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Sims 2

Score: 95%
ESRB: Teen
Publisher: EA Games
Developer: Maxis
Media: CD/4
Players: 1
Genre: Simulation


Graphics & Sound:

There are two types of people in this world -- those who have played The Sims and those who haven't. If sales are any indication, those who have played the game outnumber the have-nots considerably. The Sims 2 follows up the success of The Sims by giving fans the same voyeuristic fun from the original as well as throwing in some great new additions, making managing digital lives as much fun as ever.

The jump to full 3D makes Sims 2 the best looking Sims game to date. Character customizations are as deep as ever, giving players the option to make their Sim look exactly how they want them, right down to the smallest dimple. Those who just want to jump into the game can choose from a variety of pre-made body parts while perfectionists can morph individual traits to get things just right. If you can't make your Sim look exactly how you want there's no helping you. Clothing options feature much more variety and range from ultra chic' to ultra sexy. There's also a few silly options throw in for those of us who like to make their Sim as strange as possible. The new 3D models also allow for more range of emotions on the Sims. The new graphics also make those little thought bubbles much easier to read, taking much of the guess work out of tending to your Sim's needs. Animations are smooth and expressive which really helps to push the pantomime used by the characters to communicate to a new level. Environments also share in the graphical bump.

Sim-speak has been expanded a bit. While you still can't understand a word of what they are saying (which is the point), it now sounds like more of a language instead of a bunch of gibberish. Sim-speak also features more expression in character voices, adding to the feel. Music is kept in the same tempo and tune as the previous game.


Gameplay:

By now everyone should have at least a working idea of how The Sims works. You take a digital life and run it though the daily rigors of life. What's the fun in playing through something you do all day? Well, why is reality TV so popular? Because, no matter how much we deny it, we're all voyeurs and nosey busy bodies. We want to know all the latest gossip and what everyone else is doing at every hour of the day while letting our own lives go to pot. The catch with the Sims is that we can not only peer in on the "life" of someone else, but we can manipulate the hell out of it -- decorating their houses, running their love lives, and even picking who they are friends with.

The Sims 2 is all about additions, making the game even more addicting than before. One of the more interesting additions, at least in my opinion, is that all neighborhoods have some sort of drama going on within them. After picking one of three towns you can spy in on each house and see what the current storyline is with them. One family may be happy except for the husband sleeping around with the maid while another may be trying to adjust to life as a single parent. After selecting a family you take control of their lives by managing everything that goes on. You can also choose to change the storyline. Will the husband leave the wife for the maid or will he see the error of his ways and stop the affair. Can the single father stay successful?

As you play through your Sim's lives you'll be presented with a question that affects his or her life. Depending on your answer, the story will change. The storylines are mostly nonsensical, but nothing in the game is all that serious to begin with so its all in good fun.

Sims 2 also features a sandbox mode in which you can create your own neighborhood and fill it with all kinds of characters. As in the other modes you can build your dream house (which can now include basements and up to four floors), change your character's appearance as much as you want and generally make their lives as pleasant or miserable as you want.


Difficulty:

The Sims 2 is like life itself -- its only as hard as you make it. Challenges will pop up over the course of your Sim's life that you will have to deal with. Getting them through it makes your playtime much easier while screwing up their lives makes things very, very hard.

Game Mechanics:

The Sims 2 is all about additions. One of the major additions is the introduction of fears and aspirations. These are the deep-rooted psychological elements of your Sim that you need to fulfill. Knowing these aspirations and how to handle them will lead to happier Sims and will also help you make the right choices during storylines. One Sim may be afraid of failure while another wants a baby. This also gives your Sim goals to work towards in the game -- giving the player some direction as to what to do next. Obtaining goals allows you to spend points on items that can't be purchased with money. These powerful items, like a money sprouting tree, help to encourage (and sometimes discourage) your Sim. These effects are shown on a Mood Meter.

Each Sim now has a Mood Meter that shows how they are feeling. Keeping your Sim happy means their mood will rise, making for a happy Sim. The meter can go up by obtaining aspirations as well as just looking after basic needs. Knowing your Sim's fears will also help you to keep the meter from dropping. Making a fear come true will drop the meter, making your Sim depressed. All of these experiences, good or bad, go into making your Sim's memories which will affect their lives as well as those of future offspring.

That's right -- Sims can now reproduce, adding yet another twist to the story. Babies will share in the DNA of their parents, resulting in small Sims that will combine physical and emotional traits of their parents (making mate selection very important). How you raise the child will effect his development: so you can have a well-adjusted Sim kid or a maladjusted punk.

The big downside to all these options is that the micro-management can get a little more exacting and out of hand than it did in the previous game. Some of the bigger issues, like never having enough time to get everything done, have been addressed (with the addition of time off), but some aspects can still get exacting at times. If these issues kept you from enjoying The Sims, the sequel may not be your cup of tea either.

There's really no other way to say it -- The Sims 2 only improves on what was already a great game. All of the in-game additions, as well as what seems to be great community support options like skin downloads and the ability to take in-game movies of your Sims to share on the net, only makes the game that much more addictive. Give it a shot if you haven't tried it, otherwise you should already have this one if you were a fan of the original.


-Starscream, GameVortex Communications
AKA Ricky Tucker

Minimum System Requirements:



Windows XP, 2000, Me, or 98; 800 MHz or faster; 256 MB RAM; 32 MB or greater video card (Radeon or GeForce2 chipset); 3.5 GB HDD space; Direct X 9.0
 

Test System:



Windows XP; Pentium 4 1.7 GHz; Radeon 9100 128 MB; 40 Gig HD; 640 MB RAM; Direct X 9.0

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