PC REVIEW: SIMS 2: UNIVERSITY

We can expect plenty of spin off from The Sims 2, and if The Sims 2 University is any indication, our expectations may be exceeded.

The Sims 2 offers a great foundation for the next generation of sim-based gameplay with richer environments, deeper relationships and interaction not to mention plenty of outrageous behavior. You can only imagine the kind of outrageous behavior that will be exhibited by college kids when The Sims goes to University.

The Sims 2 University encompasses the experience of teenagers moving away from home to attend a facility of higher learning where they will be forged into adults. While your character will learn new skills and mature you certainly don't have to act like an adult. The focus of this expansion pack is on the essence of the university experience. You personally don't have to read Chaucer and pass an exam in order to stay alive in the game. In fact staying alive in a Sims game has never been easier. If you hate having to see your pampered character die before your eyes, take note, characters don't age when they're in university.

Although university a four-year process you could possibly complete it within a month if you do the right thing. But you'll miss out on most of the fun. As in any Sims game it's not so much about reaching the goal as it is the journey to get there. Sure you could focus on your scholastics and become an honors student but then you'd be missing out on the romance, food, fights and beer that help round out the college experience.

It's the subtleties in this version that matter. There is a big picture but it's more narrowly defined, almost confined. If you're a Sims fan you might have to get used to this concept. Whereas something like education might be glossed over in other Sims game, The Sims 2 University holds a magnifying glass to this concept. Some may think that it makes a big deal out of nothing but to those that want a little bit more depth and realism in a Sims game, this is a step in that direction. The challenges are of a more intimate nature.

There are some micromanagement elements to take to task. You have to lead your character around by the hand and educate him or her in the ways of the world -not just in education. You can learn specific skills and build your character's trait over time. Keep in mind that if you purposely stay in school longer, you won't age and you will have a well-developed character on your hands. You will have to pass some classes and fail others to stay in school. It's a bit of strategy that you can put to good use to explore many of the features offered to you in school.

Most characters will have to stay at a dorm. It's loaded with NPCs that you can interact with. You will have to share bathroom, showers and food. Here you'll make friends, enemies and hopefully score with members of the opposite sex at wild parties. You won't have a lot of money to do things with at first so you'll have to find some ways to have fun on the cheap. But there are some things that even money can't buy and that includes additions to the dorm. All you can do is outfit it with a few accessories.

Influence is a type of currency. The longer you've been around and the more friends you've acquired, the more influence you will have. This influence is very powerful and effective. You can get people to do things for you such as your homework while you focus on other activities like having fun playing guitar in a band. Life without influence can be a bitch.

When you have enough money from various means such as a part-time job, scholarships and grants, you can move out into a house, a fraternity or a sorority. You'll have to be accepted before you can join a frat or sorority and this can go either way. Someone may not like you, making gaining acceptance a real trial. Once you're in you and your brother or sisterhood can pool financial resources together to turn your living quarters into a mansion. You can also build on to your house if you prefer to live in private.

The graphics kick butt. There are all kinds of interesting animations going on. The characters have real personalities which were probably inspired by actual college kids. If you've been to college you're sure to recognize a lot of these guys.

The music is good. You can even play with a band and do some improvising. The characters still utter that vague communication known as Simspeak which automatically eliminates any bad voiceacting. The degree of communication is deeper than early Sims games and assumes a more dynamic role in the gameplay.

With time limits, money management, courses to pass and goals to achieve this game really puts the pressure on in certain situations. Of course there's plenty of chances to blow off steam with the stereotypical college parties and pranks. You can take control of a few characters if you really want a challenge. You'll always be busy and it can be a lot of fun if you don't take it too seriously - just like your real life which you waste playing computer games.

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System: PC
Dev: Maxis
Pub: EA
Release: March 2005
Review by Shelby
RATING (OUT OF 5)
OVERALL
4.0
GRAPHICS
4.5
CONTROL
4.0
MUSIC/FX
4.0
VALUE
3.5