The Sims 2 Review

Here’s the short version of this review for those of you who just want the bottom line: if you liked The Sims you’ll love The Sims 2. Conversely, if you didn’t like The Sims or just didn’t understand its appeal, then The Sims 2 probably won’t change your mind on the concept. The Sims 2 provides many improvements over the original game, taking into account The Sims players’ wish lists of enhancements, including some innovative enhancements, and moving the game into a fully 3D world. The result is a game even more fascinating than its predecessor and one that is really in a class and genre of PC gaming all of its own.

First, for those of you new to the series and the concept The Sims 2 can best be described as a life simulator. You control a simulated person, or sim, and your job is to keep your sim feeling happy and fulfilled. The trick is that you do not have total control over your sim, or sims, as you might expect. Sims have their own personalities, wants, and desires and if you order them to do something that they don’t want to or if they’d really rather do something else, they’ll either flatly refuse to do what they’re told or become depressed and miserable. Believe me, depressed and mopey sims can be quite difficult to work with so you don’t want to go there.

A sim’s happiness is based on several factors the first of which is known as motives. Motives represent the basic needs that drive a sim’s actions such as hunger, hygiene, and energy. If a sim doesn’t eat, sleep, or even go to the bathroom, he or she will become weak, miserable, and could even collapse on the spot. Left on their own sims will do a pretty decent job of taking care of their basic needs but you’ll need to be careful not to overwhelm them with tasks that don’t leave them with the time to take care of the basics.

So how do you take care of a sim’s motives? Through the use of interactive objects in the sim’s home. Place a toilet in the house and then with your sim selected click on the toilet and select the “use” command and your sim will take care of business. If you played The Sims you’ll be instantly familiar with the command interface and if not then you’ll catch on to it quickly. Click on an object and you’ll see a pop-up list of possible actions that can be performed with it. Select an action and it will be queued up on your sim’s order list. Part of the fun of the game is trying out all of the various objects available and seeing what types of interactions are available. The Sims players will be happily surprised to see that a lot of the common objects available in the original game have been given a lot more interactions in their Sims 2 versions. For example, instead of there only being a “Make Dinner” interaction with a stove, sims will now be able to select what type of dish they want to make – and the higher their cooking skill the more menu options they’ll have. You can now choose between fancy or simple, or even heavy or healthy which can have an effect on your sim’s waistline (more on that later). Stereos have more music styles to listen to and multiple tracks in each one, and now you can even work out to the music. Every The Sims veteran will go from one “that’s so cool that they added that” moment to another while revisiting some familiar favorite objects for the first time in The Sims 2.

 

In addition to their need-based motives, each sim in The Sims 2 also has their own set of life goals known as aspirations. When a sim is created, you have to decide what type of goals drive your sim. Will your sim seek fame, fortune, a quiet family life, or something else? Your choice will drive the aspirations of your sim and determine the course of his or her life. A fortune-focused sim will be miserable staying home and taking care of kids while a family-oriented sim will be just as unhappy living alone and going to work every day. Aspirations come in the form of four positive events and three negative ones that are set at random slot machine-style at the beginning of each day. These vary from small events like talking to a spouse to bigger ones such as getting engaged, and each is tied to a number of aspiration points your sim will be awarded for accomplishing the goal. Of course you’ll earn a lot more points for the birth of a child than for kissing a girl or boyfriend. On the flipside rejection by a love interest or the death of a loved one can send a sim’s aspiration points downward. Aspirations and fears add more to the game aspect of The Sims 2 than was present in The Sims by giving you short-term goals to shoot for. However, you still can’t really “win” a game of The Sims 2 and the play remains as open-ended as ever.

The points you can earn and lose through realizing aspirations and fears have several effects. The first is that your cumulative points are tracked by a meter which is color-coded based on your total. Keep it high and your sim will reach platinum status, making him or her quite happy and even helping to slow your sim’s aging process. If it drops too low into the red, then your sim will become progressively more depressed and may even find him or herself in therapy before too long. Another benefit of earning aspiration points is that you can spend them like cash on special “aspiration objects”. Each object has a beneficial effect, such as a tree that grows money or a mood enhancing helmet, but each one can also have undesired side effects if used by depressed sims.

Aspirations and fears aren’t the only new things when it comes to your sims. The simulation aspect of the game has become a lot richer and more in-depth as well. First of all, the sims’ AI has undergone an upgrade. Sims are far better at taking care of their own basic needs without the need for you to continually tell them when to eat and go to the bathroom. Players of the original game will be happy to hear that the AI upgrade extended to pathfinding as well. Sims no longer get stuck or lost trying to get somewhere when there are a lot of other sims or objects in the way.

Another change to the AI gives sims enhanced memories. Realizing a dreaded fear can leave a sim moping or utterly distressed for quite a while. If that fear was realized because of another sim, such as cheating with a spouse, you’ll be able to see the bad blood and apprehension between the sims. Sims can differentiate between friends, families, and enemies, and as your sims’ families grow and expand you can expect to see you sims exhibit family like behavior such as bringing the kids to see their grandparents.