Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Cool 'Sims 2' creates new life

Sequel lets players move characters through life, careers, even parenting

By Marc Saltzman
Gannett News Service

It didn't take long for Jeff to develop romantic feelings for his housemate, Sara.

Platform: Windows

Genre: Simulation

Developer: Maxis

Publisher: Electronic Arts

Web site:

Price: $49.99

Rating: "T" for teen

Score: 4 1/2 (out of 5)

But his hopes for something more than friendship came to a sudden halt at one of their house parties - it seems the handsome neighbor, Orlando, also had a crush on Sara as the two spent most of the evening chatting it up in the hot tub. The next day, Jeff told Sara he was moving out.

Welcome to The Sims 2, Electronic Arts' (EA) new life simulation.

The sequel to the best-selling PC game of all time - a franchise that has sold more than 36 million units between all of its versions and expansion packs since it launched in January 2000 - takes this popular series to the next level by introducing many new game-play additions and enhancements.

The Sims challenges players to micromanage the lives of computer-generated people known as Sims. This includes nurturing their relationships, advancing their careers and decorating their homes with items they buy.

Gamers became obsessed with their custom-made Sims, and it didn't take long for hundreds of fan sites to crop up on the Web whereby players shared stories and screenshots of their Sims with others.

The Sims 2 should enhance the relationship between the gamer and their Sims even more than its predecessor.

Players can now take control of their Sims for an entire lifetime: from baby to old age and all stages in between. While it's up to you to help shape their personalities, kid Sims' independent thinking may surprise you. For example, a 16-year-old Sim may appear like a model teen, but when his parents are asleep he sneaks out to meet with friends. He may even return home in a police car.

Speaking of offspring, each Sim now has its own DNA that can be passed down through generations, so children will resemble their parents in both look and disposition. For instance, a nasty adult will likely produce a bratty child. Over time, players also will notice their neighborhood mature as neighbors have kids that resemble them.

Along with day-to-day tasks that range from cleaning a flooded toilet to learning to cook a good meal, The Sims 2 introduces a Life Score to measure how well each individual Sim is advancing through selectable goals such as buying a house, creating a large family or owning a company.

Players will see a major improvement in the new Create-A-Sim tool that lets you build any kind of Sim imaginable by selecting from thousands of clothing options, hair styles, body types and facial features. You can make your Sim look like Jessica Simpson or Marge Simpson.

Also new to this sequel is a feature called Sims Movie Making that helps gamers unleash their inner director.

Players can create a kind of television sitcom of their Sims, adding dialogue, then swapping the results over the Internet with others, if so desired.

Minor beefs exist such as relatively long load times and the odd artificial intelligence glitch.

Easily the best computer game of the year, The Sims 2 will not disappoint.

The Sims 2 ships on four CDs or one DVD (DVD-ROM drive required). The DVD version ships with a bonus disc with such extras as interviews, desktop wallpaper, game-play strategies, movie-making tips and examples of films made with the game.

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