New Sims on the Block

The latest version of the virtual world for PC, due in early 2009, will bring new personalities and extravagant customization options

The Sims 3 arrives on the PC in early 2009, bringing with it a number of extravagant touches that should make establishing a virtual neighborhood and the lively characters that populate it more fun than before.

First off, the surrounding Sims neighborhood is now a seamless world that lets your Sims roam freely. They can stop by and visit a family member, goof off with friends in a number of local hangouts or see the sights in downtown suburbia, such as City Hall or the local Sims park. These new environmental changes will also play a part in the game's storyline. Meeting new acquaintances, running into old characters and engaging in unusual activities (such as spying on neighbors) allow the story to go anywhere.

In addition, The Sims 3 introduces a brand new Create A Sim mode. Here, you're given access to a number of tools that let you customize your Sim any way you see fit. You can choose muscle type, making your character scrawnier than a video game website editor or as beefy as a muscle-bound bodybuilder. You can also tweak a number of face features such as cheek structure, lips, hairstyle and skin tone. It's deeper than any Sims customization menu, letting you create yourself (or a slightly better you), a friend or even a popular celebrity.

Of course, any Sim can look the part, but if they don't have some form of sparkling personalities to back it up, they would be lifeless drones. Maxis thought this through and created a new Realistic Personality System. Basically, you attribute your characters with five distinct personality traits, which in turn establishes a behavior type for them. This behavior shows through with everything the Sim interacts with in the world, such as a Sims with opposing personalities (get ready for a fight) or an object that becomes desirable or irritating. The blending of separate personalities into The Sims universe expands the replay value. One day you'll find a calm run-in with the mailman. The next, you could be at a mosh party with a bunch of teenagers you never thought you'd hang out with. The choice, as always in this series, is yours. Don't be afraid to go wild.

Speaking of going wild, The Sims 3 gives you more customization options than you might expect. Along with creating your dream cast of characters, you're also given the tools necessary to create your dream universe. You can design floors with a variety of carpet or flooring choices, such as shag carpets and unique diamond patterns, among others. You can also put together specific wallpaper for each room of the house. You can also change the very shape of your house altogether, opting for either a dream mansion or that ideal bachelor pad that's the size of a two-car garage. Just make sure to leave room for the hot tub.

The Sims 3 isn't due to arrive until early next year. However, with all the changes that Maxis has put into the game, it'll be a welcome addition. Be sure to check back for more details, including hands-on impressions and a few ideas of what we'd like to put into the Sims universe.