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The Sims 2 Expands Beyond PC

Tuesday, July 26, 2005 - 23:00

The Sims 2 brings new items, new features, and control tweaks to the console (PS2, Xbox, and NGC)

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The Sims 2

By Christian Nutt

EA wises up and brings a robust version of its PC franchise to consoles that, for the first time, looks to be the equal to the game it shares its name with.

Spiffy:
Tons of stuff to do; new items; new goals.
Iffy:
More of the same Sims gameplay, which might be tiresome by now.

Previous attempts to bring The Sims to consoles -- last year's The Urbz in particular -- seemed to try too hard to modify the game to suit the perceived tastes of console gamers. Fortunately, The Sims 2 plays it closer to the lauded PC version of the franchise; moreover, it appears that the changes the developers have wrought are more selective and intelligent: new items, new features, and control tweaks, including one that should have been put in from the first Sims console game: direct control over your character.

As you begin the game, you design your Sim in just the way you'd expect: creating his or her appearance. The Sims 2 for consoles, though, offers a very high level of customization. Each Sim can wear three layers of clothes and modify them: for example, you can wear a shirt over a T-shirt, choosing whether or not to roll up the sleeves of the shirt or not. Bear in mind that's just the most basic level of the clothing customization available, here. At first I thought they were trying to appeal to extremely fashion-conscious gamers, but I soon realized that the developers actually just want to make it so your Sim can truly be individualized and reflect your style and identity. It's all a bit Barbie, but nobody's ever complained about a wealth of character customization options before and I won't be the one to start the trend. Beyond the cosmetic, you also choose your Sim's aspiration -- including a brand new one for the console edition, creativity -- that will guide your path through the game.

The Sims 2 for Console

Despite its closer resemblance to the PC edition than previous console attempts at The Sims, this game is still far from the freeform meanderings you might expect (though you are free to play a completely goal-less, free play version of the game if you're so inclined, with a family of four Sims.) No, the developers have added in 16 locations with their own main characters, providing a linear progression of locales for you to unlock and explore, and then modify to your liking.

In the demo available at the EA event, we were able to switch from our created Sim character to a restaurant owner. Satisfying his needs and drives will eventually gain you his trust, allowing you to learn the whereabouts of other important locations in the game. What's cool is that with the new direct control, you feel immersed in the world of The Sims 2, but since you can still control everything the old, hands-off way, you can queue up plenty of actions for your Sim to work on, and then switch over to another character.

A new aspect of The Sims 2 for consoles is a food creation system. Raw ingredients have been added to the game, and you can even grow and harvest them yourself -- for example, fish tanks let you raise edible fish, chickens lay eggs (but only if you beat them at a game of checkers) and trees grow fruit. You can experiment with combining different ingredients and create entrees that sicken your Sim or boost its stats.

Of course, the real goal of your game is to satisfy your Sim's main aspiration, and to do that you must conquer his or her wants and fears, of which there are 250 in the game. You have several going at any one time; satisfy one or another, and a new one from the pool will slide into your task bar, keeping things going. There are five of these goals going at the same time, which should keep your hands full (along with helping out the NPC characters and customizing the world of The Sims 2, of course.)

The Sims 2 for Console

Another addition, at least as far as the PS2 version goes, is EyeToy support. You can create a poster of your real face and adorn your Sim's fake world with it -- a bit of a twist on the barrier between the real and the fake world, I guess. Of course, this option isn't available in the GameCube and Xbox versions, where posters of your Sim replace it. There's also a crashed UFO with alien characters, and interestingly, bits of info that tie into what was hinted at in the PC version of The Sims 2 come into play in the console version (and the PSP version, for that matter) so unlocking all the mysteries of the The Sims 2 will require playing all of the different versions. Gee, what motivation does EA have for trying something like that?

All the same, just playing The Sims 2 for consoles, with its robust PC-like gameplay and aspiration-driven single-player mode should keep gamers itching for customizing the lives of strange little fake people busy for ages. The Sims 2 on consoles looks to be the first version of the series that can stand strong and proud alongside the PC edition, and that's good news indeed. Finally, we get what we deserve: an intelligently designed companion to the most popular PC series in the world.

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