Sim-ply Breathtaking

The Sims 2
Reviewed On
Available For

Wow! What a cool game. After hours and hours (and hours) of playing The Sims 2, I have come to two conclusions: 1) this game is great and 2) I need to stop playing and write this review before a certain Game Industry News editor comes to kill me. Just kidding, John.

As with the original Sims, you live in a virtual neighborhood and guide your family of characters (“Sims”) through life-literally from birth to death. You get to create Sims that live in houses you build, in neighborhoods you make. Your Sims will grow up, move away from home, earn money, make friends (and enemies), maybe fall in love and get married, and start their own families.

Your goal in The Sims 2 is for your characters to achieve their life aspirations. Maybe your Sims want to be popular, rich, intellectual, or loved. Help them realize their dreams and conquer their fears. If you get bored, or are a certain level of twisted, then perhaps you’ll want your Sims to fail miserably at life. Maybe you want them to go crazy, die of starvation, be poor, or have no friends. (Okay, all of these happened to my Sims, but I wasn’t trying, honest.)

Fans of the original Sims-this sequel is worth the wait! It improves on the original by leaps and bounds. Some of the highlights of The Sims 2 include:

Many more neighborhood, building, and character design choices.

Gameplay takes place over the characters’ lifetimes. Sims will physically age from infancy to old age.

Characters are more fully aware of their surroundings.

Sims have memory.

Sims are driven by life aspirations.

First things first. You’ll need to design your Sim(s). With an almost infinite amount of choices, players have the opportunity to create unique combinations of physical (age, facial structure, eye and hair color, body type), style (haircut, makeup, clothes), and personality (astrological sign, life aspiration). Start out with defined inter-Sim relationships-roommate, spouse, parent-child-or build these relationships during gameplay.

Next, you’ll need a roof over your Sims’ heads. Depending on how many simoleons (cash) your Sim starts out with, you can build or buy a hovel”or a mansion. Choices abound. Buy one of the houses that are available for purchase or build your own house from foundation to roof. Remember to stay within a budget, however. With all the options at your fingertips, it’s easy to go overboard picking fancy windows, flooring, wallpaper, etc. Once you’ve got your lodging settled, your Sim is ready to move in. Welcome to the neighborhood! Now you can fill your house with furniture and appliances; decorate with paintings and sculptures; and landscape with flowers, shrubbery, and trees.

Your Sims will have the same basic needs as they did in The [original] Sims-such things as hunger, bladder, energy, and hygiene. Unfulfilled needs result in unhappiness and may lead to an untimely death. The really cool thing about the sequel is that the characters have the “intelligence” to passively take care of their needs. It’s still a good idea to check on how well the characters are faring.

Assuming you provide them the means for your Sims to take care of themselves-with food in the refrigerator, a toilet, a bed, etc., you can focus on the more important things in life-in the short-term, your Sims’ happiness, and in the long-term, fulfillment of their life’s aspiration. Satisfying needs and wants, and avoiding fears, will influence happiness. Wants and fears are based on aspirations and experiences. If the character ultimately desires love, for example, s/he may want to flirt with another Sim, or have fear of being rejected. As wants (or fears) are met, the character gains (loses) happiness and points. Points can be used to unlock reward objects-items that successful characters can use to progress even further towards their aspirations.

Different aspirations will require different approaches to the game. Would-be Mr./Miss Popularities will need to win friends and influence people-with charisma and successful character interactions. Career-minded Sims will depend on a network of friends and family and enough skill points in appropriate areas (culinary careers, for example, require highly-refined cooking skills, while military careers require excellent physical condition) to be promoted up the career ladder.

I found the interactions your Sims have with other Sims and their physical environments to be the most interesting and rewarding part of the game. Sims can interact in different ways with the vast majority of objects in their houses. Basic things such as the newspaper (that is automatically delivered to your doorstep on a daily basis) has several actions associated with it-read, do the crossword, find a job, make a paper airplane, and recycle. Various actions or lack of actions will have good and bad consequences. Exercise, and your Sim will become more physically fit-don’t exercise, and your Sim will grow flabby. Forget to flush the toilet and it will eventually clog. Forget to pay your bills, and the collection agency will repossess your belongings. Your Sims have various levels of dislike, like, and love for other Sims. They may take actions based on their relationships-such as call other Sims on the phone, invite them over, chat, brag, flirt, dance together, annoy, play, even “make whoopee.”

While on paper, this seems (at least to me) very complicated, it is relatively easy to jump in and play the game. The well-designed interface greatly assists in tracking all the variables as well as interacting with other Sims and the environment. New players may find it useful to begin their Sims 2 experience with one of the prebuilt neighborhood modules, houses, and families. The game comes with three pre-designed neighborhoods, each with families Even so, I highly recommend the tutorials-invaluable for new players and experienced players alike. There are many tips on the interface, character/building design, and new features.

The graphics and animation in this game are remarkable. Characters inhabit a detailed, completely three-dimensional environment. With a floating camera view and the ability to zoom way in or way out, players can fully explore their Sims’ world and appreciate the designers’ attention to detail. Big life moments (first kiss, wedding, etc.) are marked with cinematic animation. The music and sound effects are also great. Make sure your characters acquire a radio, and they (and you) will be able to listen to styles of music from salsa to techno.

While this is a great game-there are some limitations to gameplay. The Sims’ world is limited to their houses and designated common areas in their neighborhoods-they can’t randomly, as non-player characters seem to do, walk around or visit other Sims.

The Sims 2 provides a remarkably detailed environment, intelligent gameplay, and hours of fun. I tried so hard to stay away from the first Sims, but now I’m hooked on the series, and can’t wait to see what the developers over at Maxis come up with next.

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