First Look: The Sims 2

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PROS: New 3-D engine; support for genetics and aspirations adds to the challenge.
CONS: Higher system demands than the original; old expansion packs aren’t compatible.
PRICE: $50
COMPANY: Aspyr Media

We all know that if only the people around us took our advice, they’d be happier, healthier, and generally better human beings. But while you won’t get any thanks for meddling in the lives of your friends and coworkers, you can have the smug satisfaction of directing the destinies of virtual friends, with Aspyr Media’s The Sims 2—the much anticipated successor to what may just be the best-selling computer game of all time. The new version, which is set to be released in June, has all the voyeuristic thrill of the original, improved graphics, and long-term challenge: your decisions—both good and bad—affect entire generations.

Like the original game, The Sims 2 puts you in control of people called sims, who live, love, work, and play in a virtual world. You can create your own sims or choose from premade sims and sim families. Although sims live independently of your actions, you help direct them to get jobs, develop friendships, pick places to live, decorate their homes—everything people do in the real world. How successfully you help your sims do these things determines how well the game goes.

While the general mechanics of playing will be familiar to fans of the original game, this version’s look is a welcome improvement. The Sims 2 features an entirely new 3-D graphics engine that lets you zoom in on your sims with amazing detail. It also puts a significant load on your Mac—if you haven’t upgraded since you bought The Sims, you may need a new computer to play. The preliminary system requirements call for a 1GHz G4 or faster, running OS X 10.3.4.

The game’s changes are more than skin-deep, though. These sims are also a lot more independent. For example, you don’t need to fuss over them to make sure they’re fed, entertained, or put to bed. You’ll focus instead on bigger goals. You spend entire lifetimes with your sims, from youth all the way to old age and death. And families of Sims can pass down DNA to their kids, affecting generations to come.

The game also gives more depth to your characters’ personalities. For example, they retain memories—both good and bad. They also have aspirations. By helping them achieve their aspirations, you’ll earn points you can cash in on furnishings, appliances, and other niceties.

If you really can’t get enough of your virtual friends, you can record the action and play back your sim films whenever you want.

The original Sims spawned a multitude of expansion packs. They won’t work with the new version, but there’s plenty here to keep you busy.

The Bottom Line

The Sims 2 keeps what was fun about the original while offering a huge amount of new challenge.

Keeping your residents happy and healthy isn‘t as easy as it looks in The Sims 2.
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