Reviewed: November 14, 2010
Released: October 26, 2009
The third expansion for the latest incarnation of Electronic Arts’ The Sims franchise, The Sims 3: Late Night is somewhat of a departure from the last two The Sims 3 expansions, but much more similar to the tried-and-true format of successful The Sims 2 expansions. Unlike previous Sims 3 expansions World Adventures and Ambitions, which both considerably altered the traditional Sims series gameplay style by providing more external goals, Late Night modifies the game in a more streamlined way while introducing a generous helping of new content for open-ended play.|
For those readers familiar with the previous Sims games expansions, Late Night offers Sims 3 players some of the popular features from past installments, such as Superstar, University, Nightlife, and Apartment Life. Your Sims now have access to a variety of nightlife- and urban living-related options, including dive bars, dance clubs, high-end lounges, high-rise apartments, and a subway system. They can form groups with friends, family, or dates, which makes it easier to hop from place to place without losing track of multiple Sims. Hot tubs, elevators, half walls, and platforms are back, and your Sims can once again form bands with the addition of the piano, bass, and drum set. There’s also a new Mixology skill that allows your Sims to moonlight as a bartender and whip up mood- and skill-boosting beverages.
Like every other Sims expansion, Late Night provides the expected new clothing, hairstyle, building, and decorating objects; however, the main attractions, as usual, are the new gameplay features. A celebrity system—similar to the one longtime Sims fans will remember from the Superstar expansion for the original The Sims—means that the town will now be populated by famous persons that must be impressed (by, say, wealth, skills, or occupation) before your Sims can interact normally with them. Your Sims can also become celebrities themselves through hobnobbing with the stars and by sheer popularity with fellow Sims.
Celebrity Sims enjoy freebies and discounts from local businesses, access to exclusive clubs that look down their noses at the average Joe, as well as adoration and scrutiny from the paparazzi and the public. Beware of WooHooing in a public elevator or committing other questionable acts—celebrities can be disgraced with unpleasantly embarrassing effects, forcing them to dispel rumors, sue for slander, or push the blame onto a fellow celebrity to clear their names. It’s not all benefits, but the celebrity life adds welcome variety to the social landscape of the game and is an entertaining diversion for players who have had enough of their Sims’ previously mundane virtual lives.
The new Film (with two branches, Film Maker and Actor) and self-employed full-time band musician career paths fit right in with the celebrity system. Your Sim can invite up to three musically inclined friends (except, apparently, for the newly added live-in butlers) to form a band with him or her, and gigs at local venues will start coming in via phone.
Band-specific interactions make it easy to get all members together for practice, but strangely, there doesn’t seem to be a way to actively market bands to get gigs, and the invitations aren’t necessarily quick in coming. Don’t expect Rock Band-level play, either, but at least performing gigs is somewhat interactive: all band members will automatically gather on location when a gig is accepted, and much of the rest (such as the music genre and whether the front man wants to attempt a “Sweet Move” on stage) is up to the player. You can also give your new band a name (which can be changed whenever it gets old) and boot band mates that aren’t working out.
Rental housing, reminiscent of The Sims 2 Apartment Life, is another new option that adds diversity to the gameplay. From what I’ve seen, the apartment lots that ship with Late Night can unfortunately only house 1-2 Sims comfortably, though it seems players can build their own rental properties that are more family friendly. Each apartment building is essentially a single-family home with NPC’s sharing a common floor, however. It doesn’t seem like you can move multiple families into the same building, despite the implication of multi-household living. Also, your neighbors will never make noise or complain about your partying into the wee hours, unlike the neighbors in Apartment Life. This may be a pro or a con depending on how realistic you prefer your Sims experience.
For those fans that enjoy the unusual characters of previous Sims games and expansions, Late Night adds vampires to the mummies from World Adventures and robots from Ambitions. Instead of the B-movie-stereotyped nightwalkers of past Sims games, Late Night’s modernized bloodsuckers can almost pass for normal Sims except for the glowing eyes, fangs, and aura of fear that makes other Sims cringe and feel queasy. Vampire characters are damaged by sunlight and garlic, but they also have a multitude of special powers, like supernaturally fast running and skill training. Even with the sunlight and garlic allergies and thirst for “plasma juice”, however, vampire Sims can still live fairly normal lives with daytime careers, as long as they manage to duck indoors once in a while.
Late Night, however, separates towns into two different types: the suburbs (which is any town you played with prior to installing Late Night) and the city. Some lots are only available in the suburb or the city, which is inconvenient, especially since a glitch at the time of this writing offers your Sims Opportunities at lots that might be unavailable in the type of town they live in. Additionally, it may not be possible to get the full Late Night experience in a suburban environment, but moving existing households to the city involves the typical library export process that deletes all their existing relationships. Most disappointingly, your suburban Sims can’t just drive up for a visit like they could in Sims 2 or even World Adventures, either, so taking full advantage of the new gameplay options means basically starting over.
There are a few other yet-unfixed little glitches that might affect your gameplay. Sims seem to idle and freeze a lot with the addition of this expansion, many players still report having problems getting Sims to date and marry, and I had a Sim become inexplicably and suddenly married to an NPC not anywhere on the lot while he was sitting on the couch reading a book. You can also expect a disproportionately large number of celebrities and vampires over time, as NPC nobodies gradually befriend celebrities and are randomly turned by vampire NPC’s. EA is generally good about releasing fixes and updates, however, and the problems I’ve experienced seem generally minor enough that they didn’t significantly prevent me from enjoying the expansion.
Meanwhile, the graphics, music, and sound are about on par with what a Sims fan would expect after experiencing past games and expansions in the series, and the urban architecture is definitely a great addition. The new dance moves that your Sims can learn—I think I saw some Lady Gaga moves in there—are infinitely less dorky than their previous animations, too, so that’s another plus. The Sims’ appearances are also more customizable now, with new sliders specifically for muscle definition and breast size. I have mixed feelings about the latter, especially since other body parts didn’t receive the same attention, but I suppose the added customizability is still appreciated, even if the focus seems a bit chauvinistic.
In any case, Late Night retails for $39.95, adds hours of gameplay and flexibility to the existing game, and is probably the expansion that I enjoyed most of the three released for The Sims 3 so far. For a Sims fan, this expansion is probably a must-have, though as with the other expansions, I doubt it would expand the game’s existing fan base.
In conclusion, if you’re a fan of the Sims series and play The Sims 3, I imagine you’d have a blast with Late Night, despite its few problems. To be perfectly frank, I’m annoyed by the separation between urban and suburban neighborhoods because it doesn’t make sense in real-world terms and isn’t consistent with the add-on nature of an expansion. Barring that, however, Late Night is a solid expansion that builds upon the complexity that makes the Sims series so enjoyable and is a worthwhile addition to any Sims fan’s collection.