First Impressions of The Sims

Maxis has sent us a final copy of its life simulator. Here's what we think so far.

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The Sims is a lot of fun so far. A great deal of that fun comes from the fact that so many different things can be done with, for, or to the Sims. Though there's a tutorial family available from the start, you can also create and customize your very own family of Sims from an array of different heads and bodies. Each Sim also begins with a starting pool of personality points, which can be used toward such attributes as nice, active, outgoing and playful. Somehow or another, we managed to re-create George and Martha, the protagonists of Edward Albee's Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf, a play about a dysfunctional, alcohol-ridden marriage between a timid, insecure university professor and an obnoxious, resentful dean's daughter (played by Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor, respectively, in the 1966 film adaptation).

After you've assembled your Sims, you can choose the house in which they live and go shopping for furniture, electronics, plumbing fixtures, and miscellaneous decorations, each of which may serve a different purpose, possibly by enhancing either the Sims' lives or the house's property value, or both. Naturally, when George and Martha aren't arguing with each other, they're sitting on cheap synthetic wicker chairs watching a miniscule black-and-white TV or giving a wide berth to the flies that have settled on the two-day-old pizza in the kitchen.

The Sims has a lot of clever little details like: Radios that play a variety of classical, Latin, or rock music; the Sims quietly curse when they accidentally cut themselves preparing food; and yes, the screen digitally censors every Sim's trip to the restroom. And the Sims need to do things like eat or use the restroom to satisfy their needs, or their comfort levels and moods will drop - though it's entirely up to you whether you want to satisfy their needs (and keep their moods up).

The Sims is stable, and it looks and sounds quite good, though I've experienced some graphical slowdown on a PIII 450 equipped with a 16 MB TNT card. But in terms of appearances, The Sims' greatest strength isn't grand graphical splendor; it's the tremendous personality that each minute detail lends the game - from the way the Sims lean forward and laugh at jokes to the way idle Sims hum nonsensical tunes. From what we've seen so far, there are a great many possible ways to play the Sims, and all of them seem like fun. We'll be posting our review of the game shortly, so stay tuned.

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