I'll be honest: I never really bought into the Sims craze when Maxis's smash hit came out a few years ago. I followed the news stories and obsessive features on it, of course, but I just wasn't interested. Of course, by the time I actually sat down to play the game, it was already past its prime as far as graphics and features were concerned, and I was left hoping that the Mac version of The Sims 2 would come out reasonably soon. Well, that time is coming steadily closer, as far as a recent beta of the game is concerned. Performance and minor graphical issues aside, I'm completely stoked about the potential of Sims 2 on the Mac. Read on to find out why.
Not wanting to mess with the incredibly successful and addictive formula of the first Sims title, Sims 2 has basically taken the 'if it ain't broke, don't fix it' approach. Instead, you're going to see what you wanted with Sims 2: more customizability, more goals, more objectives, and better graphics with a revamped engine. This approach may turn off some gamers who were hoping that Sims 2 would bring huge gameplay alterations, but for the majority of Sims freaks who were basically looking for extensions of the highly addicted gameplay, this title's for you. Gameplay additions range from the huge ability for your Sims to actually age and eventually die, to more subtle additions like the personal desires and fears that will impact gameplay.
One of the things that I've always admired about the Sims was the amazing amount of customization you could make to your residents. In Sims 2, this interactive manipulation has been taken to obscene levels. The Create-A-Sims mode offers a near limitless ability to customize your Sim. Everything from the size of your Sim's nose to their hair styles to the various outfits they wear is customizable, and players are going to spend a lot of time in this mode fine-tuning their virtual representations.
When your residents are ready to move into the virtual world, players have the option of creating their own communities and houses, each with the potential to house your newly created denizens. If you don't want to bother with making a community for your Sims to live in, the game comes with three pre-made ones that will allow you to just plop your Sim into a house and start the game. In addition to all of these features, you can also create official families that your Sims can live in. These relationships can have a significant impact on your Sim's life and goals (for example, the death of a Sim's child could drive them into significant depression making it that much harder for you to to get their lives on the right path). Suffice to say, these virtual beings really do have a great deal in common with their real life counterparts even down to the core family level. It all adds up to an even more in-depth immersion for players.
One of the new features in Sims 2 is the addition of personal goals, mainly Sim aspirations, wants, and fears. For every Sim that you control, you get a variety of wants and fears for that Sim in their current situation. Having your Sim accomplish a want gives a big boost to their overall aspiration meter, while having a fear realized does the opposite. Also, these desires change as they are fulfilled and they are determined based on the Sim's overall aspiration. For example, a Sim who has a romantic aspiration will usually have wants involving romantic situations, with their fears usually include getting rejected from said romantic involvements. The more wants that are realized, the more reward objects earned to be put in the Sim's home. It's almost like a new mini-game in the system in and of itself, and it definitely adds another dimension to the game.
Another feature that has been fleshed out in Sims 2 is the overall aspect of time. In Sims 2, your residents will grow older (the six stages are baby, toddler, child, teen, adult, and elder) and will eventually die of old age if nothing else kills them first. As your Sims grow up they can choose different aspirations and overall goals which will influence their wants and fears. This is a welcome feature to the series, as it is such an interesting and addicting thing to watch these virtual beings grow up in their world. Also, don't despair if you don't want your Sim to die after you've taken care of them for so long: there is a way for the player to freeze the aging process that's explained in the manual. This is just the tip of the iceberg as far as improvements made to the Sims world, and it's an indication of how great I think this title is going to be.
The beta that was used in this preview was very polished and had the majority of features already implemented for play testing. I have to say that this was probably the most fun I've ever had with a pre-release title in a long time. However, that's not to say that Aspyr couldn't work on a few things. There were some minor performance, graphical and sound issues that affected the game once in a while. However, system and graphics optimization is usually the last thing that developers work on so I have great faith that the folks at Aspyr will run smooth on a variety of systems.
Preliminary system requirements as posted on Aspyr's web site:
Operating System: Mac OS X 10.3.8 or later
CPU Processor: PowerPC G4/G5
CPU Speed: 1.2 Ghz or faster
Memory: 256 MB or higher
Hard Disk Space: 3GB of free disk space
Video Card (ATI): Radeon 9000 or better
Video card (NVIDIA): GeForce FX5200 or better
Video Memory (VRam): 32 MB or higher
Media Required: DVD Drive
The Sims took the computer world by storm, and its highly acclaimed sequel has already made its mark on the PC gaming crowd. Are you ready?