A decent expansion, but not quite the best one ever.
Hobbies are the focus in Free Time and they actually add a decent aspect to the game. Prior to Free Time, sims would wander off and find whatever random object that would fulfill their motives. Of course, personalities would help determine partly what they would go play with first. With hobbies, sims will still wander off in search of random objects, but once they figure out what their favorite hobby is they are more likely to use objects associated with that hobby. The more time spent with that object, or later activities that get unlocked, the more activities and interactions you unlock for the associated hobby. All hobbies share a general unlock schedule such as getting the ability to talk about the hobby then look it up in the newspaper and so forth. There are a rare few hobbies that will give you unique abilities and interactions. For example, the science hobby allows you to search for more objects in space, like planets and UFOs, which in turn gives you a chance of discovering a new heavenly body and getting paid for it! I won't spoil the other unique abilities, but the few that are there are interesting and make the game more enjoyable. As for the other hobbies, that just go along the typical unlock able options, this is where I see a slight disregard to finishing the game evenly. Why did sports not get special interactions or even music/dance? Nearly every previous expansion got some sort of tie in except for Pets. With the addition of competitions for judging best sim in a hobby, you would think having a Pet contest would just make sense since it was left out of the original Pets expansion pack! I suppose there is ONE tie in to Pets: if you feed your bird or wormrat you get Nature hobby points. WHOOPIE! For dog and cat lovers, you're out of luck as feeding your favorite fuzz-balls gets you nothing. There are, at least, two new tables that can produce items to sell via Open for Business. And if you put the time into it you can also restore the broken down car and sell it much the same way as you would sell any other car in a business lot with Nightlife or the free Ford cars from the exchange. University gets more jobs that can tie into its majors and the jobs themselves add a little more variety to what your sims can do for a living. Bon Voyage gets a big boost with having numerous Nature perks associated with its recent additions. New items abound as well so you can spruce up your homes to look a little different from one another without having to dish out cash for yet another stuff pack. While everything that was added makes for some great game play, you just can't help but feel that even more could have been added which, in turn, would have made this expansion a great ending to the series and the best pack ever released.
Since it is the last expansion pack, you can tell that the graphics are starting to get a bit dated. They still look as crisp and colorful as when Sims 2 first came out. But in a day where Hi-Def graphics are starting to take a firmer hold, gamers may be a little put off from what is seen in Free Time. So if you're new to the series, don't expect to see graphics on par with Crysis or anything you've seen on the 360 or PS3. What is nice is that the system requirements have changed very little since Sims 2 was released. I think a slight bump up in graphics cards has happened, but still the game runs on some pretty decent specs.
New music adorns this expansion pack in the well known Simlish. Most tracks are quite upbeat and fit in nicely with the previous music fare. There's also a new musical instrument for your sims to interact with: a violin. At the time of release of this review, I've found the violin to be a tad buggy so use it at your own risk. The nicest aspect, to come musically, is the ability to create your own radio station to play the custom music files that have adorned your Sims music file over the years. So yes, now you can create your own Speed Metal station. Rock on!
Sims 2 usually gets a high tilt rating from me because, well it's the Sims! The game has revolutionized the gaming industry and always provides a unique gaming experience to each player based on their own whims. Unfortunately, between the bugs and the numerous hobbies that seem to be missing out on special abilities, I just couldn't rate this expansion that high. Being the last expansion I suppose I was holding this game to a high standard and EA just didn't deliver as well as expected. It's almost appears like they just gave up on the other hobbies and left them in their default unlockables. Maybe after a good patching the game will be a tad more enjoyable, but at the moment I seem to find a new bug with every play session. No NPC spawning problems, at least, that I have noticed!
I'll admit it. I was very rough on this expansion compared to the previous ones. But I've had a dramatic change of heart to Sims 2 expansions ever since the spawning NPC problem as seen in Bon Voyage. Free Time is also regarded to be the last Sims 2 expansion, so I really had my hopes up for a great end to the series. Die hard fans of Sims 2 will not want to miss out on this expansion, even if there are bugs present. You can get around most of the buggy issues and really enjoy everything the game offers so long as you're careful with what you use. And it really does mesh well with all the other expansions which are what makes an expansion even better in the end. For gamers new to the series or tend to have a wavering interest in it I'd recommend waiting for either the patch to come out and/or for the price to drop a bit. This is a great expansion but it's not something you have to get right away if you can resist the urge or have some other games you'd like to play through first. The bugs that are present would only likely cause more grief than needed and when fixed this expansion will probably be much better in the end. What cannot be fixed (unless done so by the modding community) is the missed opportunity to provide some deeper abilities and interactions to all hobbies that were built in. When less than half of the hobbies have unique abilities it just makes a Sim fan wonder: why didn't they add in something to these hobbies as well? The hobbies that do have extended options make for a wonderful play experience and are worth putting the time into unlocking. And with all the extra content added in, any Sims 2 fan will be glad they invested in this expansion.