The Sims Bustin' Out Online Impressions

We get an exclusive look at the online mode in the PlayStation 2 version of the game.

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The Sims Bustin' Out is the next installment in the console offshoot of Maxis' popular PC franchise. This latest entry in the series is taking further steps away from its PC cousins, and it's being tailored more to a console audience. One of the console-centric features of the game is an online mode exclusive to the PlayStation 2 version. We had the chance to play around with it and see how it's shaping up.

The Sims Bustin' Out will offer an online mode where you can play with a friend, as a change of pace from the single-player game.
The Sims Bustin' Out will offer an online mode where you can play with a friend, as a change of pace from the single-player game.

The online mode has been pretty smoothly folded into the slightly skewed Sims logic. It's basically a weekend getaway with your friends. You'll select the "online weekend" option from the game's main menu and use the network settings on your PlayStation 2 to get online (you'll obviously need the PS2 network adapter and a broadband account). You'll come to a login screen that will prompt you for your EA account information. Once you log in, you'll come to the online lobby, which will be broken up into themed areas based on geographical location, as in all online EA games. Once you hop into a lobby, you'll have a few options. You'll be able to highlight the names of the players in your lobby, which calls up a 3D image of their sim in a window on the right side of the screen, and you'll be able to sort the players by name, career, astrological sign, number of unlocks, location, and ping (connection speed). You'll be able to chat via a soft keyboard, which you can call up with the R1 button, or via a USB keyboard if you have one handy. Lobbies will be able to hold up to 30 people, so there can be a decent-sized mob of folks chatting at any one time.

You'll be able to show off all your stuff and trade for more.
You'll be able to show off all your stuff and trade for more.

Once you've chatted up the masses, you'll be able to start a game by inviting a friend, or by being invited, into an existing game. Visually the online mode looks the same as the single-player mode and runs reasonably well, although there may be some performance differences due to varying connection speeds. Your beginning location in the game is wherever the player hosting the game is currently living. Your communication options will include the USB headset for the PlayStation 2 for voice chat, which is a nice touch. Those without a headset can use the in-game soft keyboard or a USB keyboard.

You'll be able to communicate in the game via keyboard or the USB headset.
You'll be able to communicate in the game via keyboard or the USB headset.

While online modes usually center around cooperative or competitive play, the online mode in The Sims Bustin' Out differs from the pack a bit. The mode is ostensibly about interacting with another player and trading items, and you can certainly do that if you want. Players who are farther along in the game will be able to help newcomers and give them some choice items. However, realistically speaking, the mode is also all about showing off your stuff. There's more than a little satisfaction to be had from inviting people over to a lavish pad filled with cool gear and showing off your plethora of social interactions (actions you learn in the single player game). We expect that you can get satisfaction from helping people, but can showing off an amazing pad and a "ginormous" multiscreen television to a lowly plebeian really be surpassed?

The online mode in The Sims Bustin' Out is a nice extra to an already meaty game experience. The ability to help other players in their single-player game experience or just rub their noses in your own opulence is a good thing. The Sims Bustin' Out is currently slated to ship next week for the PlayStation 2, GameCube, and Xbox.

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