Virtual newspaper not included.
If there is one thing you can say about Electronic Arts, it's that they have done their best to support their breakthrough title from 2000, The Sims. The Sims: Unleashed is the fifth expansion to the game and, in depth and scope, runs second only to Hot Date with regard to innovation.
In this expansion, animals are fully integrated into the lives of your Sims. Your Sims can now buy pets, along with all the necessities for feeding, housing and grooming them. Once adopted, pets become members of your household and develop relationships with Sims and other animals. This is a great addition and adds a good deal of complexity to the game.
Pets are not directly controllable. Your Sims will have to develop a relationship with their animals and eventually train them in the various arts of hunting, dancing, and even pooping in the right place. In addition, the relationships Sims have with their pets are just as deep and fulfilling as the relationships they have with one another. This means that it is entirely possible for a Sim to relate to no one other than their pet without sacrificing their Social meter, which allows for a greater variety of personality types.
In The Sims: Unleashed, Sims can keep their own vegetable gardens. Although they take some work to get going, these gardens produce crops which, once harvested, can be stored for use or sold for cash. This is very cool and allows jobless Sims to earn their keep.
But gardens come with garden pests like skunks, rabbits and gophers, which will attack your garden with a frenzy as soon as it's planted. Here is where your pet's hunting skills will come in handy. And this is why you will need to have a pet if you want a garden.
Cats and dogs rule this domain - there is even a pet show where your animal can display its good breeding - but there are other, less demanding pets available. Iguanas and birds make an appearance here in addition to the hamsters and fish of yore.
Despite its name, The Sims: Unleashed isn't only about beasts. This expansion adds multiple new lots to your existing neighborhood. Instead of a measly 10 lots on which to build, you now have 41. If you've been keeping up with the expansions, you could have as many as 410 lots on which to build and upwards of 3,000 individual Sims to control! This is an amazing number of potential simulated lives depending on your micromanagement skills. Of course, only an insane, reclusive shut-in with no friends, job or family could possibly explore this game on that level. Wait, did I just insult myself?
Neighborhood lots can now be zoned for either Residential or Commercial use. Sims from all over the neighborhood will congregate on a Commercial lot, which can contain bars, pet stores, internet cafes, espresso stands and shops selling everything from skimpy lingerie to voodoo masks. In fact, just about everything available downtown other than a fully-functioning restaurant can be placed in the section of the Neighborhood called Old Town.
Although this lends a bit of variety to the Neighborhood, anyone who bought Hot Date will find it hard to be impressed by these uptown venues. First of all, there is nothing you can do in Old Town that you can't do Downtown - with the exception of a few item limitations. Secondly, you can never overestimate your Sims' desire to be around large quantities of nourishing edibles. And, frankly, a croissant and a hot dog is not going to do the trick.
Old Town is also plagued by a rogue saxophonist whose raison d'être has yet to be determined. I suppose he's meant to be noodling some notes for the éclair-noshing patrons of a New Orleans style espresso joint, but he seems more cut out for being in the way and following your Sims around, even bursting into restrooms to serenade them with "When the Saints Go Marching In" when he feels particularly funky.
Perhaps the most lunatic aspect of Old Town is the fact that everyone in your Sims' household must assemble for the journey there. Not even pets will be able to escape the gaping jaws of the Old Town Shuttle. Even sleeping Sims will pull themselves out of bed to traipse around Old Town in their skivvies. There's nothing you can do about it, either. Oddly, there are no means of overriding everyone's suddenly urgent desire to go to Old Town. All in all, it is awkwardly implemented and isn't a highlight of the game (although it should be), though it makes a fine consolation prize to anyone who didn't pick up Hot Date.
The Sims: Unleashed is another solid expansion which relies on adding depth and fun rather than tons of goodies, although there are new walls, floors and objects, too. The available number of lots alone puts this expansion on the wish list of any hardcore Sims fan and adds a good deal of incentive to keep on playing.