The Sims 3: Ambitions Review

The Sims 3's latest expansion isn't entirely ambitious, but it's loaded with great new content and goofball charm.

While playing Sims games of yore, sending your little computer people off to work was a straightforward process: The carpool drove up, and you waved good-bye to your digital self, who then earned simoleans by doing unseen tasks in some unseen work environment. In the Sims 3, you could exert minimal control, but your sims' workday tasks were hidden safely under the hood. The Sims 3: Ambitions changes that. Now, with the addition of professions--as opposed to careers--you no longer need to wait patiently for your sims to return from work before you can set your evil (or altruistic) plans in motion. Work tasks are now integrated into your sims' daily lives, sending you about town to accomplish such tasks as solving mysteries, fighting fires, and capturing ghosts. This expansion adds other goodies to the main game as well, from new hobbies to new public lots. None of these extras are as unexpected or game-changing as the additions made by The Sims 3's first expansion, World Adventures, but you shouldn't sell this expansion short. Ambitions alters the moment-to-moment gameplay in fun and refreshing ways, and Sims fanatics needing more to tinker with in their digital dollhouses will want to pick it up.

He ain't afraid of no ghost.

The most obvious way Ambitions enhances The Sims 3 is with professions. By choosing a profession rather than a career, you receive job-related tasks on your designated workdays that you perform to earn simoleans. These objectives are generally fun and clever role-playing-type missions typified by grin-inducing writing and a touch of the bizarre. Take the ghost-hunting profession, for example. Paranormal investigation involves sucking up spirits into your portable ghost vacuum, though as you progress, you encounter a greater variety of jobs. For some extra cash you could sell the lost souls you collect to the local lab, but if you look kindly upon these groaning ghouls, you may prefer to set them free in a nearby graveyard. If you'd rather pursue a more earthly personality, you could always be an investigator. Your initial assignments are fun and funny, having you interview clients who may inform you that a nemesis is talking smack on some Internet forum or that some mouthwash has gone missing. As you rise up the ladder, you dust for fingerprints, hack computers, write police reports, and root through your neighbors' trash. Though you should expect to do some low-level grunt work for the police station early on, you might eventually set up your very own investigations office. You could be an architect, a stylist, a firefighter, and more, but no matter which you choose, you'll enjoy meeting your clients and completing your objectives. City hall may even have some substantial rewards in store for you for a job well done.

If you want to make your workday even more free-form, you could designate yourself as self-employed and take advantage of other aspects of The Sims 3's economy. Dedicate yourself to gardening, fishing, or World Adventures tasks like nectar-making, and sell off the fruits of your labor to make a living. Even better, you could dabble in some new hobbies: inventing and sculpting. Inventing requires you to collect scrap, which you can buy or gather at a junkyard. Early inventions are good for selling off at the new consignment shop, or for a bit of household decorating. But there are also new related social opportunities, so you can earn a decent reward for making a bunch of toys and donating them to the neighboring school. Eventually, you're making time machines (just wait until you see what you can do with that) and ghost-capturing devices. Just be careful: Inventing is a dangerous hobby, so have a fire extinguisher handy, lest your ingenious inventor die a horrible flaming death. Or perhaps a partner sim can come to your rescue in a fire truck and put out the blaze before the grim reaper arrives to make his deathly deal.

Sculpting is a bit safer, and while any given sculpture usually takes more time to complete than a given invention, the resulting art brings in more dough and looks nicer sitting by the pool. This hobby, too, is nicely integrated into the other parts of the game. If you like throwing parties and want to improve your social status, impress your guests with an ice sculpture. Choose your medium--be it clay, wood, or something else--and chip away. You can duplicate previous creations easily, but it's much more fun to set your sim to work on something new, because it's a joy to see what interesting creation might spring forth from the raw materials you start with. Yet whether you spend your day putting out fires and rescuing trapped neighbors, giving your friends and family members a new hairdo, or doing laundry using the newly added washer and dryer appliances, you'll have a smile on your face the entire time. As it turns out, your sims don't always lead lives of blameless bourgeois domesticity, and Ambitions makes a standard workday as enjoyable as you could hope for.

Who knew that taking advantage of petty squabbles was such a good source of income?

All these new professions and hobbies come with new animations and sound effects to liven up the mood, and they're as excellent as series fans expect. The way your investigator sim waves underbrush in front of her face as if hiding behind camouflage isn't realistic, but it's absolutely charming and hysterical. Watching your inventor dig through the trash at the local dump is equally fun as he throws about unwanted pipes. All that beloved Sims personality is keenly on display, what with the delightful Ghostbusters-type music you hear when capturing poltergeists and the clever designs of the inventions and sculptures you might strew about the house and yard. Unfortunately, there are still bugs and performance issues, and you may run into a few glitches with Ambitions that you haven't run into previously. We encountered long-standing saved-game bugs that have carried over from the main game, along with relationships that refused to update regardless of continued interaction. In addition, item pop-in and stuttering can also be an occasional eyesore, particularly when moving the camera across the map.

The Sims 3: Ambitions isn't an outwardly dramatic addition to the Sims universe, and technical problems could potentially get in the way of your fun. Yet this is a thoughtful and delightful expansion, full of wit and character, and it gives you even more control over your sims' daily lives. If you enjoy nurturing (or antagonizing) these unintelligible avatars that need to be told to empty their bladders, then adding Ambitions to your games library is a sure way to show off your logic skill.

The Good
Professions are fun and let you join your sims at work
Charming new animations, music, and sound effects
New content is integrated well with the old
Hobby and career progressions are full of new surprises
The Bad
Lingering glitches, along with some new ones
Not as substantial as the previous expansion
8
Great
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  • First Released
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    The Sims series returns with the next incarnation of the popular life-simulation game.
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