The Sims 2 Review: Base Game Features & Game Play

The Sims 2 Review

The Sims 2 was released on September 14, 2004 to critical acclaim. It improved on the original game with some incredible new additions, including a fully 3-D world, life stages, genetics, aspirations, wants, fears, improved customization, and so much more. 

The game was revolutionary for its time, and changed The Sims forever. It remains one of the best-selling PC games of all time (for good reason). 

New Gameplay

The Sims 2 featured brand new gameplay options not seen in the original, including:

  • Expanded Create-A-Sim
  • Genetics
  • Aging and life stages
  • Aspirations
  • Wants and fears
  • Memories
  • Aspiration Rewards
  • Career Rewards
  • Alien Abduction Pregnancies
  • Death and Disease
  • Fitness Levels
  • Neighborhood customization

The game is open-ended, with no real way to play “correctly” or to “win.”  Instead, The Sims 2 is a sandbox, allowing the player free reign to focus on any aspect of a Sim’s life, family, and home that they choose. 

Players can choose to play a single Sim or family, or play multiple families in a neighborhood – sometimes known as playing rotationally. Let’s look at some of the tools that make this gameplay possible. 

Create-A-Sim (CAS)

The ability to create your own Sims is greatly expanded in The Sims 2. A Sim’s appearance is much more complex, with subtle facial features, hair colors and styles, eye and skin color, and more. You could craft a Sim to your precise specifications.

Sims 2 CAS Customization
The Sims 2 Create-A-Sim (CAS)

Choose a name, facial features, hair style and color, eye color, makeup, facial hair, glasses, eyebrows, clothing for multiple categories (formal, athletic, sleep, etc.), and a personality for your Sims.

Adjust facial features with sliders, giving you incredible control over the appearance of your Sims. No more choosing a pre-made head and body. Now, you have control over individual clothing, hair, and features. 


Not only can you create Sims, you can also create families with offspring generated from the genetic parts of two parents.

Sims 2 CAS Genetics
Create a genetic family in Create-A-Sim.

Sims born in-game also receive a combination of genetics from both parents. Hair color, eye color, skin color, facial features, and even personality are inherited from a Sim’s parents. 

Genetics are incredibly complex in The Sims 2, and no game in the franchise has ever done it better. Dominant and recessive genes determine which features express in a child, and you can see the family genes passed down through the generations.

Aging & Life Stages

In The Sims 2, Sims don’t live forever. Now, they have a life span that eventually ends in death from old age. (Of course, Sims can die in other ways too.)

Sims 2 Death and Aging
Sims get a visit from the Grim Reaper at the end of their lives.

This is important because unlike in the original game, Sims now have a limited amount of time to reach their goals in life. Balancing a career and family becomes a greater challenge, and Sims can choose what to devote their lives to.

There are six life stages and each one lasts a specified number of days (unless the player uses cheats or mods to turn aging off, or uses an aspiration reward to live longer). 

  • Baby – 3 days
  • Toddler – 4 days
  • Child – 8 days
  • Teen – 15 days
  • Adult – 29 days
  • Elder – 9 to 31 days

The elder life stage is the only one that varies. Aspirational success or failure can result in elders living longer or shorter lives. Elders pass away at 6:00 PM on the day their age bar reaches the end. 

Sims transition from one age to the next on their “birthday” or transition day. They can blow out candles at a birthday cake, do the Grow Up self-interaction, or wait until 6:00 PM on the transition day when it happens automatically. 

Sims 2 Age Transition Toddler
An older Sim must bring a toddler to the birthday cake to blow out the candles.

Each life stage has its own interactions. Teens, for example can runaway from home or sneak out at night. Toddlers learn potty training, and how to walk and talk from their parents, children must do well in school or get taken by the social worker. 

Pregnancy is now possible as well. Sims can “try for baby” with a Sim of the opposite sex. If they’re successful, a new life is created. After three days of pregnancy, female Sims give birth to a baby that inherits the genetics of both parents. 


Aspirations are a Sim’s life goals. Toddlers and children have the “Grow Up” aspiration. Once they become teens, the player must choose an Aspiration that stays with the Sim until they die.

Sims 2 Aspirations CAS
The “Pleasure” aspiration was added in a later expansion.

The base game includes five different aspirations (plus the Grow Up aspiration):

  • Family – These Sims dedicate their lives to the expansion of their families.
  • Fortune – These Sims spend their lives earning money and acquiring more stuff. 
  • Knowledge – These Sims want experiences that involve learning new skills.
  • Romance – These Sims are all about romantic conquests and avoid commitment. 
  • Popularity – These Sims want lots of friends, notoriety, and to be liked.

This is just a basic overview of the aspirations. Each one is complex with its own preferred careers, skill affinities, wants, and fears. Aspirations give Sims a much deeper personality and sense of purpose in their lives than ever before. 

Wants and Fears

Aspiration also drives a Sim’s wants and fears. This in turn guides the choices a player must make for their lives. 

Sims 2 Wants and Fears Family Sim
Family Sims often want to get married and have children.

A family Sim, for example, might have wants to get married and have children. And they may fear being rejected for an engagement or falling out of love. If a want is completed, a Sim’s aspiration score rises. If a fear is realized, however, the score is lowered. 

Forcing a Sim to act contrary to their aspiration leads to the realization of fears and eventual Aspiration failure. You can force a Romance Sim to get married, for example, but this may realize one of their biggest fears and drive them over the edge.

Wants, fears, and aspirations are all tied together to drive a Sim’s behavior and priorities in life. They feel deeper and more real than ever. I would argue this combination of features is the best personality system out of all the Sims games – past and present.


In The Sims 2, Sims get memories for major events in their lives – such as having a first kiss, getting engaged, getting married, having children, moving to a new house, and many more. 

Sims 2 Memories Cassandra Goth
Memories are a great way to see what’s happened in a Sim’s life.

Memories are more than just a record of what happens to your Sims in their lives. They can also be witnessed and passed on to other Sims, who can discuss them in conversation. Sims love to Gossip – and not always about positive things. 

Sims can have both positive and negative memories, and they all have a strength. The more significant the memory, the greater the strength, and the more likely it will be discussed as a conversation topic. 

Aspiration Rewards

Every achieved want and fear contributes its score to a Sim’s reward points. Wants add to the score and fears deduct from it. 

Sims can redeem their aspiration reward points for reward objects. These objects are designed to help Sims in both direct and indirect ways (if used when aspiration is high).

Sims 2 Money Tree Aspiration Reward
The money tree is the least expensive aspiration reward, costing only 3,000 points.

Here is a  list of aspiration rewards found in the base game and what they do for a Sim when used successfully. 

  • Money Tree – Provides as much money as a low-paying job ($40/harvest). 
  • Pasteur’s HomoGenius Smart Milk – Increases skill-building rate for toddlers.
  • Cool Shades – Amplifies social interactions, whether positive or negative. 
  • Noodlesoother – Boosts a Sim’s overall mood by 50 points (increases need decay).
  • The Eclectic and Enigmantic Energizer – Randomly adds 750 points to all needs.
  • Thinking Cap – Doubles the skill-building rate and speeds up toddler training.
  • Sim Vac – Drains a Sim’s aspiration or skill points and transfers them to the user. 
  • Love Tub – Lowers romance acceptance requirements between Sims in the tub. 
  • Elixir of Life – Adds three days to the Sim’s life. 

All rewards have a chance to fail and results can be disastrous, usually having the opposite effect as intended. Success is only guaranteed if the Sim using the object is at Platinum or Gold aspiration status. 

Career Rewards

Every career track has a career reward object given to a Sim when they reach a certain level (somewhere between 4 and 6, depending on the career). Once the Sim is promoted to the designated level, the career reward is available in the Reward Panel.

Sims 2 Career Reward Example
The Exerto Selfflog Obstacle Course is unlocked at level 4 of the military career.

The career rewards are special accelerated skill objects, each with their own interactions. Here is a list of the career rewards from the base game:

  • Execuputter (Business)
  • Prints Charming Fingerprinting Scanner (Law Enforcement)
  • SensoTwitch Lie Finder (Criminal)
  • TraumaTime “Incision Precision” Surgical Training Station (Medical)
  • Exerto Selfflog Obstacle Course (Military)
  • Enterprise Office Concepts Bushmaster Tele-Prompter (Politics)
  • Exterto Punching Bag (Athletic)
  • Simsanto Inc. Biotech Station (Science)
  • AquaGreen Hydroponic Garden (Slacker)
  • Schokolade 890 Chocolate Manufacturing Facility (Culinary)

These rewards are useful for training other less-skilled Sims in the object’s specialty skill. Sims learning on these objects gain skill progress at a much faster rate. 

Alien Abduction Pregnancies

Alien abduction in The Sims 2 can result in pregnancy, making half-aliens playable for the first time. Sims could be abducted in The Sims, but alien abduction babies were not possible. 

Sims 2 Alien Abduction Baby Curious
In The Sims 2, male Sims can be abducted by aliens and return pregnant.

Now, if a male Sim is “lucky” enough to get abducted, he has a chance of returning with an alien baby growing inside him. Female Sims may also be abducted, but they cannot return pregnant. 

Male pregnancies work just like female pregnancies, and after three days, a little bundle of joy is born. The baby will have green skin and may even have alien eyes, depending on the genes he inherits. 

Death and Disease

Teen, adult, and elder Sims can become sick from disease. Here’s a list of the illnesses that can infect your Sims:

  • Cold – if untreated, turns into pneumonia 
  • Flu – highly contagious, potentially fatal
  • Pneumonia – potentially fatal
  • Food Poisoning – 5% chance when Sims eat spoiled food
  • Morning Sickness – occurs in day 1 of pregnancy
  • Virus – caused by mishandling of virus created by the Biotech station

Some of these illnesses can kill Sims, and some are more contagious than others. If any potentially fatal disease persists for 10 days due to a Sim not getting sufficient rest, the Sim will die. 

Fitness Levels

All child, teen, adult and elders have one of three fitness levels: fit, neutral, or fat. For the first time, a Sim’s body shape changes depending on fitness level.

Sims 2 Fitness Levels
Check your Sim’s fitness level in the Simology Panel.

Newly created Sims are always neutral unless they’re specified as fat in CAS. Fit Sims cannot be created. Fitness can only be earned in-game through working out. 

Sims become more or less fit depending on their actions. For example, overeating frequently leads to becoming fat. Working out and using exercise equipment frequently causes Sims to lose weight and/or become fit. 

Neighborhood Customization

One of my favorite new features in The Sims 2 is the ability for players to customize existing neighborhoods and even create their own from scratch. 

Sims 2 Neighborhood Creation
It’s easy to create your own custom neighborhoods in The Sims 2.

If players own a copy of Sim City 4, they can even create their own terrain maps for the game. But there are also numerous maps available in the game already that are ready to build on.

Decorations and lots of all sizes can be added to a neighborhood, and players can build anything they like on those lots. This makes for a fully customizable neighborhood, and you can create as many of them as you want. 

Features from The Sims

In addition to the new features listed above, many features from The Sims were carried over to the sequel and expanded on, including:

  • Personality Traits
  • Needs and Motives
  • Gaining Skills
  • Careers 
  • Zodiac Signs
  • Interests
  • Townies & NPCs
  • Burglars
  • Fires
  • Food & Cooking

This is just a small overview of all the features included in The Sims 2 base game, and the list is not exhaustive. There are so many new gameplay options and improvements, it’s hard to cover them all in a single post.

My Thoughts on The Sims 2 Base Game

The Sims 2 is an incredible life simulation game that remains a fan favorite to this day, and it’s easy to see why. 

The Sims themselves feel deeper and more real than ever. They have intricate personalities with wants and dreams of their own, and even their own fears to help guide the player in giving them the best possible life. 

Sims 2 Deep Meaningful Gameplay
Deep, meaningful gameplay makes Sims 2 a joy to experience.

The autonomy and intelligence of the Sims is top-notch. Every Sim feels unique with their own memories and experiences. You can play an entire neighborhood and never feel you’re playing the same Sim twice. 

The developers took an incredible game – The Sims – improved on it and made something even better. And they still managed to preserve the magic of the original game. The attention to detail and incredibly satisfying, in-depth gameplay has never again been rivaled in a life simulation game. 

I’ve heard people say that playing The Sims 2 is only fun because of nostalgia, but I disagree. This was a great game in 2004 and it remains a great game now. It has stood the test of time, and in my opinion, will always be a masterpiece. 

6 thoughts on “The Sims 2 Review: Base Game Features & Game Play”

  1. I was born in 2006, but I love the sims 2! However, sims 4 is my favorite, due to the insane stress of playing the sims 2. Still a great game!

  2. Hello, how you get your game soo smoothie? I absolutely wanna my sims like that. My graphics cards are: Nvidia Geforce MX130 2GB VRAM and 1.60 GHz. I don’t know what to do. It’s maybe something that I did but I don’t know really.
    Maybe you can help me. I am so sorry to be inconvinient and forget how to write your language since I am portuguese. Good week.


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