URBZ: Sims in the City

Review

posted 1/5/2005 by Charlie Sinhaseni
other articles by Charlie Sinhaseni
One Page Platforms: PS2
Say what you will about Maxis’ The Sims but you have to give the designers credit for consistently delivering content that is new and addictive. Some people have been critical of the company for going to the well one too many times with its expansion packs (eight in total) but few have complained about the actual content of the titles. With its console variant the developers were keen on avoiding the same pitfalls and have decided to take it in an entirely different direction with Urbz: Sims in the City. And while they’ve succeeded in delivering something different to its audience, it has failed to retain the same elements that have made the previous entries so addictive.

Those who have seen the screenshots and read the hype may be fooled into thinking that the URBZ focuses solely on the blackinazation of society. In truth, the urban settings are just one aspect of the game. There are 12 different locations that embody various subcultures of society. Throughout the course of the game you’ll have the opportunity to shred up the scenery with the skaters of Whiptail Park, dance it up with the breakers on Neon Street and act pretentious with the beatniks at the Foundry. Variety is a key here and the game consistently offers it up by providing the gamer with unique locales and the wacky characters to match. Ultimately, the game is all about conquering these locales and moving on to the next.

To do this you’ll need to make a name for yourself. As an URB your main goal in life is to become the most popular player in the scene. To gain respect you will need to interact with your peers and impress them with your talents. For the most part, the gameplay remains unchanged but all of the interactions are now colored coded. All of the ones that are likely to succeed are colored in green; the ones that may moderately succeed are colored in yellow while the ones that will most likely result in a negative reaction are colored in red. Each time you gain a positive reaction you’ll earn more reputation. Gain enough reputation and you can enter exclusive parties and travel to locations that outside of your scene. This is the main mechanism that governs the game and it’s flawed in numerous ways.

While it’s fun to interact with other URBZ, it quickly becomes a chore. Unlike the other Sims games, there’s no reason to have a vested interest in any of the other URBZ. They’re simply there to be used to so that you can gain points off of them and move to the next location. Pretty soon you’ll start picking all of the positive actions and holding down the R2 button to fast forward through them just so that you can unlock the next location. Usually the main attraction of these games comes from watching other Sims interact with each other and seeing what transpires. Here, the main objective is to just move through the characters and plow your way into the next location.

Don’t get us wrong, interacting with other URBZ is still part of the fun, it’s just not as fun as it should be. For a game that revolves around social interaction it’s a shame that there’s so little to do. As you progress through the game the Urbz will teach you new interactions but they are so few of them that you’ll find yourself using the same ones over and over again. You’ll get a chuckle out of the interactions for awhile, but it soon grows old and you’ll find yourself growing tired of them. The developers should have worked harder to tinker the engine so that it encouraged more group activities and less one-on-one situations. After all, the game is all about being the center of attention. How do you make an entrance when only one person can acknowledge you at a time? For this, the game eventually peaks after six hours, the point where you realize you’re in an endless conundrum of repetitious actions and predictable results.
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