If you're familiar with the University Life expansion from the Sims 2, then you might know what to expect here. However, instead of introducing a brand new age group and then locking that age group to the expansion, the University Life portion of the Sims 3 is open to all Sims of an adult age (even the elderly). Sims can apply for scholarships and take aptitude tests before choosing from one of a few majors, including Communications, Fine Arts, and Physical Education. After college, Sims with degrees will have a chance to enter the workforce at higher levels than non-educated Sims, and they'll also receive higher starting wages.
As soon as your Sim is accepted to college, it's off to the University campus, far away from home, in a new map that comes complete with dorms, private apartments (if your Sim can afford them), lecture halls, student centers, outdoor recreational areas, and more. The world is so large that actions tend to lag or at least take a while to load when you first enter an area, but it's all worth the wait. There are a ton of NPCs wandering the halls of each building, and both boys and girls share dorms or apartments thanks to some great new technical features.
With each NPC having a life all their own, you can lock your portion of an apartment complex or dormitory to only your Sim or perhaps your significant other in order to keep your privacy, and you can even assign beds to keep your non-player Sims in line. Does a Sim have a personality type that conflicts with your own? Contact the proper administrators and they'll have them reassigned. Are your roommates leaving garbage all over the floor? Use new interactions to ask them to clean up after themselves. Thankfully, other issues like TVs or radios being left on can be stopped with a click or two.
Aside from these social interactions, the game's smartphone has been given a major overhaul, unlocking the new Social Networking skill that can be upgraded by sending texts to others, writing entries on your phone's blogging app, or even streaming and sharing video(s) with friends. Texts can be friendly or romantic (and anonymous), but all of the choices and interactions you make tend to go along with one of three new social groups: Nerds, Rebels, and Jocks. Whether you choose to socialize with one group or all three, you'll earn influence among your peers in those matching groups, and can even unlock dream jobs if you excel in one particular age group before you graduate (Nerds can become video game developers, for instance).
Of course, college can't be all about juice kegs, bonfires, and parties, as there's real educational work to be done as well. Classes and out-of-class activities are given timed assignments as if they were work shifts, and each activity works to fill a meter that determines how well you're performing in your classes overall. Students that ace their tests and spend plenty of time studying (or tutoring others) will wind up on the dean's list, but too much studying can also leave a Sim mentally exhausted. If you feel too strained, you can even attempt to cheat to make your way through some tough exams, but each negative action comes with potential consequences if you're caught.
Ultimately, if we went into detail about all of the new features in the Sims 3: University Life, our look at the game could easily double or triple in size: there's that much to do. From the new smartphone upgrades to communal living in dorms, University Life captures all of the fun things about college while leaving out the real world debt and frustration of not being able to find a job afterwards. This is one collect experience that's well worth the price of admission, even if that price is $39.99.
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Have you tried The Sims 3: University Life? Do you think this is the best Sims 3 expansion yet? Sound off in the comments!