The Sims was one of the most popular games ever made. In it, players micromanage the lives of a family of virtual
people, or Sims, and influence their paths toward success or something akin to a nervous breakdown. Its open-ended blend
of cartoonish behavior and everyday living is unique in an art form otherwise obsessed with carnage and sports. With The
Sims 2, long-time fans now have a deeper game with lots of ways to customize and share their experiences. The game will
also attract first-timers because the goal-oriented gameplay and the luridly fun starter families make it easier to get
into the action right out of the box.
Now Sims are born with the traits of their parents, families grow, and Sims grow old.
The People in Your Neighborhood
The game starts at the neighborhood level. Here you can create a housing development from scratch or start with one of
three premade neighborhoods, each with its own theme. From there, you'll settle on a house and a family of Sims to
The Sims 2 body shop
Create your own Sim (above) or your own house (below) from scratch with advanced tools.
The Sims 2 house-building tools
Aside from the basic needs carried over from the previous game, Sims now have aspirations, wants, and fears. The wants
and fears are the day-to-day things that occupy their minds, like wanting to see friends or get married and fearing
death or being rejected for a kiss. Satisfy their wants, and they become more efficient at completing tasks you assign
them. Realize their fears, and Sims become lethargic, cranky, and unresponsive to your commands. Aspirations are the
big-picture things, like raising a family, becoming wealthy, and gaining knowledge. Succeed here and you'll be able to
buy odd gifts for your Sim to improve his or her life, like a money tree that pays dividends or a "fountain of youth"
water cooler. What Else Is New?
Of course, you wouldn't be able to juggle all that if it weren't for the improved "Free Will" option, which makes it
easier for Sims to fulfill their basic needs. The artificial intelligence of the game is noticeably improved; they won't
turn on radios just as a family member is going to bed but, strangely, they do occasionally put their dishes on the
Another big change in the series is the concept of the lifespan. Now Sims are born with the traits of their parents,
families grow, and Sims grow old. Not only does this go hand in hand with aspirations (growing up is the first
aspiration that a baby Sim will have), it provides a limited time with which your Sims can achieve their goals.
Sims in live mode
The Universal Control Panel helps you manage your Sim family.
A Family Affair
The Sims 2 not only lets you create just about any type of Sim in any type of family, build elaborate houses, and even
create a neighborhood from scratch, but it also allows you to start the game in medias res, with premade households.
These families all have backstories that are smart spoofs of soap-opera plots--lots of scheming, romance, ghosts, and
family fighting. Parents of teens shouldn't worry, though, because nudity is tastefully blurred out and "woo-hoo"
between Sims takes place completely under the covers. The ESRB has given this a Teen rating. If The Sims 2 were a film,
it would likely land between PG and PG-13. The makers have included some nice tools to help share the universe you've
created. For example, you can capture in-game stills and video to show friends the private moments, family interactions,
and house parties of your Sims. You can even package a household to share as a blog or an album on a special Web site.
The Sims 2 is for patient gamers. Like life itself, the game is filled with mundane details, like getting ready for
work and doing dishes. The game also demands a level of creativity from its players that the run-and-gun game genres
wouldn't know what to do with. But those who stick with it will be rewarded with an absorbing, amusing diversion and a
virtual family history that they've created themselves. --Porter B. Hall
Set Up a Sims 2 Machinima Studio
Amazon.com contributor Porter Hall reveals how you can make movies using the Sims as your actors. See his guide to
setting up a Sims 2 Machinima Studio.