If you’ve been dying to get out of virtual suburbia, this is your chance. Electronic Arts’ The Sims 3: Late Night expansion pack features an entirely new urban cityscape—“Bridgeport”—complete with high-rise buildings, celebrities around every corner, and a pumping nightlife. Not to mention all of the other features of cities—muggings, snobby socialites, and a rather dark supernatural underbelly. Okay, so you won’t find the “dark supernatural underbelly” aka “vampires” in NYC or San Francisco, but you never know!
The Sims 3: Late Night is an expansion pack, which means that you’ll need a copy of The Sims 3 in order to play. Late Night features a brand-new neighborhood for your Sims to explore—a small built-up “city” called Bridgeport, which appears to be modeled after San Francisco and Los Angeles. Bridgeport features high-rise apartment buildings where your Sim can rent a modest studio apartment (living the real city life) or purchase an expensive penthouse. While high-rise apartments have naturally limited space (you won’t be able to build outside of your apartment, obviously), there are plenty of new sexy furniture options, including an absurdly large wall-sized fish tank.
New home décor is always exciting, but what’s the point of having a sexy apartment if you don’t have a sexy Sim to live there? Late Night comes with a lot of new Sim customization options, including clothing, hairstyles, and body sliders. The clothing and hairstyles are mostly what you’ll need to live the fast-paced urban lifestyle—skintight t-shirts and tousled hairstyles for the guys, and racy clubbing tops and messy up-dos for the girls.
The two new body sliders will be a welcome addition for a lot of Sim fans—a “muscle definition” body slider, which allows you to customize how much muscle definition your Sim has (the most muscular Sims look a lot like Jersey Shore’s “The Situation”), and a breast slider for, um, adjusting the size of your Sim’s chest (without putting on more weight). Hey, we’ll just assume Bridgeport is like every other big city—sexy, elite, and totally superficial. And yes, moving the breast slider all the way over to the right makes your Sim look like she’s had a little artificial enhancement.
Once your Sim is all decked out with his/her six-pack/boob job, they’re ready to hit the town. Bridgeport features a number of hoppin’ night spots—from little dive bars to ritzy, upscale lounges and clubs. Most of the venues don’t open until later (anywhere from the late afternoon to the early evening), and each one has its own requirements for admission. Some of the venues—mostly the dive bars and the lower-end clubs—are open to the public right away (and feature red velvet ropes sans bouncer), while others are much more exclusive. Bouncers can be bribed, flirted with, or impressed into letting you in, though some won’t even talk to you unless you have a certain celeb status.
There are a number of new opportunities for your Sims to take advantage of in Late Night—for example, your Sim can play as a celebrity, a rockstar, or even a vampire. Each path features its own perks and challenges, but choosing at least one is necessary in order for your Sim to gain admittance to the most exclusive late-night venues.
If you choose to play as a celeb, you’ll gain the most in terms of free drinks and entrance into the highest-end clubs and lounges. Becoming a celebrity is somewhat of a challenge, however, and involves a lot of schmoozing with other celebs (perhaps even becoming involved with one) and doing damage control when the paparazzi catches you in an unfortunate situation. Celebrity status is measured by little stars (out of five) that appear above your Sim’s head (and also above other celebrity Sims’ heads).
Meeting and talking with other celebrity Sims (before you’re a celeb yourself) is especially hard—they’re generally unimpressed unless you’re rich, famous, or particularly charismatic. At the lower levels of celeb status (less than three stars) your Sim will still be mostly ignored by higher-level celebrities and be unable to get into the most exclusive venues. Once you reach the higher levels (four or five stars) of fame, however, you’ll not only be able to get into clubs and drink for free, you may even be able to wrangle some extra cash from the club owner—a professional partier, if you will—just for showing up.
The only annoying thing about being a celeb, of course, is all of the publicity and the following you’ll have. If your Sim does anything worthy of paparazzi photos, you’ll probably end up spending several days doing damage control. If you become too much of a laughingstock (think Lindsay Lohan), then club owners and bouncers will rescind your open-arm invitation and other celebs will snub you. Yeah, being famous is just so hard!
If you’d rather not be a paparazzi-followed socialite, you can also gain some fame and notoriety by starting your own band and playing gigs at various venues. Many of the clubs and bars feature stages where your Sim’s band will be able to perform. Your Sim can play anything from electric guitars to piano, bass, or drums.
Being in a band is a little harder to do than just, you know, being paid to be famous—your Sim will need to socialize with industry members, practice with your band members, and play gigs. It appears that you can only get gigs through the Sims 3’s “opportunity system”—in other words, they pop up at random and there’s no way for you to really hustle for jobs.
If you’d rather not be a celebutante or a poor musician, you can also reject the daytime completely—and become a vampire. The vampires in The Sims 3 are less like Dracula (they won’t burn up in the sunlight, for example) and a lot like Twilight (sexy and, um, always ready to party)—though they don’t glitter. Becoming a vampire is actually a fairly easy task—just find and befriend one, and then ask them to “turn” you.
Finding vampires is a cinch—even though they reportedly hang out in the higher-end venues, you’ll still find a couple chilling in the open-to-the-public clubs and lounges. You’ll be able to tell who’s a vampire because they’ll have red eyes, and their picture will also show up with a glowing red border around it in your relationships tab. Vampires are pretty much like everyone else—just flirt shamelessly with them and they’ll warm up to you pretty quickly. Once they’ve taken a liking to you, you can ask them to “turn” you—they’ll usually do it, so long as you’re in a semi-private place (if they tell you they’d rather wait until the two of you are alone, just invite them over to your place later on).
Vampires can do some pretty cool things—like hunt for Sims to feed upon in a special mode that lets you track people by their body heat. Of course, once your vampire Sim wants to eat—er, turn—someone, they have to convince the other Sim to let them do it. Vampire Sims also have mind-reading capabilities to help them convince people—they can see someone’s entire list of traits immediately, and use that knowledge to befriend them. Vampires’ weakness is, of course, the daytime—while they won’t burn to a crisp at the first glance of sunlight, but they do die (due to starvation) pretty quickly in the daytime.
The Sims 3: Late Night is a great expansion pack if you’ve been waiting to move your Sims out of the suburbs and into the city, with just one problem—your Sims actually can’t “move” out of the suburbs and into the city. That’s right, any Sims that you have living in Sunset Valley can’t be moved into Bridgeport—which is unfortunate, of course, if you have a Sim or two that you’ve grown fond of. No, instead you’ll need to create entirely new Sims to live in the new city, and there won’t be any cross-interaction.
Another minor annoyance is the fact that, for all of the high-rise apartment buildings with elevators, multiple floors, and tons of unopenable doors, it doesn’t appear that you can move more than one Sim/Sim family into a building. As a design shortcut it makes sense, but it’s still weird that every apartment building has exactly one apartment.
Aside from these two minor issues, however, The Sims 3: Late Night is a great addition to the Sims 3 series. The main focus is on socialization and, well, partying, and it certainly makes for an interesting storyline—not to mention all sorts of drama. It is unfortunate that you can’t bring your old Sims into the new storyline, because as Sims players know—it takes awhile to raise and care for a Sim, and starting over from scratch is a little frustrating.
[Sarah Jacobsson is a frequent contributor to Macworld.]