Camp EA 2002The Sims: Unleashed impressions

Yes, it's another Sims expansion. Yes, it's going to sell a bundle. Yes, it's a great idea. The Sims: Unleashed introduces dogs, cats, and everything but the kitchen sink to Maxis' best-selling game.

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As the fifth expansion to The Sims, Maxis and Electronic Arts' best-selling life simulator, The Sims: Unleashed seems like overkill. Enough is enough--right? But one look at The Sims: Unleashed and it's clear that it isn't just an attempt to milk the franchise for all it's worth. In fact, Unleashed adds a number of clearly significant new elements to the core game, the most notable of which is the ability for your sims to now own their very own pets. Though it was announced a week ago, we finally got to see any early version of the game in action at Electronic Arts' annual Camp EA event.

Though the pets are certainly not the only new feature of The Sims: Unleashed, they're a big part of it. Now, your sims can make their way to their local pet store, where they can pick out their very own pet, including about a dozen different breeds of dogs or cats, as well as parrots, fish, and various birds and reptiles. Pets can be named, and once bought, they're treated as part of the family. In the case of dogs and cats, these animals have their very own statistics and skills for you to keep track of. Dogs and cats' personalities are rated according to five traits: quiet, friendly, smart, playful, and loyal. These animals can also improve in three different skills: housebroken, tricks, and obedience. You can train them yourself, or pay an animal trainer to put a little sense into your animal before you take it home. Playing with your pet and teaching it will also build the affinity level between you and the pet. You'll see it change from being reluctant and suspicious to being your sim's best friend.

Pets also have relationships with one another. Dogs and cats can learn to get along, and male and female versions of dogs or cats can eventually mate and produce offspring. As you might expect, these animals are brought to life with realistic, humorous animations. Dogs can be seen playing fetch or wrestling with their owners. Cats tear away at scratching posts or dip their paws into goldfish bowls. Your sims will have to clean up after these animals, but pets can also serve to help your sims build their relationships with other sims. What better way to meet a nice sim of the opposite sex than to take your dog for a stroll in the park?

The park setting is one of several new locations in The Sims: Unleashed, in addition to the pet store. The expansion also introduces five new career paths: fashion, education, animals, circus, and food industry. And it also adds a gardening element to the game, where you can grow your own fruits and vegetables, then use them for cooking ingredients or maybe sell them at the local farmers' market. As for your pets, they're not just for show--actually, that's exactly what they are. A well-groomed pet can be entered into the local dog or cat show, and victory there will earn you suitable rewards. The Sims: Unleashed also greatly increases the size of your sims' neighborhoods, giving you much more room to build your dream houses. Additionally, Unleashed introduces well over 100 new objects with which you can decorate your homes.

The Sims: Unleashed is scheduled for release in September and seems to offer a number of exciting, new features for fans of the original game and its numerous expansions. Stay tuned for more information on this forthcoming add-on, and in the mean time, check out the new media we've got.

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