The Sims: Unleashed Preview

There's no stopping The Sims. First love, then kids, and now pets. Read up on the latest expansion pack to the ever popular The Sims from Maxis.

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The Sims phenomenon continues to rage. Countless fans still play the game nonstop, and more gamers are flocking to it every year. Maxis, of course, is working on the next Sims experience with The Sims Online, but in the meantime, it's also adding to the current game with expansion packs. Living Large, House Party, Hot Date, and others have added more value, more locations, more options, and more stuff to the classic Sims game, but as befits a game that models real life, there are still worlds of possibilities to explore. So Maxis has been toiling away on a new expansion called The Sims: Unleashed, and at its core, what it does is add "new life" to your Sims game in the form of pets and gardens.

Trusty pets and nasty vermin are new additions made by Unleashed. Here, our puppy is fighting a wandering raccoon.
Trusty pets and nasty vermin are new additions made by Unleashed. Here, our puppy is fighting a wandering raccoon.

So far in The Sims, your families have been limited to human adults and children, but now you can add nonhuman members to your household. Unleashed introduces animals to your game--both those you can adopt and care for, and those that can make your life a headache. At first glance, you'll find that stray pets now roam your backyard. Cats and dogs come strolling into your lots, sniffing around and wandering curiously. You can befriend these animals, playing with them and giving them treats, or shoo them off your property. Less welcome, though, are the pests that can come to ruin your house. Skunks and raccoons also wander into your lot uninvited. Skunks stink up your neighborhood and require professional help to remove. Among the new options in The Sims: Unleashed is the ability to call animal control to your home to get rid of unwelcome visitors, and you'll want to do that when the skunks arrive. Raccoons are a little less severe, as they just come in and root through your trash, making a mess. You'll have to expend effort to clean up after the little beasts, but at least you can shoo the raccoons away with your sims. Alternatively, you can also sic your own pet on the curious guest. We had our pet puppy saunter over to the raccoon and fight it. After watching a short battle of whirling fur and dust, we got to see the puppy barking victoriously as the beaten raccoon slinked away.

Cats and dogs can be full-fledged family members, with their own needs and feelings.
Cats and dogs can be full-fledged family members, with their own needs and feelings.

While the mutts and alley cats add some nice ambience to the area around your house, if you want to own a pet, you'll need to take a cab down to the new Old Town and visit the pet adoption center. It's another addition to the already dozens of locations you can visit in The Sims (if you factor in all the expansions). Inside the pet adoption center, you'll see a nice pet park and shops to purchase pets and pet toys, as well as some bathrooms and a pastry stand for the owners. There is an adoption center for cats and dogs and an adjacent building where you can buy fish, iguanas, turtles, or birds.

Only cats and dogs can become real family members, but the other pets can be brought into your homes. The variety of cats and dogs you can pick is pretty extensive, and they all have their own personalities, just like the sims. However, they aren't as fleshed out as humans, so they don't have as wide a range of traits. They have no inventories or interests, and instead of jobs, they have skills (the three skills are housebreaking, obedience, and tricks). But they are full family members, so you'll need to meet their needs, such as hunger, energy, bladder, and so forth, just as you would with a human family member.

The Truth About Cats and Dogs

In addition to watching the moods of your pets, you'll need to maintain your relationship with them. They occupy a normal space in your household and your relationship bars. Your cats and dogs are social creatures, and you'll want to play with them, praise them, give them treats, and so forth. Bringing one home for the first time is a great experience, as the puppy or kitten will rush into its new home with zeal, leaping from place to place and drinking out of the toilet (in the puppy's case). Of course, they will have lots of accidents, and you'll need to scold them and clean up after them as well. To help keep your pets washed, fed, and energized, there are lots of new pet-oriented objects, including food bowls, pet beds, cages, scratching posts, grooming stations, and more. If you treat your cats and dogs well, they'll become loyal companions who provide hours of entertainment. Teach them tricks and keep them happy and you'll be able to enter them into pet shows at the SimKennel in the local park, one of the many new features added by Unleashed. If you win, you'll garner prizes and prestige.

The pet adoption center is one of the new locations in The Sims: Unleashed.
The pet adoption center is one of the new locations in The Sims: Unleashed.

Pets, though, aren't the only addition made by The Sims: Unleashed. Prospective farmers or players with a green thumb will be pleased with the new gardening features. Now you can grow food in your own backyard thanks to the garden plot objects--you simply go down to the local market, purchase some seeds, and then plant them. Among the seeds you can buy are lettuce, green beans, carrots, and tomatoes. Once you plant and harvest these veggies, you'll be able to feed yourself (saving some money) and store extra produce in the new pantry. And if you truly have lots of excess vegetables, you can sell it at Custer's Market, the new farmer's market in Old Town, for a nice little profit. You can even make a living off your makeshift farm if you devote enough time to it.

Another new feature introduced added by Unleashed are the community lots. You can now create community areas yourself, placing shops, eateries, and the new objects available in The Sims: Unleashed, such as adoption centers, garden supply stores, and farmer's markets. A new option in the interface is rezoning, which will bulldoze an area and let you raise your own community lot for your sims to gather and hang out, shop, eat, mingle with neighbors and other pets, and so on.

Gardener Bob is a new NPC who will give you hints on gardening.
Gardener Bob is a new NPC who will give you hints on gardening.

Other new features added by The Sims: Unleashed are an easier to understand phone book that now lists neighbors for you and some new NPCs, such as animal control, maintenance crews, palm readers, Bob the gardener, pet judges, pet trainers, Giuseppi the accordion player and his pet monkey, and more. And, of course, Old Town has been spiced up with new features, and the buy and build options for your sims have been expanded yet again.

If you're already into The Sims, you'll want to check out this expansion for the new pets and gardening alone. But, as with the other expansions, Unleashed also adds plenty of new objects and new places to visit. From the looks of it, all these new features should provide plenty of additional entertainment for longtime Sims fans or newcomers. The Sims: Unleashed should arrive on store shelves within the next few weeks.

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