Reviewed: September 23, 2004
Released: September 14, 2004
If you have a non-T&L capable video card (an Intel Extreme Graphics or a Radeon 7000/VE Series) then you need at least:
Itís been a while since the original The Sims came out, which surprised many of us by taking the game world by storm with its quirky humor and unique gameplay. Since then, The Sims has become the most popular game ever sold, so it wasnít a surprise when Maxis announced the development of the sequel, The Sims 2.
Fortunately for fans of The Sims, its newer counterpart does not fail to deliver. From the remarkable customizability in character creation and incredible level of graphic detail, to the increased complexity of Sim interactions and addition of long-term goals, The Sims 2 proves itself to be a worthy follow-up to its acclaimed predecessor.
The Sims 2 interface is fairly similar to that of the first game, and those who have played The Sims shouldnít have any difficulty adjusting to the additions made to the game. Those who havenít ever touched the game should also have an easy time learning the ropes, since the controls are fairly simple, and the game includes a little tutorial to teach new players how to get started.
The fun starts with the creation of your Sim family. As with the previous The Sims, you have a choice of skin tones, facial features, and clothing. The Sims 2, however, takes customization to a new level by allowing you to fine-tune your Simís appearance and define his or her genetic traits, which, in turn, can eventually be passed on to offspring. This time around, you have the ability to tweak virtually every detail of your Simís facial structureóthe color and shape of the eyes, the hairstyle, the narrowness of the noseóall of these features and more can be altered to your heartís desire.
If youíre not the type to spend a lot of time sculpting a particular characterís appearance, though, donít worry; thereís also a handy randomize option and plenty of pre-made head-types to choose from. Conversely, if customization is your favorite part of the game, youíre in luck because the game comes prepackaged with The Sims 2 Body Shop, a useful little application that, in conjunction with your favorite image-editing software, makes creating custom genetic traits and clothing a piece of cake.
House-building and home-furnishing, too, are much improved. In The Sims 2, players are no longer limited to building two-story houses, and sprawling, multi-level mansions with attics are now possible. Windows (and curtains) and doors can be placed on diagonal walls. Yards can include ponds decorated with water lilies and cattails. And, to the delight of many a fan, furniture and appliances now come in several different finishes and patterns, so that you can finally get that kitchen counter to match your new bright-orange fridge.
From the moment you move your Sims into their house, the drama unfolds as each Simís personality comes alive in an entertaining caricature of human life. Family members wave to each other as they pass each other in the halls, playful Sims mischievously splash their friends in the hot tub, and kids jump up and down on the sofa for fun. Ill-mannered Sims may spit on another Simís shoe just to gross someone out. As before, thereís no overarching objective that you need to accomplish as a player, and just observing your Simsí idiosyncratic behaviors can be a lot of fun. If youíre the goal-oriented type, though, you can easily keep yourself occupied by advancing your Sims up the career ladder of your choice and helping your Sims reach their life aspirations by fulfilling their wants and avoiding their fears.
Additionally, Sims now have a lifespan, which can start at birth and which proceeds through several different life stagesóbaby, toddler, child, teenager, adult, and elderóuntil death. Babies born to your Sims inherit their genetics from their parents, and their experiences as children affect their eventual development into adults. If youíre not into that, though, thereís a cheat (given freely in the game manual, even) that allows you to turn the aging feature off.
Besides that, The Sims 2 provides more random, career-affecting events during your Simís work day, better path-finding algorithms (so your Sim doesnít walk all the way around the house just to get to another room indoors), and many other small-but-significant improvements over the first game.
The visuals in The Sims 2 are very pleasing to the eye. The animation is much smoother and lifelike, compared to the first game, and your Sims show various amusing facial expressions depending on mood and situation. Maxis put an incredible amount of detail into the environments, objects, and the Sims themselves: the TVs have cables in the back, the computer monitor displays animated chat windows when your Sim is socializing online, the mirrors really reflect (though not perfectly; bathroom mirrors will reflect the yard outside if the wall it faces is hidden), and the pool casts a bluish shimmer on your Sim has she walks through the yard at night. Even better, you can now rotate the camera freely and zoom in and out as you willóand the camera lets you get in close enough to your Sims that you can actually see the macaroni boiling on the stove.
My only small complaint is that the blurring of your Sims when they bathe now blurs all the objects between the camera and the Sim. In other words, if another Sim was standing outside the bathroom but in front of the bathing Sim, the Sim standing around will end up blurred as well. Other than that, though, the graphics are clean and impressively done.
As in the previous games, the game provides a few mellow background tunes in the build and buy modes, as well as several songs that your Sims can play on their radios. Most of the game, though, does without the background music (which is fine, since the music does get old quickly) and instead uses a mixture of household sounds and your Simsí dialogue (in Simlish, as before) to create a lifelike environment. The addition of different voice sets to represent Sims of different genders at different life stages also helps provide variety.
Even after playing this game for a week, there is still a lot I havenít tried and havenít seen. To put it differently, this game can conceivably keep a player occupied and amused for a long time, especially since Maxis has always been very good about releasing new objects, houses, and skins for free downloading to registered players. Better yet, because of the included Body Shop utility, the relative ease of creating your own custom content for your Sims makes this game all the more fun. I certainly found The Sims 2 worth the ten lunches I traded for it.
In short, The Sims 2 is a fun, open-ended game that allows for a lot of experimentation, customization, and creativity. Even after playing the game for many hours over the past week or so, Iím sure thereís still a lot that I havenít yet experienced in the game. If you liked the first Sims game, Iíd definitely recommend getting this one.