The Sims 3 due in February

Less confined than before.

EA plans to release The Sims 3 on the internet and in shops around the world from 20th February 2009.

Available from launch will be a Collector's Edition, featuring a themed USB drive with matching carabiner, tips and hints guide, in-game Italian-style sports car, and some stickers.

The Sims 3 builds on the enormous franchise by branching out into openworld territory, presenting a seamless neighbourhood to walk around, taking in areas such as town centres, beaches, mountains, and perhaps car parks with urine-stained staircases.

This expansive approach offers plenty of scope for future downloadable content, or perhaps even expansion packs. We'd be shocked.

Personality-customisation is another of the big ideas on offer, derived from a choice of five traits picked from a list of dozens: artistic, brave, kleptomaniac, clumsy, romantic and more.

Plus, of course, object-customisation - both interior and exterior - has been ramped up significantly to allow endless tweaks and fiddles.

Our preview of The Sims 3 will tell you much, much more.

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