The Sims 3: Late Night – Review

Title   The Sims 3: Late Night - Review
Developer  The Sims Studio
Publisher  EA
Platform  PC
Genre  Simulation/Life/Casual/Sandbox
Release Date  29th October, 2010

Bridgeport at its best - at night

Shunning the traditional six month cycle, the latest Sims 3 expansion pack, Late Night, arrives unfashionably early, only four months or so after Ambitions.  As far as grand entrances go, it is somewhat of a head turner, representing some of the more eagerly awaited elements of the Sims which were missed by many when the franchise was stripped back to basics for the third incarnation.  Traditionally, expansions are themed and introduce a new town, NPCs, additional build/buy objects and, more importantly, new gameplay elements, careers, and interactions.  Late Night is no different and represents a glamorous, social buffet as the game steers away from the quaint suburbs of Sunset Valley and Riverview and thrusts the player into the city of Bridgeport – a sprawling Sim metropolis, fully of glassy spires and high rises which wouldn’t look out of place in a Sim City game.

In essence it is a blend of the Sims 2 Nightlife expansion and the first game’s Superstar pack, complete with clubs, bars, and vampires.  However, once the surface is scratched, there is more than meets the eye and a lot more gameplay on offer than one would initially expect.  Bridgeport itself is a former shipping town, now the stamping ground of the rich and famous (largely thanks to the film lot on its outskirts), and the hotbed of high fashion and cutting edge social snobbery.

The city is intuitively laid out, with high rises and character packed buildings nestling between a cursory dusting of parks which offer a brief, green respite.  The streets and subways bleed into the seedier areas around the docks – home to ailing industry and, eventually, give way to suburban relief in a handful of small houses and greener areas.  Bridgeport is stunning and the essence of city living has been captured beautifully, with a fitting shrine to the cult of celebrity and social interaction.  Buildings are ruthlessly modern – glass and stone behemoths containing high rise apartments, penthouse nightclubs, and exclusive lounges.

As stunning as it looks during the day, it is at night where the city literally lights up, presenting some truly stunning views.  In the words of Alex Perry, it looks expensive.  In the extreme.  One particular delight was the large bridge joining the city to a smaller suburban island where the wealthy and well-heeled have taken over.  Posh pads are tucked away amongst the rocky sprawl, ensuring privacy for their gaudy tastes and A list parties.  Sadly, there are only a few vacant lots on offer here, but those that exist will offer breathtaking vistas for those who like to ‘build their own’.

The cityscape is stunning, coming alive at night - rather like most of its inhabitants

Overall, there aren’t a great deal of lots and homes to choose from…after all, city living is the name of the game, so while there are a handful of mid-range houses and a couple at the more wallet-plundering end of the spectrum, apartment living has been pushed to the fore.  These are a mixed bag, but there is no denying their appeal.  Each new apartment is on the top floor of a high rise, accessible by one of the game’s new features – lifts (yes, you can still ‘woo hoo’ in them) – from a small lobby.  Unlike the Friends style sprawling lofts, these places are closer to the reality of low-income city shoeboxes.  What you’ll get is a compact studio apartment, with barely enough room to swing a llama, but that is the sacrifice for the view you’ll be afforded and the easy access to the city’s delights; Late Night is all about location.

Apartments may have prime views but they are tiny

That said, with the size of the apartments on offer, you’ll likely be playing as a solo Sim or a couple.  Families will not fit in a high rise and, unlike regular houses where you can chuck up a second floor in no time, expanding is not an option.  Space also becomes an issue when it inhibits some of the other elements which have been introduced – namely musical instruments.  To compliment the guitar, Late Night brings back the Bass, Piano, and drum kit, but try fitting even the two smaller items into an apartment for a jam session and see how far you get.  If you want to jam with a full band or have a posse of room mates, then you’ll be moving to the fringe of the city, rather defeating the object of city living.

Late Night is very much focused on the social side of the Sims, on interacting and indulging the need to kick back and relax.  While World Adventures and Ambitions almost encouraged insular behaviour, giving you more to actually ‘do’ and occupy your Sims, Late Night encourages them to get out and party, to mix, mingle, and mount their fellow city dwellers.  The careers, skills, and even wishes are all very much geared around socialising and the game presents the player with ample opportunity to indulge their wild side.

Bridgeport is replete with dance clubs, exclusive lounges, and bars, oozing character and offering up the chance for a kicking night out.  Cocktail bars, dance floors, and strobes await, while in posher parts of town, plush sofas, elegant furnishings, and discreet hot tubs are complimented by rooftop pools, and an A list clientele.  These clubs are the hub of the game, offering the chance to mingle and party.  Whether you pick a sports bar with big screen TVs, fussball tables, and relaxed bar staff, or try your luck with a high-end establishment or a grimy dive bar, there is much on offer.  Just because the clubs are there, however, doesn’t mean that you’re guaranteed a good night.  Some of these places are hotter than Satan’s jockstrap and come with surly bouncers to make sure that the riff-raff (namely you) don’t get in.  Of course, this opens up a host of new interactions, from bribing bouncers to sneaking in or, if your Sim is a computer whiz, hacking the guest list.  Many private parties can be crashed by determined Sims, but bar far the easiest way to always be on the guest list is to gain some high status because this is where one of the new elements comes to the fore: celebrity.

Yes, with a big city, a thriving film industry, dive bars full of broken, musical dreams, and an aura of luxury, Bridgeport isn’t without its own snail trail of celebrity mediocrity and ego.  The fame of these celebs ranges from one to five stars and they won’t deign to talk to you unless you succeed in impressing them or otherwise raise your celeb profile to match or exceed theirs.  Try and ask them for an autograph or take a cell phone pic and you could get snubbed, or worse, Naomi-ed.  On the flip side, once your own fame starts to rise, you’ll see yourself getting into the exclusive areas of some of the best venues, receiving free gifts (albeit odd ones – a cooker and toilet paper were on my list), and discounts around town.

Fame, however, as in the real world, comes at a price.  Your actions will be under public scrutiny, misdeeds will be gleefully reported, fans will make false accusations, and the paparazzi will dog your steps, ready to ruin your week.  Should a scandalous story break, your mood will take a hit, with some nasty and tenacious moodlets hanging around for days.  Things such as getting your stuff repossessed, screwing a Sim in public, or one of mine – ‘woo hooing with an occult’ are enough to get pens scratching and tongues wagging.  Fuck knows what would happen if you publically wet yourself; the Sim equivalent of the Sun would likely burst in a wet puff of euphoric juices.  Still, you can always exact punishment by hooking up with a papp, seducing them, and then cruelly breaking their heart before beating them to a public pulp in a bar scrap.

Getting 'papped' is one of the hazards of being a local celebrity. Just don't have any bladder mishaps or you'll regret it

The other big inclusion is vampires. No, not the sparkly emo variety, thankfully; nor are they shuffling Nosferatu types with swishy capes and hunched butlers, waiting to usher lobotomised travellers into convenient rooms for the night.  No, these are sophisticated creatures of the night who come with some strong advantages.  In order to become a vamp, you have to track one down, befriend them and ask them to turn you, which isn’t hard to do.  I came across two in my first bar, and if you queue up the right socials then you can ‘drink this Michael’ and be one of them within hours.  Although eating garlic will knock them out cold, and they can’t stay out long during the day, restricting some activities such as collecting and pottering around parks, the advantages do outweigh the negatives. At night, they benefit from the ‘Vampiric Vigor’ moodlet and have the ability to gain skills twice as fast as normal Sims.  They move like blurs at an accelerated rate and can read minds, enabling them to learn traits and favourites with ease – giving them a faster boost up the social ladder, and can even influence another Sim to think of them.

Vampires will only turn you if you ask them to. They're politer than Severin and co., but then, so are most vamps...

While plasma fruit or juice can sate their thirst, there is nothing like feeding from a real Sim to make them feel truly satiated.  Sadly, you can’t just pounce on an intended victim, you have to develop some sort of friendship with them in order to drink.  If you haven’t got a mate to sup on, then the Hunt mode is a fascinating Predator-style ability which can be utilised to scan the room, allowing your vamp to eye up the likeliest looking heat signatures for that perfect snack.  If you don’t drink, you’ll get smacked with increasingly severe moodlets before eventually expiring, turning to a forlorn pile of dust for the Grim Reaper to cart away.

In the interests of EA keeping it family friendly, you can’t chomp down on preggers folk, babies, or children and similarly, your fellow undead are off the menu.  No mummies, ghosts, or even robots can be used as private larders, though I’m sure your friendly neighbourhood SimBot wouldn’t mid an oil change.  Ahem.  Vamps can also have kids, which will turn fully when they are old enough, though mixed parents will only have a 50% chance at spawning an undead.

While many players have been waiting for vamps to hit the Sims again, I have to grudgingly admit that they are well integrated, despite not being sold on the idea going in; they slide seamlessly into the luxuriant backdrop of the city with the decadent clubs and exclusive lounges.  With choice being the key in Sims, and even death no longer presenting the barrier it once was, the Sims Science facility (for a bank bashing 3,000 Simoleans, offers a cure for anyone wanting to return their Sim to normal.

As for the rest, there are some great additions to be found in Late Night.  The new mixology skill gives you the chance to hone your cocktail making moves and whip up a variety of drinks, some of which act as mood enhancers or boost skill learning….or which simply have you talking to yourself at the bar.  Whereas previously, playing any instrument would boost your creativity skill, here, each one is a skill of its own, allowing you to focus on maxing one specific instrument.  There are a host of new ‘hidden skills’ which you’ll never see a handy meter for, but which slowly build on their own.  These include, playing arcade machines, shuffleboad, darts, and dancing.  The better you get, the more likely you are to win or not fall over your spangly handbag on the dance floor.

What you can't see, just out of shot, is a miniature Stonehenge being lowered to the stage...

The build/buy catalogue has the usual handful of new extras – including the welcome option of building an above ground pool, complete with viewing windows, and the clothing range has also been expanded.  The biggest change, however, is in shaping your Sim and has come in the form of some body modifications that players have been clamouring for, for what seems like an age: boobs and muscles.  Before, anything other than a flat chest has been the sole domain of various modders, but now, you can finally tweak the breast size of female Sims, making for a more realistic looking creation.  Muscle tone has also been introduced, allowing for some ripped abs and more defined bodies and it is honestly about time on both counts (mods will still be needed for those wanting rid of the censor blur and adding stuff like nipples).

If it glows, we can feed on it.

The game is a little lacking in new traits (there are only three) and new career options though, which is a shame.  While you can gig with a band and moonlight as a Mixologist, the film career is the only new track on offer, though you can specialise in one of the two branches – acting or directing.  The much hyped ‘gigging’ option for those wanting to start a band and tour the city is surprisingly disappointing.  The opportunities which present themselves seem to be pretty thin on the ground to be honest; in over five hours of initial play, I don’t think I got one gig opportunity.  Yes, the ‘Bishop Bashers’ may be a crap band, but to not score one gig meant that a day job was necessary in order for them to stay alive.  Whether I was unlucky in this respect or it was a glitch of some sort, remains to be seen, however it may end up getting tweaked in the one of the many patches which we’ll undoubtedly be seeing over the next few months.

One of the biggest issues with Late Night is one of integration: you can’t link the city to your existing suburb games as you could with World Adventures.  Whereas, with that expansion, you could nip off for a holiday, here, there is no option to move your Sims to the big city or even go and visit for the night which is a missed opportunity and one which was rather surprising.  If you want any nightclubs and bars in the quieter town of Sunset Valley, you’ll have to get down and dirty in the ‘Edit Town’ mode and rearrange/demolish a few things.  It may well be easier for some players to start from scratch, but considering many players have carefully woven stories and developed characters, this may not be an ideal option and is one of the few problems in an otherwise solid, engrossing expansion.

  • Stunning city location with some gorgeous views
  • Wealth of new social interactions
  • Introduction of vampires works well, with a variety of interactions and abilities helping to make them a welcome addition
  • Nightlife is vibrant and absorbing
  • Finally, breast sliders and muscle tone have arrived - EA have listened to their players
  • Instruments all have individual skill bars now
  • Celebs and papps are an amusing addition
  • Only one new career track
  • Doesn't integrate well with players' current Sim games, you can't move or send existing suburban Sims to Bridgeport
  • Small apartments and homes don't allow for large groups, families, or bands to stay or play
  • Noticeable lack of gig opportunities on offer for budding musicians, which will hopefully be patched

A few niggles aside, integration with existing games is perhaps the only grating problem with Late Night, which otherwise introduces some absorbing aspects to the game. Vampires, celebs, and the night life opportunities join some welcome features, skills, and possibilities which will extend gameplay considerably. If you like the relaxed, social side of Sim life this is a key purchase and presents a balanced release against the career and more ‘busy’ aspects of the previous expansions.

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  1. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Mark Marguez, The Sims 3. The Sims 3 said: The Sims 3: Late Night – Review « Gaming Lives – Online gaming … [...]

  2. Adam Adam says:

    Life is Sims Heavy for you lately :D

    Another very complete review with lots in it. I cant believe how much I’m seriously contemplating about getting hold of a copy of the Sims. Threre sounds like so much more to do in the game than I’ve ever been exposed to before.

    It’s a pity that not every aspect of the game has been thought out by the developers here. It seems odd that a PC title like this doesn’t allow for intergration with it’s origional. If it was released as a completely standalone product then I can understand that but for it not to build upon what you already have collected with the sims so far and it’s other expansions is pretty sucky.

    Even if I never do get to grips with the game, i look forward to reading another review of further inevitable expansion :D

  3. Mark R MarkuzR says:

    I had no idea they only released expansions every six months; it always seemed much more frequent than that. I think the last one I have is Seasons… or Pets… whichever was the most recent. Did love those little guinea pig critters though! I have to say, I adored this “snail trail of celebrity mediocrity and ego” metaphor… as that perfectly sums up the barrage of crap that we have to put up with thanks to the media and their love of the Celebrity Culture.

    I wasn’t really sold on this to be honest… I expected it to be more like the previous Night Life expansion, but it just seems like there’s more to it, and yet less to it at the same time. The “less” aspect isn’t really that much of a loss, but the “more” aspect, such as forming a band, the celebrity aspect, actual high rise apartments and the much deeper look at the vampirism side of things… yeah, that I like.

    After playing the main Sims 3 release and not having much to do other than the bog standard career choices, I admit that I didn’t bother going back to it. Now that there’s a bit more to do than just work and sleep, I reckon I’ll give this a shot. I’m sold on having a band, for sure! I also sold on the boobs slider… it’ll be like Weird Science all over again!!

  4. Lorna Lorna says:

    Thanks for the comments folks :) It has just been one of those months with a lot of these releases all at once, I’m afraid: large add ons, expansions, and a console release, hence Sims swallowing my life a little of late to get it all covered. Still, I’m looking forward to resuming normal service soon…far too much on my play list and that’s without me needing to finish AC2 before Brotherhood comes out.

    It is a great expansion if you love the social side of things but as someone who usually tends to play in their own bubble quite a lot, I wasn’t too fussed at first. However, the new bits and bobs are great, especially the breast and muscle tone sliders. It just shows that maybe EA listened to what their players wanted for once which is a good sign.

  5. Ben Ben says:

    Sims keeps tempting, and I just know that once I give in it’d leave me absorbed for hours on end. All these expansions are not going to help!

  6. Edward Edward says:

    Another great review. I just feel bad that I’ve had this tab open since the review went up and still can’t think of much more to add or an opinion to give.

    I think it’s a missed opportunity that you can’t make your own songs and translate them into the game and have the vocals come out as simlish, though.

  7. Richie richie says:

    Great review. I’m mostly not arsed but anything vampy is good. Not sure I’ll bite though (not intended).

    I’d get involved but I hate gaming at a desk as it reminds me of being at work.

  8. Samuel Samuel says:

    Good review Lorna. The argument for getting the Sims 3 continues to mount up… financial considerations are still stopping me caving just yet, but I am feeling very tempted to at least acquire the core game and see if I can get back into it.

    The lack of total integration between this expansion and the rest of the game is a bit worrying however.

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