Quick Review - The Sims 2

The Sims was one of those games that you just didn't see coming. It smacked the gaming world upside the head with its quirky nature and long reaching appeal. Obviously, the success of the original was so high that it was a forgone conclusion that The Sims 2 would eventually hit stores after the billions of expansion packs were done selling for the first game. Finally, after four years of waiting, The Sims 2 is coming out. We've had a final for quite a while now and have been playing the crap out of it in order to write this review.

The Sims 2 is a strange game to try and review. There are a lot of different ways to look at it and play it. The only thing that's certain is that this series is one of a kind. I can honestly say that I don't think I "got it" when the original game was released. I enjoyed it for a while but became frustrated at how hard it was to juggle relationships, bathroom breaks, and sleep time in order to get to the top of the corporate food chain. But over the last few weeks, I finally discovered something, partly due to a lot of the improvements made over the first game. The Sims isn't about "winning" or reaching a certain goal. It's about setting up experiences and watching them unfold. It's about personality and creativity and The Sims 2 handles both in a way that can't help but make you stare in wonder at this brilliantly bizarre series.

The most obvious addition is the new engine. It was an easy decision for them to make the game better looking. Not only did it help them keep up with the technology but more importantly helped them create an experience with a lot more personality and flair than The Sims was ever capable of supplying. All of the items found in The Sims 2 are amazingly detailed and vibrantly colorful, but the real charmer is the hugely long list of interactive animations between sims and the environment.

The Sims 2 is a brilliant simulation but also a wonderful caricature of life in general. And that's what you have to remember when playing this game. It isn't about completing a lofty goal of saving the world. Not reaching the top rung of the corporate ladder doesn't mean you failed. A dirty house and toilet isn't the end of the world. This game is about experimentation and creativity, whether you're setting up relationships or building a crazy house. You can almost equate it to a very strange canvas. Maxis is selling some amazing tools to create all kinds of things from architecture to full blown stories. It's up to the gamer to take those tools and use them however they see fit.

And that's the most difficult thing to understand. As I said earlier, I didn't really understand when I was playing the first game. I was used to playing games that have specific goals. The Sims 2 declares that having goals is almost a distraction to having fun. Don't get me wrong, if you want to think of the game that way, it's possible. You can move your sims up to the top of the corporate food chain, help your sim-kids and teenagers get into private school, or even complete abstract goals of affording the best TV on the list. But those are side shows to the main events of watching the personalities interact and sharing experiences with the community.

Maxis added several different features to improve on the original and improve on it they do. The first of these is the ability to use either one of three prepared neighborhoods with an interesting background or create your own from scratch using one of several neighborhood terrains. Players can now create different sized lots, place houses, community centers, and environmental items like balloons, rocks, trees, clouds, birds, and so on.