The Sims 2 Hands-On

Forget about September 14. The Sims 2 is playable at the Game Stars Live event in London, and we leapt at the chance to play the game for the first time.

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While Sims fans across the world wait eagerly for the September 14 release date of The Sims 2, fans in London are actually getting to play the long-awaited sequel at the Game Stars Live show going on this week. This is the first time the public has had a chance to play The Sims 2. Indeed, even we haven't had the opportunity to play the game yet. So, naturally, we jumped at the first open computer to get our first hands-on time with the game and to see what Maxis has been cooking up these past few years.

As with the original game, one of the first things you do when creating a sim is to literally create the sim in the body shop. This full-featured character editor lets you create a sim that is virtually any size and shape imaginable, and it's easy to get caught up toggling between different hairstyles or eye colors looking for that "perfect" look. At the same time, there are so many options to choose from that you're virtually guaranteed to create a unique-looking sim every time. From our experience and from just watching others playing the game, it's a sure bet that a lot of players will get happily lost in the body shop creating sims.

We ended up going with what appears to be one of the packaged families that come with the game, the Burbs. John and Jennifer Burb are a lovely young couple with a preciously adorable daughter named Lucy. They live in a cozy little house that's a bit short on furnishings, but from all appearances, the Burb's are happy just having each other. That sounds a bit saccharin, we know, but it's something that you actually have to see to believe, because the game's beautiful new 3D graphics engine does a wonderful job in allowing your sims to convey personality. For example, when little Lucy gives her mother a hug, you can almost see her eyes twinkle with joy and the smile on her face is nearly infectious.

Playing as the Burbs also gave us a chance to check out the game's new wants-and-fears system in action. Jennifer Burb is a beautiful young mother with several wants and fears. The first thing she wants is a new refrigerator so that she can cook properly for her family. Getting the Burbs a new fridge will garner you 600 points. Jennifer wants to make sure the family earns enough money, which is worth 500 points. In addition, she also wants to spend time talking with (500 points) and playing with her daughter (another 500 points). On the other hand, she fears having a bad conversation with Lucy, and if one erupts you'll lose 350 points. If her daughter rejects her, she'll be devastated and it'll cost you 750 points. But most of all, she fears the repo man coming to take their possessions away, which is a whopping 2,000-point penalty. Satisfying Jennifer's wants is fairly easy to do at first, but wants will become more difficult and challenging the deeper you get into the game. When a want or fear is completed, your point total will be adjusted accordingly and a new want or fear will be selected to replace the old one. You can use the points that you've accumulated to purchase special items that make your life a bit easier, like a money tree that earns your sims a little extra cash, and so on.

With Jennifer satisfied, it's time to move on to John. John Burb is an all-around nice guy, and the thing that he wants the most is to have more children. That means romance, and that let us explore all the gushy interactions that your sims can have. As in the original game, when you control a character and left-click on another character, you'll bring up a radial menu of interactions that you can have. In the flirt category, John can goose his wife (which looks to be a short, deep kiss), serenade her by dropping on his knees and singing her praises, and simply hold her hand. Getting a bit friskier, the kiss category includes the peck, the romantic kiss, the tender kiss, the up-the-arm kiss, the smooch, and the king of them all, the make-out kiss. The make-out is an extremely full-bodied kiss in which John grabs his wife, holds her, and then fuses lips with her (you also see their hands rubbing each other's backs while they kiss). Needless to say, after all this amorous attention, Jennifer is more than ready to have fun with her husband. But in order to make room for another child, you'll have to make sure that the Burbs make enough money and can furnish their house (or even buy a bigger one) in order to accommodate more children.

The wants-and-fears system definitely adds an intriguing and welcome new layer to the game because it gives your sims personalities, which is something that was a bit lacking in the original. There's also much more depth, as you can pick and choose which wants you wants--and even fears--to satisfy first. For example, if you want to pick a fight, there's an irritate category in the interactions menu, with "argue" being one of the options. And, though we didn't get the chance to play the game long enough to find out, the wants and fears seem to allow you to focus more on problem solving and challenges rather than on the banal minutia of everyday life, such as going to the bathroom or taking a shower. Yes, you'll still do that in The Sims 2, but it won't be the focal point of the game.

We came away excited after playing The Sims 2, and it's almost certain to be a huge hit with the big Sims audience out there. Of course, the question is whether The Sims 2 will appeal to those who didn't like The Sims. We'll find out in a couple of weeks when the game is finally released, so make sure to check back with us for our review of the game.

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