The Sims 3: Late Night review

A mere four months after the “Ambitions” expansion added professions to the Sims 3 experience, EA is at it again with an expansion pack that places a heavy emphasis on socializing after-hours, mostly at bars and clubs. You might say, then, that Late Night is all about simulating experiences that most Sims addicts would never get in their real lives, but that would be mean.

Above: Mixology can involve some pretty extravagant drink-making techniques

Truth is, Late Night gives players a ton of things to do after dark, which in and of itself is a pretty big deal. New to your town are bars and clubs, most of which are open until the wee hours of the morning. These are great venues for meeting new Sims, and they give you more time each day to foster new relationships.

For this reason, it’s a good thing that one of the big new features in Late Night is groups, which easily allows players to get Sims together so they can bar hop as a pack rather than lone wolves. Want the young adult members of your Sim family to visit a dance club together? Just put them in a group together. And if they meet a gorgeous woman there whom they want to accompany to another nearby hot spot? Just invite her to the group too. The system works well and is a great way of keeping your Sims together so you don’t have to multitask quite as much.

But these clubs aren’t always all-inclusive. Another major addition to Late Night is Celebrity Status, which often dictates whether or not you can get into a venue, or into the VIP section of certain clubs. Bouncers will restrict access to people who aren’t popular enough, though the option exists to sneak past or bribe them. Celebrity Sims get a bunch of other perks, too, such as discounts on drinks and other purchases, free items from businesses and the love and adoration of many Sim fans, who will often beg your Sim for an autograph or picture.

Above: We built this kick ass party room, but just like real life, no one came to use it

You can gain celebrity status in a variety of ways, one of the most fun being to start a band and take the long road to musical fame, playing gigs at bars as often as possible. You could also simply socialize a lot with established celebrities. This is mostly possible if you have something that will impress the celebrity, such as amazing guitar skills or a lot of wealth. So if you spend enough time bribing your way into clubs and bragging about your money, you could essentially live the life of Paris Hilton.

Speaking of Paris Hilton, Late Night also adds vampires to the mix. Beyond justifying the house you made that Blade and Buffy share, vampirism changes your Sims’ behavior in a variety of ways. Vampires move faster than normal Sims, but they’re not fond of being out in the sun (at the same time, though, sunlight won’t kill them, which is a huge relief). As expected, vampires can drink the blood of both willing and non-willing donors (though this isn’t strictly required), and they can turn human Sims into vampires.

Human Sims can also become friends and even lovers with vampires without much problem, and they can ask their vampire buddies to turn them into a child of the night. A human and a vampire can also have a half-vampire child, if they so choose. The folks at EA may have denied it, but this sounds like the perfect vehicle for a million Twilight fan films.

Above: Playing a gig in a bar can make you feel like a rock star… even if the bar is empty

If you’re tired of living in a house in the suburbs, Sims can now move into apartments and high-rises. This feature turned out to be lackluster, however. Most of the high-rises are only big enough for a single Sim, and moving families into the same building seems to be impossible.

One of the biggest problems with Late Night is how it fails to integrate all this new content effectively with the old Sims 3 experience. The expansion includes a brand new town, which is well designed and includes all the new venues. However, if you want to place some clubs or apartment buildings into your old towns, near your old families, you’re going to have to do some extreme overhauling. You would have to spend a significant chunk of time demolishing old town buildings and replacing them with the new ones before you could enjoy the new features of the game. This means that Late Night is best experienced if you start from scratch with a new family, which will be a massive loss to some people, and an inconvenience to others.

Above: Re-enact favorite sitcom scenes or country songs by pouring out your feelings to the Mixologist

You might also run into the issue of clubs seeming lifeless. The first several times we ever went out on the town, the bars we hit were empty, even if they were designated as “hotspots” by the game. This wasn’t always the case, and venues seemed to become more populated the more we played, but spending your time in an empty club can be really sad.

But even with problems like these, Late Night is packed with a surprising amount of content. We didn’t even touch on Mixology (the game’s “family friendly” way of saying “bartending”) or the new instruments (bass, drums, piano and keyboard) or skinny dipping in hot tubs, not to mention the standard bevy of new items, clothing and hair options that come with the expansion. You can even hire a butler, which of course would be better if you could also be Batman.

Above: Asking to be turned into a vampire is obviously a bright idea

At the same time, these full-fledged expansions aren’t cheap, and if you bought Ambitions just recently you might not be willing to shell out the cash for yet another upgrade to your Sims experience. But you have to give EA some credit for cramming hours of content into this package, and if no amount of money would come between you and your virtual families, Late Night will probably keep you busy for quite some time – at least until the next expansion hits.

Nov 4, 2010