Making the sequel to the best-selling PC game of all-time is a tricky task. On the one hand, you have a proven formula that you know will sell you plenty of games while pleasing your audience. On the other hand you know that if you go to the well too much you might over saturate your audience and disenfranchise them. After releasing seven expansion packs for the original Sims Will Wright and Maxis finally decided that it was time to put their heads together for work on a true sequel. It was a tougher job than it seemed though because if handled improperly they would have a Roller Coaster Tycoon 2
-like situation on their hands. Luckily, Will Wright is an ambitious man and the sequel to the best-selling game of all-time not only improves upon the original formula, but builds upon it in nearly every conceivable way. What you have here is one of the greatest games ever created and a frontrunner for Game of the Year.
There’s so much to see and do in the world of Sims 2 that it’s ridiculous. On my first day with the game I played it for six hours straight, barely scratching the surface of the game. Maxis added so many new gameplay elements and features that even the more minute additions will astound you. For starters the game is now in full 3D with a player-controlled camera. It’s similar to the one found in the console variations except players have more options pertaining to zoom. By using the wheel players can zoom all the way out and view the whole lot or zoom all the way in and see what the Sims are making for dinner. Making the camera 3D also gives the game more life and personality, adding more dimension and depth to the whole package. The rest of the interface remains virtually unchanged from what we’ve already seen. Click on the object that you want to interact with and choose the action that you’d like to perform. In order to make things more convenient certain commands can be branched off and pair together. So if you’re in bed you can choose to relax or read; if you’re on the couch you can choose to lounge, or cuddle up with a partner. They don’t change the complexion of the game but they definitely give you more things to do.
Kind of reminds me of college.
More of the focus has been placed on the life of the Sim as opposed to the lifestyle of the Sim. By that I mean that there is more attention paid to the motivations and desires of the Sims, making this game an even more in-depth look at social interaction. A new feature adds wants and fears to your Sims. When the Wants are fulfilled the Sims are happier and are more apt to perform better in life and at work. They also receive points that can be used to purchase special items that aren’t available through the in-game catalog. Wants depend on the aspiration that you selected during the character creation process. If you choose the Romance motivation than one of your Sims wants might be to get a kiss or to be serenaded. Money motivated Sims might want to make $1,000 or be promoted. Fears prey upon the weaknesses of the human mind, involving situations that we’ve all faced. Most of them deal with death of close friends or family members and feelings of rejection.
Character generation is some of the best we’ve ever seen in a video game, ranking right up with the create-a-characters in Tiger Woods
and Top Spin
. You can control every single aspect of your Sim’s design including the shape of their face, eyes, nose, chin and more. The only fault in the create-a-Sim is the fact that you can’t change the build of the body; you can only choose to be trim or fat. I say it’s a problem because the male Sims are all too slim, giving them a feminine appearance. With a little bit of effort you can create a pretty convincing recreation of yourself and your loved ones.
One of the features you’ve probably heard of is the inclusion of the aging process. As you play the game your Sims will age and travel through all the main stages of growth. This includes infancy, childhood, teenage, adult and elder. When creating your character you can choose for it to be at any stage of life. If there are two adults in the family you can even have the game generate a child based on heredity. That means that all of the features and personality traits will be derived directly from the parents, just like in real life. As if there wasn't enough for you to do already, characters of different ages feature different kinds of interactions. It's really fun to discover all of the different interactions that await you. I also liked how Maxis gives the player the option of turning off the aging process. Sometimes building up your Sims can be a labor of love and the last thing you want to do is start over again, especially when it comes to careers.
New advancements have been made to the careers as well. The single biggest addition comes in the form of rest days. You no longer work seven days a week for 365 days straight. Depending on which job you have, you’ll only work specific days of the week, leaving other days for you to build up your stats and socialize with other Sims. This is huge because one of the biggest gripes about Sims 1 was that you spent too much time working and not enough time playing. Now you can do it both ways, just like in real life. Also along the career path are these reward/risk situations that pop up from time-to-time. Every so often a window will pop up detailing a situation that’s happening while your Sim is at work. You have two choices; answer correctly and you’ll be shot up the ladder of life, choose incorrectly and you could be demoted or lose your job entirely. This is a nice way to spice up the game a bit as situations like this really do occur in real life.
Anyone want to take any guesses as to how Black + White = Asian?
Probably the most underappreciated change will come in the form of adjustments made to the tile-based system. If you played the first Sims you’ll know that everything operates on tiles in that objects take up a certain amount of tiles as do Sims. Well it was kind of crude and objects didn’t really co-exist together properly. Chairs would work with tables but they’d stick out or sit in weird positions. Even more annoying was when chairs would jut out from the tables and take up another precious tile. Sims 2 remedies this problem by simply pushing the chairs underneath the tables when they’re not in use. Not only is this more aesthetically pleasing and realistic, but it gives you extra space to work with. Sims no longer need to walk around the tile that’s being occupied by the chair, they can pass through it without any sort of trouble.
When purchasing objects you’re no longer limited to the base product. Most objects have different color schemes which can be mixed and matched to your liking. This is especially nice when your décor doesn’t quite match the base product. You can simply change the color and add it to your living room. This makes the design and decorating process much more fun as more options are available for you. New objects are available this time around too including curtains and miniblinds. Lights are much easier to use now thanks to a new feature that allows you to shift from day to night, giving you instant feedback on how much coverage each light will provide.
Being that I'm now living with my girlfriend I've also begun to notice just how much of the game's items resemble the stuff that's found at Ikea. Actually the items are so similar to the real deal that you could probably rebuild your home in the game and use it as a tool for when you plan to redesign or redecorate your home. You can do a ton of new things like build your homes off the ground and place decks in your backyard. This leads to some pretty exquisite homes that just have to be seen to be believed.Most of the main additions provided by the expansion packs can be found here. You’ll be able to create town spaces and take your Sims out like in Hot Date
and you can throw house parties like in House Party
. If you thought building houses was fun you’ll have a blast with this. Basically you have a huge lot that you can decorate and populate to your liking. Add a community pool, a shopping center or a park, it’s truly up to your imagination. This was an excellent call on the part of Maxis because it adds an enormous amount of gameplay to an already deep game. What I like is that this isn’t even an integral part of the game, just a side attraction. I played for about 20 hours before I even realized that this feature existed. After that I ended up playing with it for another few hours before going back to the core game.
Yea so, do you think you can help me put one of those little ships in here?
Now this is the reason that all those casual gamers should upgrade their video cards. Sure the textures aren’t as clear and photorealistic as they are in DOOM 3, but everything here is attractive and appealing. Call me silly but I think that Sims 2 is a better looking game than most of the other powerhouses out there. Textures are crisp and the level of detail on each and every object shows that the game was a labor of love, even for the graphics designers. You’ll see ton of neat features such as the cables that run out of the back of the TV and the coils on the back of the fridge. Plenty of little details are abound and you’ll need to keep a keen eye out to notice them. If you pay close attention you’ll notice that your Sim actually puts more weights on for the weights machine as he gets stronger. Sims actually prepare and cook what you tell them to. You’ll see all of the individual items that go into spaghetti like noodles and tomatoes. Likewise you’ll see your Sims mix the batter when you tell them to prepare pancakes. Full motion (albeit semi-grainy) video replaces the still frames on the television sets and computers. Now you can actually watch television right along with your Sims and the programming is pretty entertaining as well. My favorite is the cooking show which imitates a Julia Child-like cooking program. After the kitchen catches on fire the program promptly cuts to a commercial. There are plenty more touches around and you’ll be pleasantly surprised to find them.
I was a huge fan of the soundtrack from Sims 1. That upbeat style of classical music meshed well with the gameplay and the music used for the buy mode never ceased to amuse me. This time the game comes back with an entirely new soundtrack and the tunes are equally as appealing. All of the music that comes from the stereos in the game has been improved too. Listen to the Pop tracks in the game for awhile and you’ll swear that you’ve heard them before on the radio. The Sims still speak that gibberish from before but there’s more variety and inflexion in the voices. All of the rest of the sound effects are great and fit well with the action that’s happening on the screen.
Let’s face it; there’s a little bit of pervert in all of us. We love to look at people and the ways that they interact with others and I feel that this is the very reason that the franchise has been so successful. It’s a tedious look at life but there’s something undeniably charming about the voyeuristic aspect of the game. To see the characters we created interacting with other characters really reminds me of what it’s like to have a child or pet. How the Sims react and behave is truly a reflection on the type of person and parent you are. And no matter how many iterations of the Sims comes out, Maxis continually raises the bar and puts the gaming world on notice. Yes, there’s nothing else like it out there but when one company already has it perfected, why even try to compete? Just watch out though because once the game digs its claws into you it’ll own your life. If you want to buy the game give your friends an early notice, because they won’t be seeing you for a long while.