The Sims 2 is a great sequel and a great game in its own right, and it's recommendable to just about anyone. For some, especially the devoted fans that have enjoyed the first game's open-ended gameplay, which was all about controlling the lives of autonomous little computer people, this is all that really needs to be said. But considering that The Sims 2 is the sequel to what is reportedly the most successful computer game ever (and that's not even counting its many expansion packs), the new game almost seems like a victim of its own success. Yes, it introduces plenty of new features that enhance the gameplay that was so popular in the original game, but it doesn't drastically refresh it. It also features plenty of options to play with, but it seems like it could've used even more content. Then again, you could simply say that EA and Maxis are making sure the game has room to grow with future updates--and there's no denying that The Sims 2's additions will give dedicated fans of the series plenty of stuff to do.
In the most basic terms, The Sims 2, like The Sims before it, lets you create one or more "sims" autonomous characters with distinct personalities and needs. You then create a virtual household of one or more sims (you get to decide whether they're roommates, spouses, or parents) and move them into a house and a neighborhood that is either prebuilt or built from scratch. Your sims interact with each other and with their neighbors, children leave the house for school each day, and employed adults head out for work to earn a living in one of a number of different career paths. However, the sequel has several new options, including an enhanced neighborhood editor that lets you import custom cities from Maxis' own SimCity 4, if you have that game installed. Plus, there are expanded building options that let you build a much bigger house.
The sequel also features enhanced appearance editing tools that let you customize your sims' clothing, hairstyle and hair color, and also let you make many adjustments to their facial features. Oddly, the editor doesn't let you adjust your sims' height or their build (beyond making them "normal" or "fat"), but it, along with the "body shop" utility, should let most players basically re-create whatever characters they want to from their favorite TV shows or movies.
More importantly, sims maintain their family ties (assuming you don't have any dramatic family squabbles), so if you decide to really hunker down and build out an extended clan, you can start with a carefully designed family or group of families, let them get married, and let them have children. You can then watch the children grow up and move out into their own places. And since sims are still autonomous and go about their lives even without supervision, you can expect to later receive visits from doting grandparents (or mooching grandchildren, depending on whose household you decide to control). Again, like memories, these are features that will reveal their rewards with the extra time and effort you choose to spend on them.
In The Sims 2, your characters actually grow old and even die of old age (or other causes, if you're into that kind of thing). Like with the original game, sims can and will die from neglect and extenuating circumstances, and if you're one of those sadistic players that enjoyed making your sims suffer, you'll still be able to do this in the sequel. However, if you're the sort that might really get involved in your sims' lives and history, you may look at aging as a way to build a rich and storied life for your sims. Yes, it can take several hours of play to age a sim from a baby to a senior citizen; however, if you're really looking to create an entire life for your sims, you'll find that as senior citizens your characters will not only look older, but will also look back on a long string of memories and possibly a large family tree filled with weddings and grandchildren before they eventually pass away, to be mourned (or not) by their children. It might also be worth mentioning that even though you can go through different generations of your sims' families, the time period of The Sims 2 never changes, so you won't see any technological or chronological progression. That is, you won't go from horse-drawn carriages to jalopies to modern-day sports cars--all your sims will still be watching plasma screen TVs and playing SSX 3 on their home computers, regardless of how many generations you've gone through.
Then again, you may also look at aging as a challenge, because The Sims 2's most significant gameplay addition, the aspiration/fear system, can actually help your sims stave off old age. The new system gives your sims one of five aspirations from which to choose (in addition to their personalities, memories, and personal relationships), including building a family, earning money, seeking knowledge, experiencing romance, or being popular. These aspirations boil down to four simpler goals that are clearly displayed onscreen, as well as three basic "fears." Each sim has an "aspiration meter" that fills up whenever you complete a goal and empties out whenever your sims' worst fears are realized. These goals can be as immediate as throwing a party where everyone enjoys themselves, or as long term as eventually winning another sim over as a best friend or spouse. These fears can be comparably straightforward or long term, such as being rejected from trying to make a romantic advance or getting fired from work.
Taken together, the aspiration system and career system provide some much directed, goal-oriented gameplay, surprisingly reminiscent of a challenging role-playing game, of all things. These new features not only add variety to The Sims 2, but also address a common criticism about the first game: how it didn't present any clear goals or objectives beyond dutifully ordering your sims to relieve themselves every time their "bladder" needs got out of hand. But using this new system to successfully create a household of fulfilled sims can be very tough since you must also balance their relationships, their jobs, their income, and their moods at the same time.
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Minimum System Requirements for The Sims 2
Processor 2.0 GHz
RAM 256 MB
Hard drive space 3.5 GB