Taken together, the aspiration system and career system provide some much directed, goal-oriented gameplay, surprisingly reminiscent of a challenging role-playing game, of all things. These new features not only add variety to The Sims 2, but also address a common criticism about the first game: how it didn't present any clear goals or objectives beyond dutifully ordering your sims to relieve themselves every time their "bladder" needs got out of hand. But using this new system to successfully create a household of fulfilled sims can be very tough since you must also balance their relationships, their jobs, their income, and their moods at the same time.
His work complete, the Grim Reaper curls up in front of the dead family's TV. Fortunately fulfilling needs is a bit easier in The Sims 2...if you want it to be.
At least The Sims 2 is a bit more lenient about your sims' constantly depleting needs (hunger, fatigue, entertainment, and others), so that you do not always have to order them to eat something, play something, or talk to someone. The Sims 2's artificial intelligence is generally better than that of the original game. Your sims are more likely to take appropriate actions on their own and to successfully make their way around obstacles. Though, like in the original game, they occasionally have problems getting to where they're intending to go and still need to be reminded of fulfilling specific needs--just less often. This means you can still create a family of sims with wildly different personalities, then sit back and watch what sort of trouble they get into, which can be entertaining for a while. The game has a screenshot capture key that can be used to grab images for your neighborhood's story, and it also has a video capture option that lets you capture movies. So if you're willing to put in the time and effort, you can try to block out your household, like you would while filming on a TV set, and film away.
The Sims 2 also adds enhanced tools to let you create custom-built houses and neighborhoods. Though buy mode, which lets you buy furnishings for your homes, is largely the same as that of the original game, build mode is different in that it lets you build a fabulous four-story home connected by various types of stairways and surrounded by a patio and a deck. The neighborhood editor lets you add houses and empty lots, as well as city parks or shopping centers, which you can build out with phone booths, market stalls, restaurants, and other items, to your custom districts. These and other features work similarly to how they did in the original game. Perhaps disappointingly, and aside from the unusual prevalence of clothing and household furnishings inspired by Korean culture, the sequel offers about the same amount of content to build things out as the original game did (without its expansion packs).
You can use edited neighborhoods from SimCity 4, but the robust editors of The Sims 2 don't seem as robust as they could have been.
The Sims 2 isn't simply a retread of the first game minus the expansions--since it features both the at-home parties of the House Party expansion pack and the out-of-house lots of the Hot Date expansion pack--but it's pretty clear that the door has been left open for future content updates. In the meantime, you can also use the in-game custom content browser to download new files directly from the official Web site (including items that Maxis has made, as well as stuff that other fans have built using the editing tools). Hopefully The Sims 2 will enjoy the same kind of thriving, content-creating community support as the original game did.
We hadn't mentioned this yet, but The Sims 2 also looks great. The sequel is powered by an all-new 3D graphics engine so it looks much better than the original game did. And thanks to the game's expanded character customization options, your bespectacled, knit cap-wearing, cargo shorts-clad sims can look more distinctive than ever, though they still have that plain but clean cartoon-style look to them that recalls the characters from the Sims console games. And like you'd expect, they're animated with lively, often humorous gestures. However, The Sims 2 seems to have about the same amount of interactive gestures, or perhaps slightly more, than that of the original game (minus the expansion packs). For those devoted fans that are used to playing with pets and turning their siblings into frogs with a wave of a magic wand, this may seem disappointing, but perhaps we'll see more gestures in a future update. Unfortunately, the game seems to slow down a bit on mid-range and even on fairly high-end systems with all the settings turned up, especially when there are a lot of sims onscreen and there's a lot going on (which is often when the game is at its best). And like with the original game and all of its expansions, The Sims 2's camera even scrolls sluggishly--perhaps this is some sort of clever inside joke, but it's unfortunate that this still hasn't been fixed.
The Sims 2's sound is also great, though it's about what you'd expect from a Sims product. The high-quality soundtrack by composer Mark Mothersbaugh (of Devo fame) seems to fit extremely well with the game as well as with the previous games in The Sims series. It has the same upbeat, slightly ditzy feel that serves as a great ironic counterpart for when your kitchen is on fire and your sims are either panicking or burning to death as the Grim Reaper looks on, clipboard and cell phone at the ready. In fact, it could have come right out of another Sims product. While the audio doesn't break much new ground, it's completely appropriate and enjoyable for what it is.
The sims still have moxie. This isn't always a good thing.
Also, there's an all-new set of spoken "simlish," the expressive gibberish language that sims speak, and while there's more of it than there was in The Sims, there are only a few specific voices for each age group. And since, as mentioned, the new game has a decent, but not overly impressive number of different gestures and conversation options, it likewise has a decent variety of spoken simlish, and all of it is appropriate. As with the original game, The Sims 2 has all-new audio for peripheral characters and fixtures, like shopkeepers, radio stations, and TV shows; these are, like the comparable simlish in previous products, enthusiastic, believable, and occasionally quite funny. The Sims 2 attempts to preserve the same sort of slightly off-kilter humor the original game had, and with the exception of some bland object descriptions in the build and buy modes, it's mostly successful in that regard.
Considering that The Sims 2 offers both the original gameplay of the first game along with the new aspiration system, larger house building, and better character customization options, it contains a good-sized chunk of interesting things to do. However, you may still find yourself wishing there was even more to The Sims 2, especially if you've played through the original game and its expansions. Hopefully future updates and community contributions will fill things out. While it seems that The Sims 2's most significant additions will be most compelling and beneficial to those that were already great fans of the previous game, it's still a pretty accessible game that now offers more focused gameplay, if you want it. In short, The Sims 2 successfully took just about everything that was great about the first game and brought it up a notch, and while you might wish that the sequel had gone a notch or two higher overall, it's still a great game in and of itself.