THE SIMS for PlayStation 2 ($80). Rating: NNNN Rating: NNNN
As those free-loving, race-car-driving Raelians would attest, there's nothing quite like playing God. How else to explain the overwhelming popularity of the Sims franchise? The Sims is the most popular PC game of all time, a genuine little world where you control the daily life of a virtual person. And the virtual world that's sprung up around the game itself is even more impressive, with add-ons, discussion groups and a new online arena that lets you plug your being into a global community.
That The Sims for years lived exclusively on computers rather than conventional video game platforms like the PS2 or XBox made perfect sense. Unlike most video games, from basketball sims to ridiculously detailed war games, the Sims had no real plot or goal.
You created a being, helped it go about its daily duties and then stood back and let life go on. There was no gold medal at the end of the day, no looming enemy to defeat and no chance of cashing in at the close of the game, because the game essentially never ended. Life went on until you checked out.
Transferring this to something like the PS2, a machine people turn on for specific purposes -- winning a game, killing the Mob boss -- would necessitate some changes but, in the case of this latest incarnation of the Sims, they've worked.
The familiar, open-ended version of the Sims remains, but for those who can't spend their whole lives controlling someone else's, specific goals are also available. Learn how to cook or lead a successful life and further levels will open for you. Live life like a failure and the game will be a drag.
Most interesting is the option that allows players to go head to head. The player who creates the most popular character wins -- another example of video games imitating real life. firstname.lastname@example.org
GRAPHICS: Much better than the PC version.
ADDICTIVENESS: Life is long, and God doesn't take vacations, so settle in.
ANTI-SOCIAL FACTOR: Sure, there's a two-person option, but this is all about sitting in your room, avoiding human contact.
PROXIMITY TO THE REAL THING: As close to real life as you can get without opening your front door.