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Nightlife Reviews Are In!

Tuesday, September 13, 2005 - 23:20

"Regardless of social oddities, the guys that are working on The Sims 2 franchise have already demonstrated the know how to provide new personality to an already fun filled experience with University. Nightlife is no exception."
IGN.com

"It's a nice addition, especially for those that want to be able to get out on the town and experience more of the sim social life instead of the sim home life."
GameSpy.com


The Sims 2 Nightlife

If you're one of those "active" types, this expansion is probably for you.

One of the challenges the team at Maxis is being asked to make good on is EA's schedule of delivering a new expansion pack for The Sims 2 every six months or so. There's obviously a lot of ideas coming from the team as they consistently delivered with mostly decent to good new content in The Sims. It's pretty obvious they hope to continue the streak with this sequel. The first expansion pack, University, brought a huge addition to the experience by adding an extra "young adult" life segment for the sims you choose to send to college. Not only did it open up some new gameplay ideas, but also gave players more time with their sims. Their latest expansion, Nightlife, adds more items, gameplay, and animations to the core game. It's a nice addition, especially for those that want to be able to get out on the town and experience more of the sim social life instead of the sim home life. It doesn't seem as huge as University did, but those Sims addicts out there will have some new additions to look forward to that could warrant a purchase.

Every Sims expansion that's ever been released has had a theme. In the case of Nightlife, it's all about Sims getting out of the house and experiencing the fun of city social activities. In this way, Nightlife definitely succeeds. Along with the new dating mini-game (which I'll get into more in a second) Maxis has included a large number of new destinations in the new downtown area including dance clubs, shops, restaurants, lounges, bowling alleys, and parks. While a lot of the areas overlap in purpose, they all make use of different themes and sometimes clever architecture and design to keep the similarities to a minimum.

The Sims 2 Nightlife

Getting sims into the swing of the social scene has become easy thanks to new features like the ability to ask other sims questions about themselves, the ability to "scope" out a room, go out on outings in groups, and date. All of these things provide a much more active feel to the game than the core product, which focused more on building and interacting within a house. Dates and outings in particular are more active for the player and are very comparable to the Greek Rush mini-game from the University expansion. Each date or group outing starts out by inviting someone or a group of people into the experience. From there, it's a matter of keeping those people entertained and excited to be out.

Dating is probably the most important addition to many players. It allows sims to really spend time with each other in a more private setting while opening up new actions like asking "What do you want?" which will allow the other sim to let you know what will make them happier. The answer could be anything from wanting to eat out with your sim or woohoo it up back at your place. This isn't just an normal date though, it's under the baleful gaze of the clock. When the date starts, you'll have a certain amount of time to raise the date rating to the next level which will add on more time. The goal, of course, is to end up with the highest rating possible. If that happens, there's a pretty good chance your sim will be a happy camper by the end of the night. Like I said, it makes the experience much more pro-active on the player's part, which for some will be awesome. For others, it'll be less awesome.

The Sims 2 Nightlife

Making things even easier for potential relations is the idea of "chemistry" which has been added to help your sims find that special someone quickly. It's a nice touch that allows you to focus energy on the sims that will be easier to get to know, especially romantically, even going so far as to point out which actions will have a greater effect on the relationship with a lightning bolt. It had been frustrating in the past wasting time talking to sims where there was simply nothing going on. Along those same lines, sims will have a better time finding someone interesting with the "scope the room" action which will pop up a little dialogue box showing who your sim thinks is the bees knees. Finally, sims will have to contend with turn-ons and turn-offs, which in sound great on paper, but in practice just tend to confuse the issue more. It's hard to remember what your own sims like and some of the time potential dates will refuse to tell you theirs.

As of the time of this review, my sims have had a lot of success dating including some very disturbing woohoos between some of my, um… less than attractive sims. It seems pretty hard to really screw up a date as long as you ask that person what it is they want and then do it. I'm not saying the date will go perfectly, but I have yet to see any water thrown in the face of another sim. You pretty much have to make an effort on your sim's behalf to screw a date up. In any case, if things go well, chances are that sim will be up for another go around and will probably be more receptive to more aggressive advances since the relationship will most likely be stronger already.

As you might imagine, keeping a group entertained is a bit more difficult than going out on a date. Much of the success of a group outing really depends on the personalities or relationships between the other members. If you have a couple of guys that are going to fight the whole time, that might bury the fun. But if you have a group that all gets along, likes to go out and have a good time, and will participate happily in group activities like bowling, dancing, and group dinners, it's a terrific way to increase the friendship quotient with those people.

The strange thing about group behavior is that sims new to the neighborhood will get random calls from sims they don't know to come out with them downtown. I guess that's an easy way to get to know a few sims quickly, but I think I would probably find it fairly bizarre in real life if I moved to some other city, didn't know anyone, and had some random Joe give me a ring and invite me out with a group.

The Sims 2 Nightlife

Regardless of social oddities, the guys that are working on The Sims 2 franchise have already demonstrated the know how to provide new personality to an already fun filled experience with University. Nightlife is no exception. New animations that come with actions and item interaction are fantastic. My favorite is probably the dance sphere (which you'll find available for purchase as well as in many of the new downtown areas) which not only provides some fun for your sims but also helps increase body stats. Give one of your sims with a low body ranking a whirl in the sphere and you'll see one of the funnier animations in the game at this point. On top of that, sims will now have to contend with vampires in the downtown areas looking to add to their ranks (though the Count hasn't found my sims attractive enough to turn) and have the added help of a gypsy who can provide an instant date for a price (spend money to get the goods, just like with the Ressurectinomitron) .

On top of the gameplay elements are several new item additions as well. DJ and picture booths provide good entertainment, new art and furniture make houses more fun, poker tables and bowling alleys provide sport and gambling, while cars (yes finally there are cars) give your sims the chance to cruise for fun or head out on the town without worrying about a taxi. All of the additions are certainly welcome and help to make your house a more interesting place. Thankfully, sims can now put items in their personal inventories. Taking career rewards from house to house, should you move, is easy as pie. Right now, one of my sims has a computer, hot tub, couch, lamp, TV, chess board, column, treadmill, and car in his personal inventory and there seems to be no end to his deep pockets. This is an addition that's particularly welcome.

Finally, players can give their sims a new aspiration in life, the Pleasure Seeker. These guys want nothing more than to have fun. The more active they are, the more successful they'll probably be. Honestly, it's my least favorite part of the game. I didn't find that it really provided anything particularly exciting or new to play with. The more interesting addition for aspirations is the new ReNuYuSenso Orb reward which allows players to change their life's aspiration. This can potentially throw everything for a loop and provide fodder for your own fun neighborhood storylines.

The Sims 2 Nightlife

Closing Comments
Nightlife is certainly worth the money if you're the kind of player that loves the social aspect more than the house aspect of the game, but it's doesn't seem as dense an addition as University was. Nevertheless, if you're a sims fan, most additions are welcome, and unless your sim household is super rich (so that you can afford to place all the new things in your house) the huge new downtown area will provide all sorts of fun new things for your sims to experience.

I'm pretty curious to see exactly how long Maxis can keep up the six-month expansion pace. More importantly, how long they can pump out expansions with creative ideas? If Nightlife is any indication, we're in store for a list of good expansions.

8.5 Presentation
Once again, the package is put together nicely. Not really much different aside from some questionable music.
9.0 Graphics
The style is the same colorful fun as always and animations are still wonderful. Time might start taking its toll, but right now, the game still looks terrific.
7.0 Sound
The simlish and effects are still good, but what's up with some of the new music? Yuck.
8.0 Gameplay
There are some great new feature additions like group outings and dating. The downtown areas are great for adventuring and plenty of new items help make Nightlife worth it.
8.5 Lasting Appeal
Probably won't extend the life like University did, but more additions definitely mean more fun.


The Sims 2: Nightlife

By Dave 'Fargo' Kosak

The Sims party hard in a city that never sleeps thanks to the latest expansion to the blockbuster game. While not a must-have, it's definitely a significant addition to the franchise.

Pros:
New social activities for Sims, new downtown with lots to do, dating. Vampires!

Cons:
No significant additions to core gameplay, additional bugs introduced into code.

Let the tragic tale of my Sim, Lillith Pleasant, be a lesson to you: after some punk overtipped her garbage cans, she caught the flu from the resulting mess. The game told me that she'd get better if she took it easy and got a lot of bedrest, but I figured, eh, she'll tough it out. After all, her fun was in the red zone. She was bored. So she hopped a cab downtown to her favorite restaurant. She ordered food at the counter, flirted with the bartender, had a couple of drinks, and threw one in the face of a redneck. Then she hit the dance floor, partying hard under the flashing lights. Soon she stepped into the DJ booth and started spinning some tunes for cash. Exhausted, she eventually grabbed a cab home. No sooner had she stepped onto her curb then she went into a coughing fit and died.

Yes, there's so much to do in Sims 2: Nightlife that it can kill.

The Sims 2 Nightlife
Ah, the end of a perfect date.
Or is it the beginning of a perfecter one?

Of course, we hold EA to a high standard for the Sims 2 expansions. The original game got a perfect 5-star score from GameSpy. And since the expansions cost a hefty $35 each, we expect significant gameplay. The first, Sims 2: University, delivered. It earned an impressive 4 1/2 stars. Unfortunately, Nightlife doesn't have as much meat as University -- it's not necessarily a "must-have." but it does offer a lot of fun activities, locations, and characters, contributing to the Sims 2 experience in a lot of meaningful ways.

What's New?

As depicted in our earlier previews, Nightlife offers a new downtown/city area that you can associate with your towns. There's only one, but it's loaded with new buildings, restaurants, stores, and entertainment centers. 125 new objects are available, most focusing on social interaction or community lot decorating. Sims can now build driveways and own their own cars, and they can form social groups or go out on dates. In addition, the inclusion of Vampires (see below) almost makes the pack.

Graphically, there are some new perks. Although it doesn't directly impact gameplay, you can now see neighboring lots from your own house -- this makes the game more immersive, since it doesn't feel like your house is floating in space anymore.

A new "Pleasure Aspiration" is now available as a Sim's life goal. Typically Sims with the Pleasure Aspiration live for the moment, their wants changing rapidly based on the situation, eager to do whatever fun thing is at hand. They're pretty easy to keep happy, but not very deep, which makes the new aspiration less interesting to play than, say, a family or popularity aspiration.

Partying Downtown

The design of all of the downtown buildings is superb: the pack offers a huge variety of buildings to eat at, shop at, or party in. The new objects allow you to create some wild spaces, with wrap-around sofas, crazy lighting, or illuminated dance floors. We had a lot of fun not just exploring everything in the town (from dingy poker halls to 50s diners to fancy upscale restaurants) but also making our own community spaces and wild houses with the new objects.

One particular thing that makes the community lots so much more appealing is that the pack adds functioning bars and restaurants. Your Sims can come to a location, be seated by a host, order food from a waiter, and eat a quality meal right there. Aside from being a great way to impress Sims on a date, there are also a good deal of gameplay situations that come out of this. Your Sim can flirt with the waitress (possibly lowering the bill), or skip out on a check. The latter is a riot, as you have to hide from the Host for 30 seconds. I tried it once and he found my Sim hiding in a photo booth, then proceeded to give me a verbal lashing. Comedy!

The Sims 2 Nightlife
If a date goes well, you can expect anything from little trinkets to big rewards.

Speaking of the photo booth, the best of the 125 new items emphasize cool game functionality. If your Sims are sitting at the poker table, they can win or lose money from each other -- you can watch the chip stacks grow or shrink, and even see which cards are dealt. The photo booth is a great example of an interactive item: Several Sims can step inside, taking either serious, silly, or romantic photos. Afterwards, you can hang the dynamically-generated photos on your walls at home. Taking a photo is a fun thing to do on a date, although I noticed that some Sims actually fear having their photo taken. Of course, randy Sims can have Woohoo together in the photo booth (presumably not taking pictures of it). Items such as that really add flavor to the game.

As cool items go, the cars steal the spotlight. Sims can now construct a driveway or garage (some of the sample homes in the pack have great carports), then purchase a vehicle to fill it. A crappy hatchback, rumbling pickup truck, slick sedan, family minivan, or outrageous performance sports car are available, each in over a dozen paintjobs. More than just a cool toy, cars impact gameplay in a number of ways: they allow you to zoom off to work at the last minute, or hit the town on a whim without waiting for a taxi. More importantly, cars act almost like a mini-room in and of themselves. You can sit inside (the nicer cars have a high comfort rating), turn on the radio, even make out with a date in the seats. Woohoo? Yes, you can even Woohoo inside of vehicles, so that sweet midlife-crises sportscar truly does help Sims get some tail. The five available vehicles offer good variety, and hopefully more will be available as the franchise continues.

It's worth mentioning the new music: Sims can now rock out to an oldies channel or trance grooves, among other new music stations. As with University, the new soundtrack is solid, and all of the lyrics are spoken in Simlish.

Socially Distorted

Befitting the party atmosphere of the pack, Sims can also form "groups" for social gatherings. You can set up a list of Sims in a group (such as "Party Animals" or "My Grunge Band") and get them all out together with a single phone call. Groups of Sims can go on "outings," which are scored in a sort of mini-game based on how much fun everyone is having. If everyone has a good time, you can reap a lot of perks: Sims will introduce you to friends or give you gifts. The social system works great. For many of my Sims, the phone was constantly ringing off the hook with invites to go downtown, and every trip expanded my social network.

In fact, if your Sim has any social skills you'll constantly be invited to outings, and friends will constantly introduce you to more friends. It can be hard to get anything done, and particularly troublesome for college students (if you have the University expansion) who might never get to class before the Semester ends. That's a good thing: The pack offers tons of distractions for Sims that can really mess up their life. I know people like that.

Similar to a Group Outing is a Date, which is formalized in Sims 2 Nightlife as a mini-game. Your "Date Meter" looks like a thermometer on the corner of the screen, with multiple stages. It works a lot like a racing game: you have 2 minutes to impress your date enough to go to the next level, at which point you get bonus time with which to strive for the next level, all the way up to "Dream Date." The meter goes up as the two lovebird Sims participate in activities they enjoy, and it drops if anyone is bored or bad things happen (like the waiter spilling food in your face.) Tons of new interactions are available, like holding hands or throwing food at the table or groping each other on the dance floor. If a date goes well, you'll reap rewards such as new social contacts or gifts at your front door (one of my dates gave me a pinball machine!? I wish that happened in real life.)

The Dating Game is pretty fun, although a bit too easy. If you have two Sims that are even remotely attracted to each other it's not too hard to figure out how to have an incredible time. Nightlife has an attraction/repulsion system that's a lot of fun to play with: You can literally configure Sims to like, for instance, black hair and cologne or to be repulsed by glasses or Vampirism.

As well as being star-crossed lovers, Sims can also become mortal enemies. Rivals add a little depth to the game: supposedly a rival can show up to ruin a date. Although in our testing, for the most part they were just nuisances, sneaking to our hose at night to steal the newspaper or knock over our trash cans.

Fangs for the Memories

Aliens were a part of daily life in the original Game, and Sims 2 University added zombies to the mix. Nightlife furthers the comical creepshow by adding Vampires, a perfect fit for the theme. Vampires are such a hysterical part of the game that they almost overshadow the rest of the expansion pack.

As we detailed in our last hands-on, in order for a Sim to become a vampire he or she has to be bitten by one of the Master Vampires who hang around town late at night. A Count and a Countess slink around in gothic clothes, and even if you're not aiming to join the ranks of the undead, they're a lot of fun to party with.

The Sims 2 Nightlife
'Pillowfight With a Vampire' is one of Anne Rice's lesser-known works.

If your Sim is bitten, you're in for a whole new game. Vampire Sims instantly get pale skin, fangs, and eerie red eyes. None of a Vampire's needs decay, so they don't have to worry about eating or sleeping. In fact, it's pretty easy to keep all of a Vampire's stats at maximum, putting them in a good mood and making them the life of the party. Until the Sun comes up.

The in-game instructions tell us that sunlight will cause a Vampire's stats to drop, but I discovered the hard way that bricking up the windows and shutting the door wasn't enough. The only way to keep a Vampire from suffering an uncomfortable, full-bladdered, sleepless death wherein he explodes into a pile of ash is to buy a coffin -- yes, it's a piece of furniture in the catalog right next to the colonial-style poster bed -- and retire there during daylight hours. The coffins fill with eerie white mist and the Vampire slowly rises out of them to the accompaniment of lightning whenever you wake up at sunset. Great stuff! As you'd expect, it's basically impossible to have a Vampire Sim hold a day job or go to college, so you've got to make money in other creative ways, like tending bar. It's actually a real challenge to survive as a Vampiric Sim, as if you're playing a completely different game.

The Sims team had a lot of fun playing up the cheesiness of B-movie vampirism, so much so that Vampires walk around yelling "Bleh, BLEH!" at Sims. One time I fed a Vampire some bad spaghetti, and while eating it he went, "Uh-Bleh!" in disgust. As a Vampire, you can walk from place to place, or you can stalk there with your cloak in front of your face. Too slow? You can also turn into a bat. For the most part, Sims seem really blas¿ over Vampires, which only adds to the comic effect whenever they line dance or go bowling. Vampires are probably our single favorite addition to the pack.

Bugs in the Works

In our Review of Sims 2 University we complained that bugs were beginning to creep into the code base, similar to what happened to the original Sims after all of its expansion packs. Unfortunately the trend continues. The old bugs are still there (I once had a college mascot freeze in place after setting off the sprinklers), and some new ones are settling in.

Graphically there are a couple of issues. I've had Sims seem to 'quiver' in place, as if undecided what they should focus their attention on. They still functioned normally so this bug wasn't a big issue. More frustrating is the word-bubble bug: the conversational icons got screwed up, so sometimes it appears as though Sims are talking about an illegible squiggle of vertical lines. Also, on occasions where my Sims died, the Death character was invisible and the items he carried were clipped into the ground. With the exception of the college Mascot who got stuck, the bugs we noticed were mostly graphical nuisances and didn't impact the core gameplay. Unfortunately, so far each of the two expansions has added new bugs into the mix. Once again, we can only hope that the trend reverses in future packs.

The Sims 2 Nightlife
Combining the instruments from the University expansion with the crazy lights from Nightlife, you can create some cool spaces. Like this outdoor concert area I whipped up.

Conclusions

Unlike Sims 2 University, which added a whole new age, new careers, and new ways to radically change your Sims, Nightlife doesn't change Sims 2 with any bold strokes. Still, just about every feature added in the expansion works and works well, enhancing if not revolutionizing the game. It's not a must-have, but if you get a lot of enjoyment out of Sims 2, it's definitely worth the money for the new social elements, the great downtown, and the happy-go-lucky Vampires. Sims 2: Nightlife is out this week. Check out the links below for more information or swing by PlanetTheSims, our own site dedicated to the franchise.

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