All My Sims' Children.
Sven Sanfrengensen moved from his native Norway to Pleasantville in search of
what all Europeans who come to America desire" easy American women. Moving into
a modest pad and living the slacker lifestyle, it didn't take long for Sven to
meet the voluptuous Nina Caliente, but she was soon followed by numerous
others. Being a lover, not a fighter, Sven's wants were simple, mostly revolving
around having "woohoo" just about anywhere he could find it, be it in a bed,
a hot tub, or a changing room at the local fashion store. What's a Nordic Adonis
Thus began my foray into The Sims 2, the inevitable sequel to one of the
most successful PC games of all time. If you have no idea what I'm talking about,
you've obviously spent the last few years living atop a lonely peak in the Himalayas
meditating on the oneness of humanity. Originally released four years ago, The
Sims became a PC institution and the number one game for women, with a whopping
7 expansion sets. The game sold so well, in fact, that in one recent August
week, games bearing The Sims name occupied 5 out of the top 10 slots on
the PC sales chart. Aside from the glorified chatroom The
Sims Online, every single game released under this franchise was a best-seller.
of this success naturally made the The Sims 2 one of the most anticipated
games of the year. Now that it's here, we can honestly say it won't disappoint
current fans" though it doesn't
offer anything nearly as original in terms of gameplay. Lightning only strikes
once, you know.
The original Sims was a breath of fresh
air. While your individual Sims had minds of their own, you had a certain level
of control over them, guiding them to do things that may or may not have been
against their nature. The play style has remained identical in The
albeit with better graphics and more intelligent AI.
The design tool used to create your Sims is both complex and limited, depending
on what you want to do. You have almost absolute control over the face,
from jaw line to hairline; everything is adjustable with easy-to-use sliders.
But beyond that, your Sims' bodies are nearly identical. There are two
body types, thin or fat, and one height. That's right - everybody is exactly
the same height at the same age. In fact, the only way to tell that some Sims
are still teenagers is that they are slightly shorter than adult Sims, a lesson
that our friend Sven had to learn
the hard way. Yikes.
Sims go through several stages of development. As babies they are
beyond your control, but within a few days they progress to
the toddler stage, at which point you have slightly more control over them,
guiding them to their favorite toy or asking mommy for attention. Then comes
the child stage and the start of school, which helps shape the type of adult
Sim they will grow up to be. Before you know it, they're teenagers, getting
their first job and even their first kiss.
come the days of adulthood, which is where your Sims will spend the bulk of
their lives. Start
down a career path, find your own house, get a significant other, marry, and
have kids of your own. Your Sim's previous experiences, be it a great birthday
party when they were a kid, starving most of the time growing up or watching
a relative die, shape how they interact with other Sims. The continuity is much
better than in the original.
For that matter, when your Sims have babies, genetics now play a hand in their
creation. Newborns take characteristics from the two parents, including
physical features and disposition, creating more of a family look and
feel. You can also give your entire family a back story, explaining why they
are the way they are and what they are truly looking for in life. The family
dynamic in The Sims 2 is extremely well done and makes the game feel
even more like a daytime soap opera.
As always, your Sims' needs guide your actions (need to pee, need to eat, etc.).
However, they now have wants, such as Sven's want to have sex with any woman
that has a pulse. They also have fears, such as the fear of rejection, which
will destroy your Sim's mood. Fulfilling a Sim's wants and avoiding their
fears gives you aspiration points, which can then be used to get special objects
to enhance your Sim's life. This makes The
Sims 2 more of a game and less of a sandbox than the first title.
Death also plays a greater role. Unless they continually drink the elixir of
life (one of the aforementioned aspiration objects), your Sims will eventually
become elders and die, leaving their wealth to future generations. The life
cycle adds a level of depth to the Sims world that was sorely lacking in the
previous version. However, as deep as the game may seem, it never really gets
out of the shallow end.
Time is subject to various inconsistencies. Time passes and your Sims
grows old, yet it only passes in the house you have active - and nowhere else.
If you concentrate on one household, those particular Sims will grow old and
die, while everyone else in the neighborhood remains healthy and young. Soon,
your kids are playing with the same Sims the older generation played with; making
out with the same girls, wooing the same women'it gets kinda creepy. I mean,
I don't want to date Grandpa's leftovers.
It's a shame the folks at Maxis didn't attend to this, because the alternative
could have been revolutionary and compelling. A living, breathing
dollhouse sounds more interesting than one in which only one doll ages at
And if you happen to get your Sim to leave the house to go to a community lot,
time doesn't pass back at their house. So, while your Sim might spend a whole day shopping, he'll get back to his house and it'll be the exact same time he left. There's no global feeling to The Sims 2; you're basically just the director of a household soap opera.
Building is still handled
the same way in that it takes simoleons to build anything, but it feels like
there should be more building/furniture options in general aside from user-created
objects that can be downloaded from the official website. After four years of
expansions, The Sims had numerous options and objects available which
sadly seem to be missing from The Sims 2.
The most glaring example is that the pets seen in The
Sims Unleashed are nowhere to be found. Integrating the good things found
in the expansion packs into The Sims 2 seems like a no-brainer. Then again,
maybe they're planning 7 new expansions to this game, too. I wonder if there's
a money-grubbing software executive career path?
Minor bugs also mar the experience. Sims have notable pathfinding issues,
constantly getting in one another's way. It appears that only prebuilt staircases
in existing houses can allow more than one Sim at any one time, meaning that
if you add another story to your house, be prepared for your Sims to bottleneck
at the stairs. Sven made the mistake of adding a floor to put in a rooftop
hot tub, only to have the ladies complain that they can't always get up there.
Talk about destroying the mood.
so often, guests turn invisible and objects get stuck in their "used" position,
in which case they can no longer be used by any Sim and, unfortunately, can't
be moved or deleted using the building tools. The system requirements are also
rather fierce. Expect serious load times and the occasional slowdown unless
you're running a top-of-the-line machine.
if you don't, though, the graphics in The Sims 2 have greatly improved
since the original. The camera now has free reign, allowing you to view your
Sim household from any angle. The Sims use their facial movements to the fullest,
expressing both their delights and displeasures. When a special event occurs,
such as a birthday or the first time you "woohoo" with somebody, the camera shifts
to an in-game movie cutscene that shows off the power of the new engine. The
movies look good, but there's only one animation set for each type of event,
meaning that Sven only knows one way to please a woman in bed. I have to see
the same flick every time he gets with a new Sim, no matter how many times I
try cramming a quarter into my disc drive.
Conversely, the sound is remarkably similar to the original, including the gibberish
the Sims speak to each other. People who hear it generally think it sounds
like French, but that's mainly because any language spoken by Sven becomes
a language of love"
All in all, The Sims 2 is more of a refinement of the original game than an exciting new offering. While that's not a bad thing, per se, it's lacking the innovation that enticed people to play the game in first place. Still, it's a solid, well-rounded sequel and well worth another trip to the dollhouse.