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ActionTrip.com Previews The Sims 2

Thursday, January 15, 2004 - 22:00

"The best part is that the camera is extremely flexible, giving you a possibility to set the tone of the in-game atmosphere to your preference."

Take a trip to ActionTrip.com.


Ure "Vader" Paul

What makes a game sell? We've asked ourselves that same question dozens of times and, for some deranged reason, the word "Sims" always comes up. The Sims games have always been a good example of art imitating life. Let's face it; almost any simulation out there has a reasonable chance of doing well on software sale charts. The Sims accurately mimics real life, which is the main selling point of the game. Experiencing The Sims can easily be described in a single sentence: an all-encompassing simulation of life presented through open-ended gameplay. The undeniable worldwide success of The Sims proves that gamers don't necessarily have to witness breathtaking feats of graphic superiority in order to be entertained. Will Wright, the creative mind behind this fantastically successful project, is finally getting close to finishing the long-awaited sequel, The Sims 2. Completely revamping the game's visuals and building upon the triumphant prequel, The Sims 2 promises to bring some kick-ass entertainment our way, without any actual kicking of any real asses (Sim or otherwise).

The Sims 2Will Wright and his crew at Maxis haven't spent the last few years dishing out The Sims expansion packs for nothing. Okay, so they may have found an ingenious way to earn extra cash (albeit not exactly original - Ed.), but the long-lasting history of the series and its numerous incarnations instigated a huge worldwide feedback from a massive community of fans, which, naturally, gave the developers a good idea of what the average gamer truly desires to experience.

The primary goal for the development team this time around was to take that much-desired big step towards modern-day 3D games. As such, The Sims received a rather thorough graphics overhaul. To begin with, the improved animation now presents sim characters in a more realistic light, using a complex skeletal system (to ensure lifelike movement) and thoroughly animated faces (to ensure genuine emotional expression). Even the hands on the models feature articulated fingers, which makes Sims move and act more convincing than ever before. For instance, if your Sims reaches for the buttocks of a member of the opposite gender, you'll certainly notice the difference between a grip and a relaxed hand (I wanna clutch someone's buttocks now! 2Lions, make it happen, please.) (No! I hate you! - 2Lions.) In-game models now possess highly detailed head skins with meticulously detailed facial and hair animation. This means that, unlike before, faces will literarily alter shape according to the mood of your Sims - their hair will sway in the wind, etc. Of course, the Sims' new-fangled 3D appearance was also beefed up with additional facets, such as reflection and bump-maps. This detailed model outline brought about some fundamental enhancements to the characters like visible teeth, different eye color, animated eyelids, and so on. Aside from these apparent external improvements, each model will also maintain a degree of uniqueness, to allow for factors such as character individuality and family resemblance. The general improvement in terms of visuals also put a tough task before the designing team to create as many distinctive objects in the backdrop as possible. Bathrooms, living rooms, basements, and other areas, must all be modified according to the person that uses them. And that's no easy job. Still, we must appreciate the fact that Maxis has quite a large team of expert hard-working artists, which certainly promises improvements in character modeling as well as overall design. Additionally, the landscapes are now overhauled with an impressive array of fully rendered 3D objects and details that perk up the ambiance; you know things such as rich wildlife (birds, trees, plants, and what not), busy streets with cars and buses whizzing by, rainbows stretching across the sky, and so forth.

The Sims 2The level of interaction in The Sims 2 is absolutely amazing. The developers tweaked the game to the last detail, even allowing you to control the camera through a full 3D environment. This way you can create your own stories and immerse yourself in an exciting cinematic experience. The best part is that the camera is extremely flexible, giving you a possibility to set the tone of the in-game atmosphere to your preference. Furthermore, the camera angle can be changed to view the game from first-person perspective. Sadly, you won't be able to control the movement and actions of your Sims within this particular mode, but you'll surely sense a personal connection to the characters whose lives are in your hands.

A character's personality won't be defined solely by appearances. Sims will maintain their own personas as they go through all the phases of life. In other words, a great deal depends on your character's mood. One of the most interesting innovations that are being incorporated into the sequel is the new approach taken in expressing the mood of your Sims, which understandably demonstrates precisely how they feel about their current situation in life. In previous games each character sort of lived for the moment, without any recollections or feelings of what went on in the past. This time around, Sims are given various memory patterns that relate to their earlier experiences. Looking back on previous events that took place throughout their lives can have a significant influence on character mood and behavior. Therefore, it's possible to tune the behavior of your Sims by avoiding any emotional or dramatic situations... a character with such experiences is likely to feel bad more often than not (Lord knows depression is debilitating enough to real people - just think how it will affect Sim life - Six). Naturally, there will be ways to help your Sims patch things up and make them forget traumas they underwent in the past. Usually, a simple pat on the back from a familiar face (such as a friend or family member) will be enough to straighten things out. Then again, life often deals us strange and unexpected ordeals, hence some events and characters you meet along the way can quickly trigger those negative emotions, and you're back to square one. (Do they have Sim antidepressants? - Six) Anyhow, due to such elements, players may need to consider their actions carefully by using more complex strategies during gameplay than they did in previous Sims titles.

The Sims 2The Sims 2 also gives new meaning to the term "unrestrained gameplay." Previous games allowed players to control their Sims through a relatively confined space consisting of about 10 lots or so. The new wide 3D landscape gives players the freedom to accommodate their Sims anywhere they wish (provided that the chosen lot is connected to a road). But, should your Sims feel discomforted and unhappy in their brand new location, an additional option was thrown in so you may relocate the house at any time. Changing neighborhoods is always a good way to steer towards the need of your Sims, particularly if they are far away from their relatives, friends, or... errr... casual acquaintances. Also, to make things a bit easier, the developers added a "connections" button to let players now where they can find the nearest friend or relative. Basically, we've come to understand that things are more in-depth and a lot more intuitive than in any other Sims game.

The Sims 2 has an amazing potential to generate one of the largest communities in the biz. A significantly upgraded build-mode tool set allows gamers to improvise and create neighborhoods and households of their dreams and then share them with other players online. The game is going to feature a huge variety of downloadable content that will be available at the Maxis Exchange site -players are even going to be offered a chance to download this content during gameplay. Any houses you fetched on the Net can be stored into the new lot directory. Giving gamers the ability to design their own residences and lots was obviously an important aspect to Maxis. Sims 2 stretches this concept even further by letting players use SimCity 4 to customize landscapes and neighborhoods and then swap them on the Maxis Exchange site.

The Sims 2Judging from the recently released media, The Sims 2 also tends to expand on the variety of adult content adding a more mature feel to the whole experience. The perfect example for that is one of the exclusive screenshots provided with this preview, showcasing a really raunchy bathtub scene. Now, just imagine the possibilities here. Let's hope you're all handy with that in-game camera thingy, cause it's all about focus, depth, and close-ups... wink, wink, nudge, nudge. As mentioned before, this game will take first steps towards merging Sims community with SimCity community, which is bound to open new doors for Maxis (well, if you ask me, the perfect sim game would be a amalgamation of The Sims and SimCity... and, well, perhaps with a little bit of GTA: Vice City as well). That said, you can be sure Maxis is on the right track as far as making a worthy sequel to one of the industry's top products. We expect the game to arrive in Spring 2004.

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