The Sims 2: University

If you're just tuning in, The Sims 2 catapulted far beyond its predecessor's gameplay value by introducing the passage of time. Ageing allows for your Sims to experience each stage of life with such realism that you actually feel these are living (or dying) creatures. The game's first expansion pack, University, takes advantage of this strength by adding a whole new phase to your Sims' lives.

In University, your college-bound Sims are placed in a dorm with other teens and academic pursuits are treated the same as jobs. You must earn skill points and maintain relationships to reach success. However, University adds another layer to the process of raising a Sim, because skill points only expand your characters' scholastic potential. You still have to do assignments and term papers to make the grade. The result is a shockingly rigorous race that doesn't relent until graduation. Each semester requires more skill points and more schoolwork, leaving little time for the great new additions to the game.

Fraternities and secret societies are the two most exciting new opportunities your Sim will need. If you create or join a frat/sorority, you can move into their house and give orders. Secret societies are shady sects that meet in the dead of night and have special handshakes. Poor students also have extra ways of making money, like performing for tips, pool hustling or "slinging java".

The sharp audio and visuals of The Sims 2 weren't broke and haven't been fixed, but there are still some menu items hidden in arcane locations. Ultimately, this is a fine expansion with fun locations and seductive opportunities, but it needs a bit more gameplay balance before graduating to the "real" world.

Score Card

Visuals: New menu items added Audio: No real drastic changes since Sims 2 Gameplay: Steep learning curve for beginners; builds on the Sims 2 universe in all the right ways Score: 4 Publisher: EA Developer: Maxis URL: www.thesims2.ea.com

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