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Wednesday, February 08, 2006

RIP Don: Sims 2 Mini-review

As I said in my comment to yesterday’s post, I finally got The Sims 2 running, and Maxis have definitely done a good job. I didn’t bother setting up a new family for my first attempt at the new game, rather choosing the eligible bachelor Don as my test subject. The new Sims incarnation (ok, so by now it’s not quite new anymore..) adds the concept of a story to the neighborhood, as well as actual goals (called aspirations) for individual sims. These somehow tie together (I assume it’s possible to set that all up yourself-I didn’t go into it in that much detail), and in Don’s case, he’s the playa that has nailed (or at least wants to) every woman in SimCity-and he’s managed to get himself engaged to the neighborhood’s rich heiress. Needless to say, I spent my first couple of hours hanging out in his swanky pad and throwing raucous parties every day off (yes, the sims get actual days off in this version).. And ‘woohooing’ every woman I possibly could J The relationship system is quite evolved from that in the first game, with different gauges for the current status of your relationship with someone (influenced by recent interactions) and the long term status of your relationship with that sim (which changes slowly over time). The variety of interactions available between sims has been greatly increased, to the point where the interaction menu has now become multi-tiered and still manages to get a bit cluttered at times.

Most of the familiar old elements are still there: you still need to work to earn your simoleans, your carpool still arrives an hour before work (and you can still take an hour getting to the car without fear of reprisal :p) and you still need to advance certain skills to get promotions. Advancing some skills has become very tricky though, for example there is now a ‘cleanliness’ skill, which you advance by doing housework. The problem with this is that individual housework tasks are so short that you don’t get much benefit out of them-it’s not like reading up on mechanics or cooking where you can set aside a couple of minutes for your sim to sit and study until they earn a skill point. I found this a bit poorly thought out, as it can literally put your career on hold, and there’s really nothing you can do about it. I thought the ability to call up a group of sims and throw a house party was a brilliant addition, and being scored for the success of your party is sheer genius. For once you really are encouraged to make sure your visitors are having a good time. Another improvement is the interaction with NPC sims such as the fireman, maid and policeman. I used this to great effect in getting the maid to bed :P

One of the major gameplay changes is that your sims now die, and that as a result they need to have families to carry on their lineage. So this time around children actually grow up to become adults, and adults age and eventually die, leaving behind an urn to be mourned, and whatever genes their offspring inherited. I have unfortunately been unable to play with this element of the game, as poor old Don was struck down in his prime-he suffered a fatal heart attack right after woohooing with the hot blonde from down the street. Maybe too much sex is bad for you after all.. at least he died with a smile on his face, I suppose J

Most (but not all) of the actual objects in the world are not hugely improved on, they still do basically the same as what they used to, with little extra (functional) work put into them. The light system has a useful addition in being able to control all lights on a floor or in the entire house by clicking on any light in the house, which certainly makes a change from explicitly having to send your sims over to do it. Also improved are items like the dresser and mirrors, which let you arrange your sims’ outfits and change their facial appearance respectively.

Graphically, the game has been given a big facelift, while still remaining decidedly ‘The Sims’. The engine certainly won’t be winning any awards for creative GFX use, but it’s been kept comfortably up to date. The character animations seem to have been greatly improved, with far more variety as well, and the exaggerated facial expressions are really comical and entertaining-though the evil grin one of the woohooing partners gets in the sack is a bit freaky :P

Control remains largely the same, though the ability to freely rotate the camera (as opposed to the previous version’s four directional locked system) is a great addition and really lets you appreciate some of the finer details and avoid objects blocking your view. The game definitely needs settings for mouse sensitivity though, I looked for them in the in-game settings menu but couldn’t find them. This is actually a real problem, as rotation is so painfully slow it can actually be a chore to use and I have been tempted more than one to go back to the old rotation model and settle for the fixed directions.

The interface has had a great many additions, due to the complexity that has been added to the simulation, and the additional feedback and input you need to manage that. It’s actually quite daunting after the simple interface of the first game, and I could imagine it will take many Sims players a long time to get comfortable with the changes. The buying menu is just as illogical and strangely arranged as it was in the first game (but then maybe that’s just me), however one very nice addition is the availability of multiple ‘skins’ for many objects, so you don’t have to have an abode that looks like a paint store that got overturned in an earthquake, just to be able to meet your sims’ specific needs. You can choose items based on their needs, and then choose the skin that matches the ‘look’ of the room it’s destined for. I have yet to try the building tool, so I can’t comment on that, maybe I’ll post something on it when I’ve had a chance to play with it.

Sound-wise this game is a massive improvement on the last. The music has definitely been improved over the damned elevator tunes that dominated the original, and the sim language seems to be far more varied this time around (that actually carries through to the topics as seen in speech bubbles). The sound effects in general seem to have been given much more attention, which I for one appreciate is it was definitely one of the weaker parts of the first game.

Overall, from what I’ve seen so far, this is a really successful evolution of the Sims concept, and is well worth checking out.


Sci said...

Nice review flint!! :-D.
I also found the mouse setting a tad slow. You could always up it in windows though.

Flint said...

Oh yeah.. and then I have to fiddle it back and forth whenever I play? Not likely. It really does seem like a basic setting to have, and it amazes me that the patch didn't add it.

Sci said...

Yeah, bloody pc's :P
btw, I checked up on that xbox360 you can use your broadband adsl for the live service, my mate tested it and get's around 200ping on an unshapped account.

*don't ask how he got a console, I don't know :P, proberly import.*
I'm going to check it l8r today :-D.

Flint said...

That's cool. I know there are currently a number of people using ADSL for Live on the 'old' Xbox. Hopefully when the 360 finally gets released here they'll set up some kinf of Live proxy service or something. The 360 just wouldn't be the same without Live-it's probably the feature I'm most excited about.

tripeak said...

will be nice to have screenshots :P

Flint said...

Yeah, well if blogger would bother to implement images in email posts, I might bother putting in screenshots. I'm sure as hell not logging into the website everytime I want to post :-P


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