The Sims 2 is the first full-fledged sequel to the popular "life simulation" franchise in which players furnish the homes and supervise the lives of virtual inhabitants known as sims. Each sim has a distinct personality and set of goals, and typical gameplay revolves around acquiring a job, developing relationships with other characters, and managing a spectrum of personal needs and desires to help them fulfill their dreams.
The game was first released for the PC in September of 2004, with ports to multiple consoles arriving in late 2005. Despite the fact that every version bore the same title, these console versions were heavily modified to suit the limitations of their respective platforms.
The PC version of The Sims 2 is not only the first version released, but also the only one which enjoys access to free downloadable content, fan-made mods, and the record-setting seventeen expansion packs that have followed. It retains the same concept of open sandbox-style gameplay and emergent storytelling found in its predecessor, albeit with a major overhaul of virtually every aspect of the underlying mechanics.
The basic premise of The Sims 2 has the player taking omniscient control over a household and directing the semi-autonomous inhabitants in coping with their daily routines. In a broad sense, this means guiding them in keeping the house clean, meeting and befriending the neighbors, finding work, and addressing their eight basic Needs such as Hunger and Fun to remain healthy and happy.
Every character has his or her own personality sliders that indicate how nice, physically active, playful, neat, and outgoing they tend to be, and they can also study up on fundamental skills like cooking and mechanical repair to gain skill points and improve the quality of their own lives.
Jobs, which traditionally simply removed sims from play for a number of hours, have been spiced up with the addition of "chance cards" which describe a work-related dilemma and allow the player to choose how the character should react. Picking correctly leads to bonus pay, instant skill points, and unexpected promotions, while poor choices can lead to demotions and even unemployment.
The homes in the game are fully customizable thanks to a robust design system that lets players adjust every aspect of the architectural layout and furnishings on the property. Literally hundreds of household objects like couches, beds, refrigerators, telephones, and decorations are available to specialize the appearance and function of every room, and the residents interact with them in highly intuitive ways to satisfy their various needs.
Characters in The Sims 2 naturally age through six distinct life stages which total approximately one hundred in-game days from birth to death from old age. This shifts the focus of the game from the management of routine day-to-day affairs for the eternally young kids and adults of the original, and encourages players to consider the course of each sim's finite lifespan. Getting married, securing promotions, building friendships, and parenting children carries a lot more significance to characters who don't have all eternity to rectify their mistakes.
The six life stages include:
(3 Days) - tiny newborns who cry when they're hungry, cry when they're wet, cry when they're bored, and occasionally spit up when they're not bored enough. Just like with real babies, sims often have to engage in a little trial and error to determine what an infant wants, but particularly neglectful parents may have their kids permanently removed by a social worker.
(4 Days) - precocious tykes who begin to exhibit their own personalities and can even start picking up skills from toys that can help them later in life. With a little patience, adult sims can teach their toddlers to walk, talk, and use a training potty all by themselves.
(8 Days) - child sims begin attending school every weekday morning and returning with homework in the afternoons. Parents might need to make ample use of the "Help with Homework" socials because kids can be easily distracted by their new found ability to make friends.
(15 Days) - teenage sims retain a similar load of school work throughout the week, while expanding their social circle to include high school sweethearts and co-workers at their afternoon jobs. Much like real teens, they also really start to emphasize their individuality by choosing personal Aspirations that will shape the course of the lives.
(30 Days) - the bulk of a character's life is spent as an independent adult pursuing a livelihood, friends, and family according to the whims of their lifetime Aspirations. Over the course of this life stage, sims will typically buy and furnish their own homes, take jobs in one of seven different career paths, date, marry, and raise children of their own.
(Varies) - in the twilight of their lives, sims can retire to live off their pensions and enjoy their remaining days. Unlike the previous life stages, there's no reliable way to predict how long those days might last: it's influenced by how high the character's Aspiration bar has been at the moment they graduated through the previous four phases, so sims who've seen many of their dreams come true will enjoy a longer retirement than ones who look back on a lifetime of misery and heartache.
As with the original game, no time passes for households beyond the boundaries of the active lot. This can lead to some odd discontinuities where frequently played families can marry, raise children to adulthood, and pass away from old age while their elderly neighbors appear to remain unchanged. The instruction manual for The Sims 2 also prominently lists a cheat code which disables the aging mechanic for all characters, though it warns that immortal sims will unbalance the game's Aspiration mechanics.
Aspirations, Wants, and Fears
In addition to the personality sliders for traits like playfulness, tidiness, and laziness, The Sims 2 introduces the concept of personal Aspirations that define an individual's idea of personal success. Sims, like real people, naturally value things like money, family, and personal development differently from one another, and characters who find success in the aspects of life they treasure most will naturally feel happier and more fulfilled than those who don't.
Aspirations are chosen for each sim at the time they're created, or upon growing up into teenagers. There are five possible choices:
- Family oriented sims cherish close relationships with extended family, long-term relationships, and the prospect of raising happy and successful children to carry their legacy into the next generation. Their major goals tend to include things like getting married, seeing their children excel in school, and holding their first grandchild.
- Fortune-centric sims measure their success by the size of their bank account. They likely to be hard workers, striving to reach higher rungs on the career ladder so they can buy themselves all the fanciest toys, but sometimes marrying their way into a wealthy family can achieve the same purpose just as well.
- Knowledge sims desire personal growth purely for its own sake. They are not only the painters and the authors: in their opinion, the task of repairing a broken appliance is a matter of pride to show that they're up to the task. These characters are loathe to attempt any feat they might fail at, and have a fascination with the game's more esoteric elements such as alien abductions and ghosts.
- Popularity sims crave close friendships, legendary parties, and career paths where they can rise to be superstars. They endeavor to maintain an ever-expanding entourage of colleagues and admirers, frequently maxing out the party invite list and throwing bashes that get broken up by the cops.
- Romantic sims yearn for the heady passion of a new love affair. Settling down with one person for the rest of their lives seems so staid and prosaic: these sims hit the dating scene for the thrill of the chase and the exhilaration of their next conquest.
These lifelong journeys unfold each day as a series of small steps known as Wants. A knowledge sim, for example, might start off with Wants like "Gain a Skill Point" or "Paint a Picture," and satisfying those simple desires eventually leads towards more advanced ones like "Max Out a Skill" and "Sell a Masterpiece Painting." Characters who make steady progress towards realizing their ambitions by regularly fulfilling their daily Wants will fill a special Aspiration Meter that indicates how content they feel about the course their lives are taking.
The opposite of Wants are Fears: intense phobias which, if they come to pass, will severely undermine a sim's sense of self-confidence. Highly social sims, for example, might be traumatized by a public humiliation, while Family sims might be most distressed by the death of a relative. Fears cause the Aspiration Meter to drain quickly, and if dips low enough, the character will sink into a deep depression and may even start to come mentally unhinged.
Instead of the small, static neighborhoods in the original Sims, The Sims 2 ships with three pre-made locations with significantly different landscapes and the capability to support several dozen separate households. Each setting starts out with several inhabited and vacant houses, and players are free to lay down new plots for fresh construction virtually anywhere on map.
More creative users can even design their own custom neighborhoods from scratch. Using a 3D terrain tool reminiscent of the one in SimCity 4, players can sculpt rolling hills, scoop out areas for lakes and rivers, and build up mountaintop plateaus to produce nearly any sort of countryside they can imagine. Objects like water towers, sign posts, and sailboats can then be placed to add a little more character to the scenery, along with the network of streets necessary to start creating homes and community shops.
Residents of one neighborhood are still unable to interact with the denizens of any other, but as future expansion packs would demonstrate, each neighborhood is capable of linking up with a large number of other destinations for sims to visit.
Graphics & Customization
The Sims 2 replaces the 2D graphic elements and rigid isometric perspective of the original game with a fully 3D engine which can be rotated and zoomed at will to view the environment from any angle. This shift to a fully polygonal environment also made it much easier for the thriving mod community to release their own new objects, hairstyles, and clothing content for the game -- an endeavor which is actively encouraged by the developers who integrated some community sharing features directly into the game interface.
Players are also given full control over every aspect of a sims' facial appearance, from overt elements like eye color and skin tone down to the subtlest change in the shape of the lips or the distance between their eyes. These features change naturally as characters age through the different life cycles, and can even be "genetically" passed along to offspring.
The Xbox, PlayStation 2, and Gamecube versions of The Sims 2 include a "Free Play" mode which retains much of the same basic gameplay of the PC version, albeit without the prominent new ageing mechanics or the ability to procreate. Due to memory and engine restrictions, there are also much tighter limitations on how sophisticated homes can become.
In exchange, the console games include a "Story Mode" in which the player creates a single sim and takes singular responsibility for his or her life. There is actually no definable plot involved: the character's goals are defined entirely by their chosen Aspiration, much as they would be for any resident in the regular game. This mode has the option to take direct control of the character with the analogue stick, but the only real difference in gameplay structure is that satisfying Wants will earn Aspiration Points to unlock new properties to visit and more objects to buy.
These versions of the game also include a unique cooking system wherein players can actually select each ingredient in the dish. Rare ingredients collected from sources throughout the game can be blended together to unlock recipes for food that imparts some special bonuses to the one who eats it.
The Sims 2 was released on Genesis (Mega Drive) in Brazil, normally as a pack-in game. It is a port of the mobile phone version.
In order to adapt The Sims 2 for the Nintendo DS, Game Boy Advance, and PSP, the open sandbox style of the PC version was ditched altogether in favor of an exclusive focus on goal-oriented adventure gameplay. All three versions take place in Strangetown, one of the three default neighborhoods in the PC edition, and put the player in direct control of a single character for the duration of the story.
The GBA version of The Sims 2 casts the player as a participant in a reality television show set in Strangetown. Gameplay is organized into a linear series of "episodes" with one or more preset goals required in order to proceed, and separated by "commercial breaks" which consist of a brief micro-game like fleeing from a giant can of soda.
The eight Needs like Hunger and Energy are condensed into a single Stamina bar along a little graphic indicator showing whether the sim currently needs food, rest, or a bathroom break to fill it back up. Aspirations are similarly reduced in scope, consisting of only a handful of possible social interactions conducted in each chapter.
Instead of a reality show contestant, the DS edition of The Sims 2 centers on the travails of a young sim questing for money and influence to help renovate a decrepit hotel in Strangetown. Each guest at the hotel has their own particular quirks, and by catering to their whims, players can afford to expand their enterprise and attract even more business.
Goals in the game are heavily influenced by the handheld's internal clock and calendar, with a day / night cycle that synchronize to the actual time of day and characters who attend to their own schedules according to the day of the week. Certain tasks need to be accomplished within a specific window of time, though there's no mechanism to prevent the player from manually changing the system clock as necessary.
There is also some touchscreen interactivity in the DS version, including minigames for chores like vacuuming and metal detecting where players use the stylus to separate valuables from the detritus.
After a car accident on the fringe of Strangetown, this heavily story-based version of The Sims 2 opens with the protagonist stumbling into a property deal too good to pass up. It turns out to be a very aptly named city, and after meeting a few of the residents, the player will have a lot of freedom in how to solve a variety of eerie mysteries while simultaneously pursuing the Aspirations and Wants of their own character.
The blend of traditional Sims character mechanics with a structured story make it the most similar to the Story Mode in earlier console editions. A major change to the traditional gameplay is the active chat system where the player must quickly match up a series of symbols in order to successfully accomplish the goal of the conversation, be it friendly, romantic, or confrontational in nature. If a sim forms a high enough relationship, other sims may even give up personal secrets which can advance the plot or be traded away to other characters.
Working up the protagonist's skill levels can improve the odds of success in many of the different tasks in the game, and unlike the other handheld versions, Aspirations and Wants play a role very similar the traditional PC gameplay.
- On July 22nd, 2005, in the wake of the Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas "Hot Coffee" controversy, Florida attorney and anti-gaming activist Jack Thompson accused Sims publisher Electronic Arts of facilitating the delivery of full frontal nudity and graphic pornography to underage players of The Sims 2. The allegation centered on an unauthorized, unpromoted third-party mod which, when used in conjunction with an obscure debugging command, could make naked characters in the game appear more anatomically correct. Thompson went on to suggest that The Sims 2 was a "pedophile's paradise" in which they could "rehearse, in virtual reality, for their abuse," despite the fact that no such interactions are possible under any circumstances.
- Bella Goth, a popular character from the original Sims game who "mysteriously vanished" from the PC edition of The Sims 2, makes a prominent cameo at the start of the PSP version. It is unknown whether or not her appearance in Strangetown is considered canonical in the loose storyline that bridges the major releases together.
- In the event that a player-controlled character dies, many versions of the game feature an appearance by the Grim Reaper who can be bargained with to bring the loved one back to life. Failure transforms the deceased into an object which becomes a gravestone when placed outside or an urn full of ashes when moved indoors, and if the surviving residents fail to grieve properly, the sim may rise to wander the property as a restless spirit.
- Sometimes when a sim gazes out into the void of space, the void gazes back. Frequent use of a telescope will eventually attract the attention of space aliens who will abduct the curious sim for a period of time and possibly even impregnate them. Human-Alien hybrids are characterized by distinct green skin and solid black eyes, physical traits which can be passed down through to future generations.
- As free downloadable content and various expansion packs have been added to the mix, several other EA titles have made cameo appearances in The Sims 2 as games the characters can purchase and play on their gaming systems. Examples include SSX 3, The Urbz: Sims in the City, SimCity 4: Rush Hour, Command & Conquer 3: Tiberium Wars, MySims, Spore, and The Sims 3.
Expansions & Item Packs
The Sims 2 had many expansion and item packs which came continued to come out even well after the game's initial release.
The Sims 2: University
The Sims 2: Nightlife
The Sims 2: Open for Business
The Sims 2: Pets
The Sims 2: Seasons
The Sims 2: Bon Voyage
The Sims 2: FreeTime
The Sims 2: Apartment Life
Item (Stuff) Packs
The Sims 2: Holiday Party Pack
The Sims 2: Family Fun Stuff
The Sims 2: Glamour Life Stuff
The Sims 2: Celebration! Stuff
The Sims 2: H&M Fashion Stuff
The Sims 2: Teen Style Stuff
The Sims 2: Kitchen and Bath Interior Design Stuff
The Sims 2: IKEA Home Stuff
The Sims 2: Mansion & Garden Stuff
Minimum System Requirements
If you have a T&L (info about what T&L is below) capable video card with at least 32 MB of video RAM (such as nvidia GeForce 2 or better or ATI Radeon 7000 or better) then you need at least:
- 800 MHz processor
- 256 MB RAM if Windows XP
- 128 MB RAM if Windows 98, Windows ME, or Windows 2000
- At least 3.5 gigs of free hard drive space
If you have a non-T&L capable video card (such as TNT2, Intel, or Rage for example) then you need at least:
- 2.0 GHz processor
- 256 MB RAM if Windows XP
- 128 MB RAM if Windows 98, Windows ME, or Windows 2000
- At least 3.5 gigs of free hard drive space
Recommened video cards (and the more video memory the better):
- ATI Radeon 9800 Pro
- Nvidia Geforce 4