Tuesday, 28 September 2004

Archive: Hands-on with... The Sims 2

(Please note: this playtest featured links to screenshots from the game when on the original gamesreview.co.uk site. It would have proved too time consuming to recreate this for the blog so there are no pics. It may therefore prove a dull read. admin)

This is an extended hands-on analysis of The Sims 2. Due to the fact that this game is so large in scope and one which consists of many factors I felt the need to review it after giving it a nice long playtest. Here I will keep a log of events as I begin to play it and will use this "log" when I finally write my review of the title.

It should be noted that the following log comes from a player who has never played any Sims game before (unless you count that old classic, Sim Copter) so the game will therefore be totally new to me. I won't be cross-referencing it with the original game or expansions.

Part One - the first few days

After learning the basics and reading up on what I needed to know to be able to even play the game I knew two things; 1) to do this I would need to make a family of my own and, 2) They would need a suitable house. This meant I needed to build one as my first priority. So, not being the natural architect I followed my instincts and created... a shambles. I decided to camp down in Strangetown, one of the three pre-made neighbourhoods you can start in. You also have the freedom to make your own neighbourhood and can even use Sims City 4 to help, but I felt no need to bother at this stage and besides, Strangetown sounded very interesting indeed with alien abductions, truth seeking trailer trash, and a large radar station.

The mess I created was not only lacking a solid foundation (literally) but it was also way too expensive for my sims posse' to move into. And by the way your eyes do not deceive you, that pic of the house does show a "floating" flat roof. At first I thought it was a halo, then realised I just sucked that badly at construction. You see I didn't know at this stage each family started with 20,000 Simoleons (the fictitious Sims currency). This meant I needed to start from scratch and with a budget in mind.

So to begin now I needed to make my family. I spent hours using the create-a-sim system to make my real life mates and myself, of course. The seven of us were going to share a house! I knew where this was going already. Me (Martin), Sean, Yogi (not the bear), Chris, Neil, Stephen, and Rachel, were going to embark on a flat share - and seven sims under one roof is one heck of a challenge! In real life we all tend to drink too many alcoholic beverages, so a drink's cabinet would be in order.

Once I had made my crew, who all looked spookily lifelike thanks to the impressive create-a-sim system, it was time to make the proper abode. This was not going to be anything more than a compound to begin. The budget of 20,000 was extreme enough for a five person family, but seven! I needed to devise a masterful plan of construction, I needed to form the perfect budget plan and end up with change to spare. So, after many hard hours of physical labour (yeah physical - mouse clicking can be hard on the index finger) what did I achieve? Well, this. I managed to construct a building site of a house and ran out of money to even get near completing my grand design.

This was when the dark side of my gaming brain kicked into play (which it often does). Why would me and my band of dastardly amigo's all move into a house in the first place? Well there was the perfect answer, we all bought a joint lottery ticket and won a stash of the good stuff. Because we all had a joint entitlement to it we all decided to buy a nice house and move in together! Right? Well it worked as a story nicely for me to laugh evilly and continue the construction project. This was one heck of an evil construction project too, forcing an entire flock of albino sheep to move from their desert ranch and it caused much protest amongst the local pro-albino sheep group. Actually that wasn't the case and there were no sheep :)

After convincing myself of my own justification for continuing I brought down the cheat console and gave myself enough money to finish my dream house and get my friends and me in. I gave myself enough money to finish it with only a small amount of money left for them once they moved in - they blew their winnings on the house, the fools, and now they had to work for a living!

The construction of the house fell into many problems early on, mostly down to my lack of knowledge regarding how to use the tools but finally I had achieved this spectacle! It was still unfinished but patience is the mother of all virtues. I decided that it was silly to keep my family waiting and moved them into the unfinished dream house at this point, after putting in beds and a good enough tv and sofa. The gang of once rich lottery winners would have to live on a construction site whilst waiting for your's truly to get the work done. It has to be said I'm half Irish - and we all know what Irish builders can be like!

My gang and I were moving into a neighbourhood I had already added many other inhabitants to above the many that already lived there. There was Buffy Summers and Willow at number 47, living with Angel and more surprisingly a dried up, raw, Spiderman who seemed to insist on sitting around watching tv all day as opposed to fighting crime. There's also Avril Lavigne sharing with The Crow and Tyler Durdon (Bradd Pitt), not to mention the evil household of Dr Evil, Go-Go Yubari, a Zombie, and Mr Fod (don't ask).

Stay tuned! Or stay away, an equally logical choice.

(Part Two)

Part two - first day in a new house

Last time I left you I had almost finished my construction of the new house and had decided to move my family in. I managed to get the work done sooner than expected due to the fact I changed my initial design plan and was able to complete the house in time for the "lottery winners" to move in.

The paint was dry, the dream home ready, and I'd even left them complimentary champagne and a bundle of fancy party balloons - those extra touches a quality builder leaves for their customer. The taxi pulled up and out popped the seven of us, ready to check it out. Stephen, Sean, and myself (Martin) seemed happy enough outside arguing and let the others go in first. Rachel, Yogi, Chris, and Neil, were quick to find the study room and switch the music on. All seemed well. Before long the other's decided they would actually come into the house and not live outside and the seven spent time generally looking around.

Stephen didn't seem impressed by the balloons and popped them as soon as his eyes caught a glimpse of the big yellow smiley face. I let it pass. Sean and me went back outside, some unfinished arguing to do no doubt, but then a collection of neighbours decided to turn up and greet us, likely just looking for a free drink. Mr Fod was the first and didn't even ask to enter, he just walked on in. Tyler Durdon then turned up and Spiderman was soon to follow. Sean done a good job at greeting the suspicious characters and even decided this called for a... large plate of hot dogs.

Mr Fod didn't seem to like my interior design skills and challenged me in the kitchen to a session of witty comments exchanging. Before long Rachel decided to sit on one of the many outdoor tables to get some peace, but she got none. Fod and Tyler Durdon, now quite the buddies, came outside to the table and sat, eating Sean's Hot dogs. They were too busy talking about big business to even greet the girl. I tried showing off my giant ball to Spiderman but he wasn't impressed and Neil seemed to forget the art of "picking up a tray".

Eventually I sensed this little home warming was getting a little out of hand, with too many chefs spoiling a broff that was already appalling. Tyler ended up upsetting Rachel and Stephen seemed fascinated watching Mr Fod do the business... or maybe that's how he get's his freak on.

Sean, quite the chef, was getting aggravated by now. His hot dogs went without much gratitude and now the microwave was borked. All through this anarchic incident I wondered where Chris had got to, and then I checked. I wish I hadn't. Apparently he had been held hostage by an outdoor wooden sofa and was forced to release himself over my decking - he was asking for a potty lesson.

Yogi was happy watching something on tv about medical operations going wrong and even kept Mr Fod company. It was just too much for Sean and Neil and they decided to go to bed. Quite why they decided to sleep together was another matter, one of particular mystery as the house was a wealth of single beds. But eventually order was restored. Mr Fod fodded off back to his villa up the road and Spiderman had criminals to catch (or tv to watch). Tyler seemed happy chatting away with Stephen but then noticed the time and went back to his abode.

The next morning I decided that a select few of my household should go out for a while to the local shopping mall to catch the sites and maybe mingle with a few ladies. I've heard malls are a great place to pull, pull what is another question. Yogi rung for a taxi and it would be himself, Sean, Stephen, and Chris who would embark on this journey of discovery. The rest were at work, doing the jobs they had managed to get when we all lived in our former, interesting, house.

The cab turned up and my elite team raced in. The only problem was Chris. He had just got back from work, the golf caddy he is, and was so tired he fell asleep slap bang outside the house in the street. Sean, Stephen, and Yogi, now in the taxi, waited and waited some more. Chris just couldn't wake up. My Godlike presence prodded him and he woke up, only to fall into the taxi as he stumbled to his feet. We were away!

Upon reaching the mall the four characters seemed slightly perplexed. A mall? Sean and Stephen had no intention of actually going inside and instead resumed a conversation they had no doubt started in the taxi, about the finer details of sci-fi which then moved onto tennis. Yogi seemed interested enough to join in, as they chatted away in the middle of the road! Not the best place to hold a trekky session.

Chris was having none of it and split with them and entered the shopping zone. Still being very tired and moody from being prodded and manhandled into a taxi destined for some drab shopping centre Chris found a nice sofa and sat thinking of his bed. But then he spotted something amongst the cheap shirts and designer denim, a girl. It was old Avril Lavigne, likely looking for another tie to go with her punk schoolgirl look. Chris, the wannabe Romeo with a lifelong aspiration of getting some hip action, made his move and shuffled closer to the teen singer. He eventually gained enough confidence to ease in on her until he found himself staring into her blue eyes. He was about to spark a conversation but then, tragedy! He was so tired he couldn't even begin the flirt and backed away before he made a fool of himself. In the meantime a bearded old man called "Slayer" entered the store with an eye fixed on our man Chris.

Before long Slayer moved in on Chris and proceeded to prod and poke him whilst giving him a good yell and telling off about eying sweet innocent Avril. He was obviously looking out for the girl, or just a nosy old git. Chris was too tired to bother and just walked away in more of a mood. Yogi, likely bored of Sean and Stephen's conversation, had now entered the store and sat himself out on the sofa watching the Avril and Slayer antics. Slayer seemed aware of Yogi but didn't make a move.

Sean and Stephen then mingled into the mall with Yogi deciding he needed an emergency wash, stripping naked in the public toilets and doing his stuff with a sponge! He must have "needed" that scrub!?

It was all too much. The simple visit to a shopping mall ended in total tragedy and terror, with Chris getting on the wrong side of a man who had never heard of a razor, Yogi scaring small children with his nude washing action and Sean and Stephen ending up hogging a decrepit darts board. Even worse I couldn't get a taxi out of there! The firm seemed slow at best and I was forced to declare a state of emergency! Hours went by as they found themselves stranded. Sean even decided to buy a shirt in the panic and confusion, but then decided to risk it and nab the shirt from the shelf and leave without paying, the wrong move. One of the store clerks spotted it and challenged him but in the meantime the taxi had pulled up and Stephen, Chris, and Yogi had managed to crawl their ways into it. Sean made a dash for it and escaped, a thief but a thief that got away! The site of a big yellow cab was never so appealing to all concerned.

The day had been a nightmare realised, grumpy old men, public indecency, stealing, darts boards, and Avril Lavigne! Once the taxi reached the house the four guys were exhausted, in fact only Stephen was able to reach the door and get into a nice warm bed, the rest, well, a sad tale. And then I returned home from my hard day in the military only to spot this sorry spectacle. And then, to make matters even worse, Yogi's work car turned up, the driver furiously beeping the horn to get Yogi in. Where was Yogi? Well, he was still asleep, bundled on the road right next to the work car! Great impression, hmm.

Scary stuff but sadly quite close to reality! Will Sean get caught? Will Chris ever see Avril again? Do rhetorical questions annoy you? Stick around! Or sod off, either will do.

(Part Three)

Part three - trying to get some order

It has to be said that after my last entry into this log of events from the new people simulator, The Sims 2, I had a strong intention and drive to get some order in my camp. So far my band of merry men (and a girl) had managed to turn a dream home into a pit of unwashed plates, puddles of unknown liquid, and other domestic junk. They had managed to break the law, get on the wrong side of an old man, and even form a pretty tame road block.

As the Godlike presence in the house I needed to act and turn this pile of mess into an effective household. You see I had always planned on only getting involved with things I had to as a game demand, such as getting them to look for work and order food. The sims in this game don't need you to tell them what to do on a basic level. They will, well should, eat, wash, sleep, socialise, play, flirt, etc, for themselves without you constantly setting it on the action queue. This is what I personally really dig about the game.

But, this group of wasters really needed some help. They were slackers and seemed to want one of two things; sex ("woohoo") or a balls up party. That was fine by me, but they needed to do the more mundane first - well I say they do!

It was time to call in some help and these motley dogs needed some urgently. I called the repairman in order to fix that smoking microwave and hired a sweet little maid to get the cleaning done. Satisfied with this simple action my work was done for now, it was time to see how the new day would go.

Neil got back from work with a friend of his, Joe, a strange looking man who seemed to dislike Neil and all of us but refused to leave. This was the morning after the mall incident (part two) and Sean and Yogi had only just woken up from their roadside bed. Unfortunately Sean had to wet that bed just at the moment when Joe decided to leave - nice. Yogi was slower to get to his feet but this turned out far more fatal than a case of oversleeping. The journey to that evil shopping mall had been just too much for Yogi, and the poor lad died right their on the roadside.

It wasn't long until the household realised and raced out to generally cry and wail in despair (why I don't know). The Grim Reaper then showed up, and Neil decided to beg the Reaper to spare Yogi. Obviously in a good mood Death decided to play the "ball in the hand" game and Neil chose the correct hand! Yogi was spared and the Reaper brought his weak and feeble body back to life and there was much rejoicing.

In the meantime Chris was uninterested in all things supernatural and decided to make hot dogs! He even put them out around the multiple tables around the house. Why he done this at 3 in the morning was a mystery, particularly as everyone was tired and wanted bed, not Chris' large sausages packed tightly between two buns.

Like what all people do who have just recovered from a near death experience, Yogi went to the fridge and attempted to prepare a meal - obviously not a hot dog man. His gourmet expertise fell short at an early hurdle. He put his tray of food on the floor and then either forgot or just couldn't bring himself to pick it back up.

Stephen had been taken hostage by the evil outdoor wooden sofa. This cruel item of outdoor furniture had struck for a second time! But luckily Stephen wasn't forced to urinate over the decking (which still was wet from Chris' little mistake). I was forced to intervene and fight evil with good, moving that sofa a few feet up from the wall and releasing Stephen in the process. Who needs the SAS?

Stephen was the only one still unemployed and managed to land a job in the medical career track as some trainee something or other. This was about the only good news since moving into this pad.

The repairman eventually turned up and marched around the house looking for things to repair. I kind of assumed he would come into the kitchen and repair the microwave but instead he announced there was nothing wrong and left, slightly annoyed we had wasted his time which was understandable. It turned out that microwave was in perfect working order, there was just one ultra burnt piece of bread still smoldering away inside. Nasty.

The balloons from part two and the home warming that were so savagely popped by Stephen were suddenly cleared up, by myself, and put in the bin! Rejoice! It took enough time!

The tray was not enough for Yogi to use in order to cause havoc in the kitchen. He fell asleep whilst standing upright and actively managed to block the fridge and blender from use. Chris then returned from work with a girl he had managed to convince to drop down to the house with him. She seemed to be arguing with him before they'd even entered the front door. The maid arrived in almost the same moment and started the mammoth task of cleaning this place up. Soon she found the kitchen and Yogi to boot. I'm sure that Yogi would have sprung wide awake if he had know the view he "could" have had if he had turned around.

In fact he did suddenly wake up, only to go to bed. The maid followed him into the bedroom and made him get up so she could make the beds, poor Yogi. Sean was too busy dancing to his sad 80's Salsa music to care. Unfortunately for everyone else Sean was not satisfied with this bad Latin-American-inspired-elevator-music being played only on one stereo. He ran around the house switching on every stereo available to hear the sounds of the Samba. But at least Rachel seemed to enjoy it.

Speaking of Rachel she went to the kitchen and bumped into the girl Chris had brought home with him. They chatted away merrily for a lengthy time and seemed to get on. Chris didn't seem bothered about pursuing his flirt and settled down with the broadsheet.

Yogi eventually found a corner to sleep in. His work car came and went, he had missed it and this was to be the second time. Before long the guys down at the dodgy greasy spoon roadside cafe' were ringing home demanding to speak with Yogi. The dishes needed cleaning! Stephen answered the phone and failed abysmally at relaying the message and hardly done Yogi any favours. The man on the other end lost his patience and Yogi was fired. The first sacking of this sorry log! Crack open the party poppers... the slide heading down to utter failure and tragedy just got a little faster for this house.

Yogi was becoming the household slacker, not caring about anything except sleeping and sitting around. He just sat around in his vest eating leftovers. Eventually he found a nice spot on the carpet to fall down onto. The maid had to jump over him on her way out the door.

Something kinky could have happened here but didn't. And that last sentence probably sums up part three of this log of household antics. Not much happened except another fine example of how incapable, slack, and foolish the inhabitants seem to be. I guess I'm partly to blame though, with my bodge job construction, dodgy false claims of lottery success, and questionable fund raising. I suppose another day out is in order for all concerned. It's time we all went out and met more of the locals, and this time I will make sure my party of misfits are both energetic and full up before I ring for that taxi!

By now you must be hooked! So stick around for the fourth part in this tale of epic proportion

(Part 4)

Part four - twilight running's

With the benefit of hindsight one should, in theory, improve on their mistakes. I on the other hand marvel at ignoring common logic and repeating my errors. It's my rival, rebellious, philosophy. I knew that my household needed to go out and have a good time and found the perfect moment when everyone was home from work and in reasonably good moods. I also made sure they had some energy.

The taxi was summoned and the seven were whisked away to a promising community lot. From the description it was an ex-military base turned shopping centre/cafe'. Perfect. The ex-military element became hideously apparent upon arrival as the entire lot resembled a cold war barracks.

I made an early mistake here of losing track of the time. When we left it was daylight but I failed to actually check the time and in an annoying chance card the darkness of night struck right as the taxi left the house! This was going to be an interesting trip as the shopping complex would likely be abandoned and/or closed during this unearthly hour.

The first port of call for all was the public toilets. Rachel, being a girl, went to the ladies, and the rest (being something) went to the men's. This seemed to be the heart of social life in this closed encampment as my party decided to hang around here for longer than it took to take a pee.

All except Yogi in fact, who suddenly went walkies in the dark finding a barbecue and preparing... hot dogs! Stunning. He decided to enter the late night diner near by only to place his creations on the tables much to the amusement of the ghostly woman behind the counter. Was Yogi hoping for a new job? A mystery that may never be solved!

This rather spooky location turned out to be slightly crap and I was hardly impressed with the site after reading the overly inflated brochure. But then again we hardly came here during peak times, opting for the nightly abandonment rather than actually coming here during daylight hours, which would likely also have meant there being "other people" here to socialise with (which was the point of this little trip in the first place!)

Rachel and Neil managed to stumble across a strange section round the back. I was considering getting one of them to take a dip in that small pool of water but decided not to, it was likely contaminated with chemical clog and biological bile.

Sean could smell the hot dogs and left the men's room and found the diner that Yogi had decided to call his home. He sat near him as they ate the barbecued meat, the lady at the counter too busy staring blankly at an old till to even challenge these midnight maniacs.

Rachel and Chris started talking about ladybugs, which is never a good sign, and Sean and Yogi decided to return to the public toilets where they had left Neil and Stephen happily chatting about all things manly. I wondered where I had got to and then realised I too was in the men's room, hanging dangerously near a urinal and looking around cautiously - what grim memories were coming back to mind to haunt me so? Quite frankly, I didn't want to know.

Mr Fod suddenly turned up, mysteriously walking around the lot in the middle of the night only to vanish back into the darkness.

Sean could see where this was going and made a move to the telephone booth up the street in order to call the taxi and get us out of this random off-road drop-in toilet area. The taxi came and the "trip" was over, kind of before it had actually begun.

In another sad case of God f*cking with us the daylight of morning started to kick in just as our taxi drove away. I even spotted a few girls turn up to go shopping in the now "open" shops. I think Buffy Summers may have been one of them too! What a mess, a total waste of time, money, and taxi services. I didn't know who to blame, ignoring the fact I knew it was me.

It would be fruitless to turn back now. Everyone was exhausted from standing around a public toilet all night and had no chance of handling any more for now. A disaster in the timing for if they had arrived merely hours later they would have bumped into a whole group of girl's pluck for the flirt!

The journey home was swift and as my party of heavily unsatisfied soon-to-be enemy friends clambered out of the wagon many of them fell down onto the roadside. The image was reminiscent of our former trip to an equally tragic shopping mall down the other end of town but at least that trip was in the daylight.

One of the unfortunate casualties of this particular trip was, once again, Yogi, who had fallen almost exactly where he had collapsed the day before. Rachel seemed deeply concerned. Sean and Neil had managed to reach the house at least and even got themselves to bed. But yet again these two suspicious friends decided to sleep together as opposed to settling down on single beds - once was enough, twice is becoming a little blatant, wouldn't you say?

No comments: