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The Sims Bustin' Out Xbox

Published by EA Games
Developed by Maxis
Released - Out Now
Price : £39.99

Whilst fans of the PC version of The Sims have been looking forward to the highly anticipated The Sims 2 that’s due to arrive this spring, those of you who have enjoyed the virtual people phenomenon on either GameCube, PlayStation 2 or Xbox will have been fully aware that a sequel to The Sims has already emerged on those platforms. The Sims Bustin' Out, which also comes to Game Boy Advance this time too, is not a sequel in the true sense. It would be rather more accurate to say it's a refined version with plenty of additional content to satisfy those of you who enjoyed the games rather impressive debut on the consoles early last year.

So what does Bustin' Out offer then? Well there's a new Bustin' Out mode and a free play mode like in the first The Sims game on the consoles. A whole load of extra items (clothing, furniture etc.) and social actions have also been added. You can now play a two player game in either Bustin' Out mode or Free Play mode. Graphically the game looks better and the Sims animate much better this time around. At it's core the game still requires you to maintain your character's motives (the name given to your basic needs such as hunger, bladder, and energy) as well as establishing yourself in a career of your choice. Bustin' Out offers a total of 12 careers. Only seven of these are available in Bustin' Out mode (Movie Star, Mad Scientist, Gangster, Fashion Victim, Paramilitary, Counter Culture and Jock) with the other five careers which include the likes of Artist and Computer Geek being unlockable items that can then be used in Free Play mode.

Of course the main attraction is the new 'Bustin' Out' mode which replaces the 'Get a Life' mode in the previous game. You'll be pleased to learn this is not a short addition that will only take a few hours to play through. Bustin' Out is a challenging mode, even for The Sims veterans, that will take many hours of gameplay to complete. Your mother has recently divorced the miserly Malcolm Landgrabb and Malcolm being the repulsive character that he is, has decided to take back certain items from your mother and her other children, Mimi and Dudley. In order to complete Bustin' Out mode you'll have to work your way to the top of your chosen career. As per usual to do this you'll have to maintain your character's motives and build up a circle of friends. You'll also have to improve your Sim's skills (cooking, mech, creative, body, logic and charisma) in the usual ways such as playing chess, body building etc. Once again time is of the essence and you'll be doing a juggling act trying to fit as many activities within the limited amount of time that you have each day and it's this limited time that gives you your greatest challenge. As you progress through the Bustin' Out mode you'll unlock all manner of things such as furniture, social actions and other places to visit.

Bustin' Out is aptly named because with the Bustin' Out mode you're not simply confined to staying where you live. You'll have the ability to visit several new locations. Club Rubb, Pixel Acres (the comically titled nudist colony), Casa Caliente, Tinsel Bluffs etc., are all places that you can visit at various stages. Unlike the various PC add-ons though, you don't have to pay to travel from one place to another as you have your own vehicle. You initially begin with a scooter but this can be changed for other vehicles as you progress through the game. You can't aimlessly drive around though and from the moment you get on or in your vehicle the ride will simply act as a loading screen until you arrive at your chosen destination. The freedom to travel around is appreciated though and it enables you to have access to items that you wouldn't be able to afford early in the game. You can even move out as often as you like. The game begins (after you've created your Sim) with you living at your mother's house. After you've completed all the goals you'll be able to move out and either move in with Mimi, if your Sim is female or Dudley, if your Sim is male. There are other locations too such as the Goth mansion where you can live. At each location there are objectives to complete and you can move back and forth as often as you please in order to complete these objectives. You can also play through the game in two player mode too if you want to.

Last time around we looked at the PlayStation 2 version of The Sims so it's difficult to compare the Xbox version of Bustin' Out to the previous game. What did strike me though is that the game looks better in a variety of ways. The character models animate more smoothly than they did in The Sims and you get more customisation options when creating your character. All round game performance is also much better. I noticed that anti-aliasing has also been used and the lack of jagged edges was extremely impressive and pleasing to the eye. As with the PC version of The Sims you can either have the walls of your house completely up, down or disappear a section at a time to allow you to see your Sim. This final option looks superb in Bustin' Out and you can see the walls subtly disappear and it looks impressive. The Xbox version of Bustin' Out has much quicker loading times than the PlayStation 2 version of The Sims and the framerate remains rock solid too for a very smooth experience.

All other Sims games have been deaf gamer friendly and Bustin' Out is no exception. All dialogue in the Bustin' Out mode is shown in text and you have to press a button to remove the dialogue, so you can read at your own pace. All of your goals are shown in text and they call be recalled at any time by pressing the start button. Bustin' Out contains plenty of visual clues for various sounds in the game (such as the musical notes shown below that show that music is being played) but not all the

sounds in the game have visual clues. This isn't a problem though as important events tend to trigger a picture-in-picture display (a small rectangle that will show you that your bus has arrived for work or a disastrous event has just occurred etc.) which will get your attention. All important information is shown visually and you'll have no problems whatsoever in enjoying the game.

Essentially if you enjoyed The Sims on your chosen console when it was released last year, you're going to love Bustin' Out. The Bustin' Out mode, aside all of the additional content that has been included should please all of you Sims fans out there. The Bustin' Out mode is very enjoyable and the ability to move from one location to another to complete objectives makes the whole thing seems less linear, which is always a bonus. It's also a nice touch that the Bustin' Out mode can be played as a two player game too. Bustin' Out might not be wildly different from the first console version of The Sims but it is an improved one and one that fans of The Sims should definitely purchase.

Overall Game Rating: 8.6/10
Bustin' Out is a great follow up to The Sims which first appeared on the main consoles last year. It's not a sequel in the true sense but it offers enough differences to make it a must for fans of The Sims.

Deaf Gamers comment:
Not all the sounds in the game have visual clues but the important sounds do. Deaf gamers should have no problems at all with Bustin' Out.