Review by Sb27441X

"More fun than actual housework!"

In 2000, Maxis released The Sims. It was a fun game that was lauded by its incredibly innovative approach: instead of blasting evil robots or blowing terrorists' skulls off with fully automatic shotguns, players were given the tasks of everyday life in suburban America. Washing dishes, taking out the garbage, trapping the neighbors in a room full of wooden furniture and starting a fire....well, maybe it wasn't part of everyday life, but it sure was fun.

And the rest is history.

Four years and several billion dollars later, we are presented with The Sims 2. Its most noticeable achievement is fully 3D rendering engine replacing the old isometric view from the original Sims, everything is 3D now and rendered very well. Burned food smokes, flies buzz and swoop, and showers spray water on the floor and steam in a very realistic manner. The Sims themselves are VERY well animated, with incredible variety for faces and a good selection for clothes, although there seems to be a few TOO many odd Korean outfits.

This fully 3D engine has its drawbacks, however, with the system requirements possibly being to high for the average joe with a Dell to enjoy properly. Myself and the reader are probably both casting a nervous glance toward their gaming machines, shuddering at the thought of anyone buying from an OEM, but Maxis seems to have taken the hardcore gamer's hand with this one. Your 3D hardware will get a workout, but it's not really system intensive. Interestingly the framerate drops drastically whenever the camera scrolls, an issue mentioned in the readme file. My game was running at 70 FPS at 1024x768 with most of the details at medium or high, but dropped to 20 whenever I scrolled. It's not really a big issue- you're only scrolling for a second or two at most, but it's still an interesting framerate issue. Overall, it's a game that needs a powerful machine to enjoy at its finest.

The AI has been improved since the original, which was by no means lacking. Sims seem almost human in their range of expressions, aspirations, emotions, and odd personality quarks. They'll develop feelings toward one another and may even love a certain object in their homes. The very open-endedness of the Sims has been constrained slighly in order to add some structure, as Sims have goals they can aspire to to earn rewards when completed. No longer are Sims immortal, their lifespans are limited and they can only accomplish so much during their short lives. Through fulfilling their Aspiration meter they can delay the inevitable, but all Sims must eventually die, and hopefully they'll have children to inherit and be productive themselves. I would have liked to be able to set the rate of Sim aging myself, but it 's not a major issue. There's really not a social option in real life this game doesn't explore, and it's one of the things that makes it captivating.

Aurally, The Sims 2 satisfies. The Sims still speak their nonsense language of Simlish, but there's a bit more variety in both the words and the little bubbles that appear over their heads to convey their interests. It'd be nice if there were different-sounding voices for different Sims, but they all pretty much sound the same. However, this is offset by a great musical score by Mark Mothersbaugh of DEVO fame. Mark's work in this case seems to be more inspired by the music of the original Sims than from his work at DEVO, but it's high-quality and very appropriate. I would have liked to see some of the old music return, namely the original Buy Mode theme, but it's not even worth mentioning since the new one is almost as good. Very nice stuff here, much better than the crud that passes for sound in many of today's PC games.

All in all, The Sims 2 is a great game suitable for almost any type of person. Graphics, gameplay and sound are all terrific, the system requirements are a little high but not a major issue, and there's fun to be had by all in this game.

9/10. A game has to be revolutionary to be 10/10, but this game is a VERY solid nine.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Originally Posted: 09/23/04

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