Sims 2, The Download (2004 Strategy Game)

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The world's most successful "people simulator" gets a new lease on life in The Sims 2, the first full sequel to Maxis best-selling original. This 2004 release updates nearly every aspect of the Sims experience, from opening presentations to deep-down gameplay. The sequel features full 3D graphics, extensive new building and decorating options, and characters who are far more realistically complex than those of the first game. The original Sims earned unprecedented success by encouraging players to be creative and set their own goals, instead of asking them to follow a script or work towards some ultimate conquest. Most Sims fans eventually created entire neighborhoods full of unique little virtual people -- not to "win" the game, but simply for the fun in doing so. Above all else, this sequel is designed to encourage players to create their characters, houses, and neighborhoods with even more imagination, and in greater detail than ever before.

Characters in Sims 2 lead fuller, more complicated lives, and they are not immortal; they grow up, grow old, and eventually die (though gamers who would prefer their characters did not age can enter a code to turn this feature off). Sims have an average lifespan of about 20 hours of playing time, though characters who lead especially happy, successful lives may live to be older. For many, this mortality makes families even more important, since in a sense, characters can live on through their offspring. Sim children inherit some of their parents' physical and emotional traits, so a notable characteristic in an aging Sim may reappear later, in his or her children or grandchildren. Inheritance goes beyond mere genetics, however, and characters can share special interests and encourage positive traits in their children. Of course, homes and other material possessions are also passed down and kept in the family.

Since Sims now have a lifespan, perhaps it is fitting that they also have life goals. Concerns such as empty stomachs, full bladders, or a lack of entertainment still influence day-to-day activities, but each Sim is now more fundamentally motivated by one of five overall, lifelong Aspirations: Family, Fortune, Knowledge, Popularity, or Romance. A Sim's particular Aspiration is chosen when the character is created. Success is determined by a running tally of important moments and events that move the character towards (or against) his or her particular goal. Fortune-seeking Sims may get points for earning a promotion at work, for example, while Family oriented Sims might score for spending some quality time with their children. If a Fortune-aspired Sim is fired from his or her job, however, points are subtracted, just as if a Family motivated Sim were to catch his or her spouse having an affair. Successful Sims enjoy long, fulfilled lives, while those who lose too many points may spiral into nervous breakdowns.

Although it is likely that new expansion packages were being planned before The Sims 2 even hit store shelves, certain favorite features introduced in add-ons for the previous game are reprised in the sequel's main game. Since different Sims players have different content preferences, three separate starting neighborhoods are included, to accommodate different themes. Pleasantville presents the height of suburban living, where Americana ambles along at a comfortable pace. Eerie extraterrestrials still watch over the neighborhood of Strangeville, however, and they may interact with its player-controlled inhabitants, abducting stargazing Sims or even joining with them to produce hybrid offspring characters. Meanwhile, in the soap opera-esque neighborhood of Veronaville, the "Cap" and "Monty" families are constantly feuding, even as their children secretly fall in love with one another. As always, players are free to step right into the middle of any of these impending melodramas, or create entirely new stories of their own imagination.


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