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Platform

PC

 

Genre

Sim

 

Publisher

Electronic Arts

 

Developer

Maxis

 

ESRB

T (Teen)

 

Released

Q4 2001

 

 

- Can finally get out of the house and paint the town
- Enhanced item and relationship menus
- Same great graphics Sims fans are used to

 

 

- Time difference between town and home can be confusing
- Graphics can get choppy on lower-end systems
- Seems to condone attempts at adultery for married Sims

 

 

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Sims: Hot Date
Score: 9.2 / 10

On paper, does a game where you have to worry about building a living environment, sleeping, eating, your hygiene, cleaning, going to work and school, and communicating with and caring for other virtual people sound like it has the makings of a classic PC game? No, honestly, it really doesn't. But when the Sims was released last year, it became an unexpected gaming sensation, topping the sales charts. The Sims and its two expansion packs have gone beyond a mundane description of their basic elements to become an addictive gaming experience.

 

hot_date-1.jpg (101360 bytes)          hot_date-2.jpg (106297 bytes)

 

Now, The Sims: Hot Date is the first expansion pack that dramatically revolutionizes the Sims gameplay. Maxis cancelled the title SimsVille quite frankly because Sims fans wanted to get their Sims out of the house setting and into other living environments without having to worry about supporting a whole town's infrastructure. What made and continues to make the Sims such a popular simulation title is that is does away with the intricacies of building and maintaining a large city world and instead focused on the everyday living needs of virtual people. The wish gamers sought granted to any new additions to the Sims and its two previous expansion packs (Living Large and House Party) is that they wanted to get out of the house occasionally. In real life, we don't spend all our time at work and home. We all need to unwind some time during the week and have some fun by going to the beach, the mall, restaurants and parks. Fans also wanted the ability to get deeper immersed in the romantic aspects of daily life. Maxis gave its fans what the wanted in the form of Hot Date.

 

Where Living Large and House Party were basically enhancements to the original, Hot Date completely revamps the gameplay by making it possible to focus more on social and romantic relationships and for the first time get away from the Sims 

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house. Admit it, after a while there was only so many rooms you could remodel in your Sims abode or so many parties you could throw (although having Drew Carey show up at your big jam WAS cool) before the gameplay got a little stale.

You get the suspicion Hot Date is setting up Sims fans for one of 2002's intriguing titles, The Sims Online, where much of what is presented in Hot Date will most likely be available in one form or another, albeit with online functionality.

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With Hot Date, you can go on dates or romantic interludes with your significant other. Or if you want, you can roam town looking for a new love interest by visiting the new Downtown Area, which finally allows access to another part of the Sims Universe outside your Sims dwelling in the first major upgrade of the Sims gameplay since its release.

Be careful though. The only way to get your spouse or beau along for the ride is to make sure all of their life functions are in the green. Otherwise, you're on your own and that's when trouble can brew. I find it somewhat astonishing that the game almost seems to condone adultery among married Sims, because it gets kind of boring going to a romantic dinner by yourself. Hey, Maxis figures, if your spouse won't join you, then how about the gorgeous femme fatale stalking around town? She's only one of the many new Sims Townies you now can intermingle with in town.

Another bizarre occurrence that I came across was when my husband Sim went Downtown without the old ball and chain for the lack-of-green reason mentioned above. But guess who was there when I got to town? Yep, you win the prize if you said his Sim wife. Don't know how she got there, but it was definitely weird since I couldn't get her to go to town in a shared cab ride. So much for domestic bliss.

Watch out for the old biddy in the gray dress walking around town. She will gossip about you if she sees you behaving outside of the boundaries of moral decency (like necking in the park), especially with someone that happens NOT to be your better half.

The strangest aspect and the only detraction of Hot Date's gameplay is the perplexing time difference between your house and the town. For instance, you can leave your house at 5 p.m. for a little dinner. But when you get to town it may already be 12 a.m. in the morning. Somehow you are able, according to Maxis in its Hot Date FAQ section at www.thesims.com, to make this benefit your Sims, but I haven't figured that out yet. Maybe Dr. Who or that guy from Quantum Leap could throw some light on the matter of uneven time displacement.

And the last minor complaint I have is that for some reason, installing Hot Date knocked out the "unofficial" roach and nudity patches I had installed with House Party. It's not a huge deal, but spotting groups of those pesky cockroach critters running around your Sims household that the patch did away with previously is annoying.

More objects and floor and wall sets are available with Hot Date. 125 new building resources allow you even more creative freedom for not only your house, but Hot Date now allows players to build their own Downtown areas. Some of the great new additions for those in the mood for love are the Cuddle Couch, the Love Swing and the Love Tub.

You can also select a wide range of expanded social exchanges, especially of the romantic variety. You just don't kiss; you have the option to throw a little peck your love's way, or try and stoke the fires of the heart with a fiery kiss. Kissing is only one of 40 new ways to socially interact with fellow Sims. Also, now all those Sims who are your friends are kept in your relationship menu, which gives you the low-down on how you are getting along with each particular Sim friend.  Playing in the Love Tub will give you a chuckle. Instruct your Sims to "play", and first one, then the other disappears under the bubbling water. Good for a little juvenile laugh the same way viewing Sims "playing" in bed is (Hehehe.hahaha.oh, okay, I'll get my mind out of the virtual gutter!) This is a game that definitely earns its teen rating for funny but sometimes bordering-on-risqué gameplay.

Maxis has also updated the building material menu. Now you don't have to scroll through every piece of furniture to spruce up your habitat. The beds are with all the beds, the couches are with all the couches.  You get the idea. This new categorization system makes building structures much easier. It's a wonder it wasn't instituted in earlier Sims expansions.

 

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The graphics of Hot Date are of the same high quality that all Sims players have been treated to in previous titles. They even jump up a notch when you make visits to town. The candy shop, where you can pick up a box of chocolates for your romantic interest, has amazingly detailed visual features. Each tiny piece of candy is meticulously realistic. Another minor graphic touch that doesn't add any to the game's overall play but impresses nevertheless is when you pay for something, the shop's clerk actually takes your Simolians and then opens and places it in the cash register. Again, that's nothing spectacular, but shows that Maxis places emphasis even on the most minute of details.

Lower-end systems can get choppy graphically when you have a lot of built elements, furniture and other objects in or around your house or when too many visuals are on-screen when you are visiting Downtown. Higher-end systems should have no problem handling the graphic rendering, though. Sound wise, the music is up to the standards of the previous Sims titles. And of course, the unforgettable language of Simlish is present yet again.

The whole package comes together to create another magnificent Sims gaming happening. By sticking with what works and adding what was asked for, Hot Date is the fresh gameplay advancement that The Sims needed as we near closer to the release of Sims Online. This is the jalapeno-hot expansion pack that will get your Sims romantic juices flowing again.

- Lee Cieniawa

 

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