The Sims 2
We Really hate The Sims. Despite our glowing review of the ground-breaking original game, our patience has been tested in the four years since by its ubiquitous chartclogging expansion packs, its cloying saccharine tweeness, its overwhelming jauntiness, its indefinable Simsness. The whole idea of the so-called 'Sims Community' makes us feel physically sick. We can't help but conjure up a mental image of an archetypal Sims fan being a bitter divorced woman, filling the yawning hours of her gnawing existence by knitting virtual cardigans in cyberspace for an extended family of imaginary friends. The phrase 'get a life' is lazy and over-used, but it's more than appropriate here, with some 20-million punters choosing to live their lives through the garbled exchanges of The Sims, comfortably making it the bestselling PC game of all time.
We're All Doomed
Forget your Doom 3 and your Half-Life 2. In the real world of non-PC readers, this is the biggest game of the year by a country mile, dwarfing the slew of titles offering the violent thrills traditionally associated with gaming. Not readily quantifiable or pigeonholed, when the Daily Mail implores us to 'Ban These Evil Games', The Sims must throw it into even deeper confusion, as success is largely built on nurturing traditional family values, something that doesn't make for such a simplistic headline.
However, lurking beneath the veneer of conservative respectability is a mildly subversive world, with The Sims 2 boasting such tabloid-baiting standards as polygamous relationships and same-sex parenting. And of the three ready-made scenarios, Strangetown is more Sunday Sport than Daily Mail with its alien crossbreeding, Veronaville blatantly bastardises the bard with an MTV version of Romeo and Juliette (sic), and Pleasantville is a rampant hotbed of wife-swapping, crystal meth abuse and badger-baiting (probably).
You can jump straight into any of the scenarios, and it's a beautiful world in there, as the surrounding screenshots attest. The all-new 3D approach may irk the purists - and the legions of housewives who've never even heard of a graphics card - but if you're going to spend as many hours in front of the screen as the game encourages, it might as well look good. Getting to grips with the interface can be tricky, but as well as the cosmetic improvements, the details of your sirns' faces and movements enables them to display nuances of emotion way beyond their previous incarnations.
And they certainly need every ounce of emotion, faced as they are with an onslaught of births, deaths and marriages. In stark contrast to the deathless and useless sims of yore, the inhabitants of this shiny new world visibly age through five phases of life and eventually cark it, whereby their ashes are placed in an ornamental um, the smashing of which causes no small amount of upset.
Shiny Happy People
With death's icy grip growing ever closer, the idea is to achieve some spurious life goals before you buy the farm, and ideally leave behind some selfish grabbing offspring to inherit your widescreen TV. Aspirations are laid out in the 'Wants' meter, with success adding to your life score. Conversely, realising your 'Fears' drops you back down to the depths of despair.
Ultimately, this approach provides you with a more focused direction for your sims, rather than the aimless cycle of eating, pissing and shitting. Naturally, these functions are still essential, but it's a bigger and brighter world out there, with a world of entertainment to be found.
Keeping your sims happy is hard work though, and in many ways it mirrors your own existence. Let things slide and you find yourself sat up all night in your underpants eating low-grade food and playing videogames. We're not even lying - you can actually go down to the mall and buy a selection of (EA) games, including The Sims: Bustin' Out, a concept that contains too many leaps of logic for our fragile minds to countenance.
A Game Of Two Halves
Given that we've been slagging off The Sims for the last four years, it would be hypocritical for us to lavish too much praise on what is essentially the same concept, essentially an amalgam of the worse elements of TV -cooking, home improvements and soap opera. It's undeniably an extraordinary creation though, and the moment we realised it had got under our skin was when we sat in a (real-life) doctor's waiting room in some discomfort, idly musing as to the welfare of individual sims. This particularly applies to the sims that you create yourself, and guiding them through the pitfalls of their lives is a curiously absorbing experience, even to the point of inadvertently missing half of Match Of the Day...
By the same token though, there are moments of clarity when you become almost ashamed at what you're doing, such is the senseless waste of time and effort. But the fact that it can actually make you care is a definite achievement. And while we fully expect to grow to hate it - and the inevitable flurry of hateful expansion packs - for the time being we're hooked. The backlash starts here.
Processor: PC compatible,
OS: Windows 9x, Windows 2000 Windows XP, Vista, Win 7, Win 8, Win 10.
Game Features:Single game mode