Review by mcrisis

"It's a Sim-eat-Sim World!"

Few would not have heard of The Sims, a hugely popular life simulation game created by Maxis, which was pretty much one of the best-selling PC games of all time and has spawned as many as seven expansions over a period of three years. And just when it seems like there's nothing more that can be milked out of this huge cash-cow, Maxis decides to come up with a sequel that at first glance appears to be a simply repackaged version of the original slapped with new 3D graphics. Fortunately, Sims 2 turns out to be more than that, and definitely looks set to eclipse the success of its forerunner.

The actual gameplay itself is essentially similar to that before – you are supposed to control and manoeuvre the actions of computer-simulated human beings known as sims. They generally behave like people, possess unique characteristics and have various needs but their fate lies completely within your hands, so it's really up to you to decide what kind of life your sims will lead, be it blissful, prosperous, agonizing, miserable or otherwise. The well-being of each sim is governed by several meters such as hunger, hygiene and fun, among others. If all this sounds new to you, worry not because tutorials are available to help you familiarize with the gameplay, although even regular Sims players will probably find them helpful as well since they will introduce you to some new features within the game.

The game opens with three completely different neighbourhoods to choose from, each of them having pre-made households to experiment with. Or if you'd rather create your own sims to play, there's the sim creation module which is pretty advanced, with all sorts of functions for customizing your sims' appearance, right down to their facial features. Even extraterrestrial features like Martian eyes are possible, if you so desire.

As for houses themselves, the ready-made ones can be used plain as it is, or modified at your discretion, but just as you can fashion your own sims you can also build houses from scratch. Once you've chosen or created a family and moved into a house, shopping for furniture in your sims' new home will be necessary and you will be spoilt for choice by the huge assortment of stuff, although new families will be imposed a limit of 20,000 simoleans, the form of currency used in Sims, for spending. After you get your new home up and ready, you will finally be able to direct your sims. That's when the real fun begins.

Before we get into other details, one of the most noticeable things about this game would be the very nicely done 3D graphics which is probably one of the best highlights the game has to offer. In fact, Sims 2's graphics engine has been completely revamped, as those who have played the original can readily tell right from the start. Other than the implementation of reflective, lighting and shadow effects, all objects and figures are drawn to a much higher level of detail, displayed in full 3D, and can be zoomed in to a higher extent and rotated just about any direction – as opposed to its predecessor where views were restricted to only four camera angles perpendicular to each other.

Of course, eye-candy won't be the only tidbit you can find in Sims 2. There is a great deal of exploration to be done in Sims 2, even for those who've played the entire line of the first Sims series. Almost every other aspect from the original game is now enhanced with more options, allowing for new possibilities and greater flexibility. With fresh twists in interaction with household objects, careers and relationships, you'll get to explore and manipulate those sims to a greater degree in Sims 2. But just as Maxis made efforts to make sure the gameplay stays true-to-life, they also didn't forget to humour the player with a wide array of gags. Random encounters, involving matters like bad cooking skills, a grumpy old sim from the first Sims game, and even incredible phenomenon such as alien abduction, are sure to keep you and your sims entertained.

You might be wondering whether Sims 2 has introduced other novel features, perhaps more so if you've been a big fan of the original series. Indeed there are – for instance, sims will now age and go through a normal life cycle instead of staying immortal in the previous series (for those who don't exactly welcome this idea, there's a cheat to disable this aging process). But before you are quick to dismiss this feature, just know that there can be much fun in watching your sims grow and develop a family tree of sorts as well.

Yet another innovation found in the game is the idea of the aspiration system, where each sim will have some sort of a wish-list to fulfil at all times. If you manage to accomplish a want in the list, you get rewarded with ‘aspiration points' – which, on top of raising your overall mood meter, can be exchanged for a range of special, non-buyable items for your sims' enjoyment.

Besides these, you will also get to throw house parties and visit recreational areas – similar to the ideas found in some of the original Sims expansions. However the downside to these activities is that the number of sims you can have present in the compound is now severely capped depending on how fast your system is, due to the intensive amount of resources required to run the game. Sad to say this would be an annoyance to those who enjoy huge gatherings and crowds, because unless your system has one of those higher end CPUs, the possibility of having even fifteen sims around is rather remote.

Sims 2 definitely brings life simulation to a whole new level and is a recommended game for all ages. For those of you who liked the previous instalments, there is no doubt you can continue to enjoy this re-invented version of Sims better than ever. And if you have yet to try this game which has won the hearts of millions of players around the world, prepare to be amused and captivated by its gameplay, which is all about fun and creativity. Try something good for a change anyway!

Reviewer's Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Originally Posted: 12/10/04

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