zero pay in a sneaky effort to cut employee costs. I can see why this feature is absent. Micromanaging a whole restaurant, plus three other sims, would be like juggling a stack of plates on top of a hot stove, yet I should be able to do so. I can rope in my whole family to run my businesses in Get to Work, so why can’t I do the same in Dine Out?
The star dish in Dine Out’s menu is the sheer amount of customisation you have available at your fingertips. Many fans and critics alike criticised the base game for its lack of variation, and thankfully it appears that the Sims Team have taken these issues to heart. Everything from your staff’s attire and wages to the set menu and price mark-ups can be tweaked and changed to your heart’s desire. Fancy running a good old American grill staffed entirely by bears? Say hello to the Bear-ger Bar. Want to serve all of your guests cheesy bread and water? Go ahead, though they might be a little cheesed-off with your antics. The Sims is all about choice, and Dine Out gifts it to players on a silver platter.
If running a culinary empire doesn’t satisfy your appetite, then why not just visit a restaurant for a romantic evening for two or to celebrate your sim’s birthday. A number of new social interactions have been added to the game, specifically tailored for excursions of gastric kind. In terms of the dating system, these new additions are invaluable, and finally allow for an appropriate location to woo your new flame.
All in all, The Sims 4: Dine Out is more than a simple side-dish, instead offering up a sizable slice of awesome new content. The act of managing your very own restaurant is an intensely gratifying experience, giving players a highly-polished alternative to the standardised Sims gameplay, and the pack as a whole continues the positive trajectory the series is taking. Undeniably, there are several features missing, and a few bugs are still buzzing around the kitchen, but as an expansion to a core game still lacking in content, The Sims 4: Dine Out is an experience worthy of a Michelin star.