Played on: PC
Take note that the system requirements for this game are high – you cannot play this game on an old PC that doesn’t have the specified video card, RAM, and hard drive space. Now, having said that, I’m sure most people out there are familiar with or have played The Sims 2 or the first game (called, believe it or not, The Sims) at least once. It’s a very popular game. You get to control a character’s lives – in short, you play God in this game and determine how the character lives day by day according to Sim time. You get the person a job, get this fellow to make friends or even marry and have kids until after a determined time has passed and the character dies.
To be honest, I never understand the appeal of such games, until I play The Sims one day to kill some time and become bizarrely addicted to it. The Sims 2 is a nice cosmetic overhaul from the previous game, with plenty of enhancements that don’t actually improve the gameplay value, so if you don’t like the first installment, you may not find much to change your mind in this game. Conversely, if you love The Sims, there is a high chance you’ll love this one, provided you don’t expect too many radical changes in terms of gameplay.
Customization is better in terms of my character’s facial features and clothes, but many of the facial features actually look very similar and the clothes to choose from are actually limited, so it’s not too much of an improvement over the original game. However, there is a wider range of personality to choose from: I can either customize the traits of the character such as stamina, friendliness, and neatness, or just select the character’s zodiac sign to get a predetermined personality. Also, there are five different goals to choose from for a character – the character can now be a lover-type of person whose goals are to have as many lovers as possible, a family person who is happiest when he or she is breeding non-stop, a career-oriented person, a wealth-obsessed freak, or a very social person who craves to have as many friends as possible. If you’re not the type of player to enjoy forcing your Sims character to interact with the neighbors all the time, obviously the penny-pincher or the career-obsessed freak is the way to go.
And then, it’s time to move to one of three predetermined neighborhoods or you can also take the time to landscape and design your own city. The three predetermined neighborhoods are the familiar Pleasantview where the Goths and the Pleasants are once again reintroduced, Strangetown which is the place to be if you want to plan a more outlandish storyarc for your characters (alien abductions are possible in this game), and Veronaville where the Montys and the Capps are feuding but perhaps the younger generation, controlled by the player, of course, can make peace with each other. It’s up to the player to decide the storyline of the characters in each neighborhoods, if they choose to, or create an entirely new character from scratch to start their own soap opera.
For example, in Veronaville I created a handsome and mysterious guy named Dex Dexter (oh hush) with a backstory of revenge and plans of seduction to destroy both the Montys and the Capps. I give Dex a politician career and so far Dex has succeeded in breaking up three happy homes, heh heh heh, and impregnating three married women, heh heh heh. I also created a mysterious woman named Alice Wonderland with plans to make her the unsuspecting object of Dex’s affections but handling two characters at one go is a little too much work for me. In Pleasantview, I’ve created one Ryan Seacrest and one Simon Cowell (oh, don’t look at me like that, people) and have managed to get them living together after a few days of playing even though the slacker Ryan cheats on poor money-obsessed Simon relentlessly. By the way, I learn the hard way that a male Sim can get abducted by aliens when he watches the stars through the telescope one time too many… and the male Sim will be with child when he’s returned by the aliens. Ryan and Simon are now the proud daddies of an alien baby, believe it or not. Maybe one day I will create Fox Mulder, Dana Scully, Dean and Sam Winchester, Buffy Summers, and more in Strangetown, if I manage to find time or interest to resume playing this game.
That’s my main problem with this game: it becomes very repetitive after a while. Each Sim has four aspirations each time (for example, a slacker like Ryan may want to experience public sex, have four lovers at one go – pervert, have sex with ten different people – freak, and flirt with a random person) and if you fulfil any aspiration, you will increase the Sim’s aspiration points and make that fellow a happier person. Each Sims character also has a randomly generated life goal (for example, Simon actually aims to be a crime boss) and if I actually get the Sims to attain that goal, the Sim will automatically be happy for the rest of his or her life. Be careful though – each Sim has a fixed lifespan of twenty-eight real life days from the first time you create and play that character. The Sims will noticeably grow older as the days go by. If you can’t bear to see your Sims die, though, there is always the no aging cheat to make sure that the Sims remain immortal or if you don’t like to use cheats, you can use your Sims’ aspiration points to buy a rejuvenation potion that will roll back your Sims’ age by five days per drink. Back to aspirations, it becomes clear after a while that the aspirations are very repetitive and limited in nature, so it becomes boring to keep playing as I will be doing the same thing again and again.
Therefore, after the initial perverse thrill of getting the Sims to have sex or pair up inappropriately (like getting my Dex Dexter to seduce the Monty patriarch into having sex in the bedroom so that the wife can stumble upon them and break up with poor Monty) or, better still, get some poor male Sim pregnant with alien babies, there is really nothing left to do other than to put the Sim through a tedious day by day cycle of going to work, eating, calling and meeting friends (or having sex with them on the Sim’s day off to “reconnect the friendship”, so to speak), bathing, taking a dump, and sleeping. Speaking of sex, or “WooHoo” as it is called here, the cutscenes of WooHoos are pretty amusing rather than naughty: if you WooHoo in bed with another Sim for the first time, there is a cutscene involving cuddling and butt-grabbing before both Sims vanish under the sheets to rock the bed, while WooHoos in a hot tub see the two Sims acting like dolphins putting on a show for an audience (no, really). WooHoos can also take place in the changing room of a boutique, although there are no cut scenes for those moments – only the people around the cubicle rushing over to cheer and clap for the two frisky lovebirds.
But I’m sure most people out there aren’t as disgustingly perverted like me and just want to play the game and control the Sims in a normal and rational manner instead of trying to get a young man and his grandmother to have sex (and no, I discover that two people with blood ties cannot fall in love much less shag), deliberately removing the door so that a very annoying Sim is trapped in a windowless room with only a toilet bowl for company so that I can laugh when that Sim die a slow and painful death, or creating several Sims named after people I don’t like so that I can get them into a pool and remove the ladder so that they cannot escape from the pool and have to swim round and round until they drown from exhaustion. After all, even though the Sims are a depraved bunch of people that fall in love with each other regardless of gender or previous relationships with other Sims, I’m sure there are people who want to create normal career-oriented and family-oriented Sims. Me, though, I’ll just stick to creating my depraved soap operas and horror movies in this game!
The biggest disappointment apart from repetitive gameplay is the fact that there are less things to buy for the home. One of my favorite things about this game is designing houses and filling them up with all kinds of interesting furniture. In fact, I actually enjoy this aspect of the game more than the character simulation aspect of the game. However, the range of furniture, toys, and decorative ornaments are very limited and most of them are actually ugly as well. I deliberately set up a big mansion for Simon and Ryan, for example, after those two have accumulated enough money to move into a bigger place, and create enough rooms so that I can have a library, a game room, several dens of debaucheries with their respective unique themes, a gym, and a music studio. However, there is only one exercise equipment to buy for the gym, two sound systems for the music studio, and only two arcade machines to decorate the game room. There aren’t enough paintings, vases, sculptures, and flower pots to go around so most of the rooms end up nearly empty or filled with similar and repetitive decorative thingies. The first game actually has more things to buy than this game, I believe. Because I really enjoy playing architect and interior decorator, the limited range of furniture, toys, and luxury items in The Sims 2 really disappoints me.
On the bright side, animation and graphics are smoother and more fluid this time around. The Sims are more detailed than before and their actions are more realistic and varied compared to the first game. The AI, however, can be improved, since the Sims on free will mode still have a tendency to be unable to move around objects (some kind of bug, I believe).
The bottom line is, I enjoy playing The Sims 2 just as I also get tired of it very easily. I find myself playing this game once in a blue moon just for kicks (ooh, let’s see how many ways I can torment some hapless Sim this time around) rather than “seriously”. Cosmetically, this is a prettier game than the original but the gameplay enhancements come off as similarly cosmetic without adding any sustaining entertainment elements to it. Of course, many people must have a better time with this game than me since this is the bestselling game of the decade. For your interest, the last time I check, there are various player-made patches that, when installed, can do, er, wonderful things like adding actual genitalia to the Sims so that you can now create your full-fledged nudist colony, allowing you to create alien Sims, and more. Somehow I don’t feel so guilty anymore about trying to get my Dex Dexter into the pants of everyone in Veronaville regardless of gender, age, body shape, and blood ties.