At a glance...

Reviewer Platform Publisher Developer Players Screenshots
Matt Bailey Xbox Electronic Arts Maxis 1-2 (Share screen) Here
Requirements Also on... Buy from Amazon.co.uk
None PC, PlayStation 2, GameCube, Nintendo DS, PlayStation Portable Click here to buy The Sims 2.

The Sims 2 review

The Sims is now the biggest-selling PC franchise of all time. The EA-owned Maxis studio has made a fortune for the giant publisher, through the success of the original game, and its ability to appeal to gamers across from the board; from hardcore to casual, from young to old, and importantly, from male to female. This was compounded by the release of seven expansion packs, making the franchise one of the most exploited. The semi-3D approach that appeared in the PC editions was, however, replaced with a new fully 3D engine in the two console editions, which led to the full makeover and reworking of The Sims 2 on PC in late 2004. Now that game has made it's way to the consoles, although things aren't quite as glorious as the game upon which this edition is based.

As stated, one of the PC version of The Sims 2's biggest leaps over the original was the new full 3D graphics engine, and already we can see that the console edition loses out. With the previous Xbox game, The Sims: Breakin' Out, already featuring more modern graphics technology, the visual updates here aren't quite as revolutionary. However, it's nothing to worry about, as this edition isn't losing anything that was already there. Another major change was the addition of aging, death and producing children—changes which changed the fundamental interactions of your characters, and allowed you complete full life cycles for families. These additions, however, haven't made it into the console addition; probably deemed too complex. In return, however, console owners gain a story mode, and at least the addition of remembering social interactions has made the crossover.

The main game itself is split into Freeplay and the aforementioned Story mode. Freeplay gives you the classic gameplay approach that fans of the series will be used to, but at the same time may be somewhat daunting to new users. The story mode is console-exclusive, and will guide you through the game with wants and fears. These are determined by the characteristics you choose for your character while creating them as you begin the mode. After going through a range of options, from skin colour to the size of their head, from hairstyles to fashion, you are given the ability to set up some personality parameters. These then determine the character's needs and fears which you must satisfy and avoid respectively. By meeting the needs you earn aspiration points which allow you to visit more locations and check out new items. So the title "Story mode" is ultimately misleading; there's no fundamental plot to speak of, and the mode really serves to provide goals to allow players to actually progress in a game which usually has no distinctive amount of playing time.

For those not used to The Sims line of titles, I recommend you check out the article on Wikipedia or our review of the PC original to find out the fundamentals. Everyone else should know how the game works, and will be pleased to hear that not only is the core of the game still running smoothly, but that it has made the translation to the Xbox well, with a control system well suited to the console. On top of the ordinary manual camera viewpoint (where you can pan, zoom and rotate your view of the world), there's also the ability to directly control the characters with the thumbsticks. This gives the game a more adventure-like feel, while still giving you the 'powers' that make the title a so-called God game.

We've already established that the game features an improved 3D engine, but it is worth noting that there are other more subtle visual changes. Firstly the character animations have been upgraded to better convey the emotions of the characters, particularly when it comes to relationships. When two characters interact, you can see instantly from the actions of their body how they feel about each other, and this is also put across by the other subtle change; the background colour. During these interactions the tone of light behind them will change to reflect the mood, and though a simple addition, it certainly helps in making those important relationship action decisions.

You may have also noticed the game supports 2 players; unlike before this option allows two people to take control of players in the same house, even sharing the same car pools if possible. While it's not the most exciting of multiplayer games, it can be a good social experience, even if it's not how you expect to play The Sims 2.

Ratings

Graphics A smooth graphics engine, but certainly not as significant as it was on the PC. 8/10
Gameplay There's a lot to do, but ultimately it feels like a stripped down version of the PC game, with many of that edition's new features missing. The direct control method, however, is a good addition 7/10
Value While there's not a lot of modes, there's a lot packed into the package in terms of items, actions and locations. 8/10
Lifespan If you get into the game it's practically infinite in length. However, it can get tedius in the long run. 8/10
Audio The music is alright, but can easily get repetitive and annoying. There isn't that much besides, apart from some effects, and the traditional gobbledygook of the Sims themselves. 7/10
Overall It's a great game, but ultimately it doesn't match up to the widely-regarded PC edition, and that's a shame for Xbox owners. 7/10

Click here to buy The Sims 2 from Amazon.co.uk.

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