Review by xenodolf

"Sony's second juggernaut."

After dominating the 5th generation of console gaming, Sony released its next machine to show the world that they weren't a one-trick pony. With Microsoft emerging into the war, Nintendo supported by a devoted cult of fans, and Sega (briefly) holding its own - the battle of the game-playing devices was especially interesting. Most people (myself included) consider the PS2 to be the champion of last generation's battle, and with my review you can compare my opinion to that of your own. As usual for consoles - the good and bad things about the machine will be split into "Pro" and "Con" columns for simplified reading.

Pros:

- Hardware

+ Having a built-in DVD player sounds so common-place now, but around the year 2000 - with the high-selling new technology and blockbuster movies like The Matrix being released, the PS2 found itself being hoisted as a the perfect combination of movie-player and gaming machine. DVDs also had superior processing ability and storage space to that of CDs (poor Dreamcast), meaning less instances of multiple disc games (cutting down on costs and hassle). One great thing about the PS2 right out of the box was that it could play 98% of the original Playstation games, and you could consolidate all your PS1 memory blocks onto a PS2 storage card instead of juggling a half-dozen of those old grey units of inactive game saves. The controller is largely the same as the previous machine's - only now analog support and rumble features are default and it feels thicker (which means more comfort to those of us with large, manly hands).

- Software

+ The PS1 had a massive gaming library, and supporting that tremendous array of titles was once again achieved by Sony on the PS2. There literally isn't a single genre, sub-genre, or fashion of game... no matter how niche or unpopular, that doesn't show up in some capacity on the Playstation 2. The beat 'em up genre, which was in a kind of awkward transition between traditional 2d titles and the newfangled 3d/360 degree variety - flourishes here with the expansive Dynasty Warriors series and well over a hundred additional efforts by companies large and small. We have heavy hitters here like The Warriors, The Onimusha quadrilogy, God of War, Urban Reign, the Devil May Cry trilogy, and a bunch of retro-compilations featuring wonderful titles from the previous generations. Outside of the arcade scene, brawler fans couldn't find a better place for their respective games. Other genres, like survival-horror, are also well represented with amazing titles like Silent Hill 2, 3, and The Room as well as the newer Forbidden Siren series, the Fatal Frame trilogy and my favorite Resident Evil games (Outbreak and Outbreak File #2, the last REAL Resident Evil games to date). For the more action-prone horror fan, a decent port of Resident Evil 4 and games like Run like Hell, and The Suffering 1 & 2 would service your need for thrills and chills. The stealth genre welcomes the return of Metal Gear Solid, with two more highly-theatric installments as well as new franchises such as Splinter Cell, Manhunt and Forbidden Siren. While the RPG genre on the PS2 isn't impressive as it was the previous generation, there are still a number of great titles such as the Xenosaga trilogy, Front Mission 4, some of the Atlus J-RPGs, and a touched-up port of Deus Ex: The Conspiracy (still my favorite game of all time as of writing). I was losing interest in the versus-fighter genre at this point in my life, but if you're into them there's several Tekken, Mortal Kombat, Guilty Gear, Dead or Alive, Soul Calibur, and Virtua Fighter installments alongside a few dozen under-the-radar titles. Although the PS1's first-person shooter library tends to be dismissed in comparison to the Nintendo 64's double-whammy of Goldeneye and Perfect Dark, the PS2 made more of an impact as far as giving weight to the modern FPS genre. While none of their titles had the sleek online capabilities or name-recognition of the Xbox's Halo games, the PS2 had a number of high-caliber FPS games like Red Faction 1 & 2, TimeSplitters 1 & 2 and Future Perfect, Killzone, enhanced versions of Half-Life and Deus Ex: The Conspiracy, Black, Urban Chaos: Riot Response, and I'll throw in XIII for good measure. The third-person variant of gunning games had a solid presence here as well, with games like Max Payne I & II, Psi-Ops, the evolved Grand Theft Auto series, and SOCOM I & II (one of the few instances of real PS2 online gaming). The shoot 'em up genre got a bit of a revival with top-notch titles like R-Type: Final, Gradius V, Contra: Shattered Soldier, The Red Star, and a bunch of compilation packs. Mech fans would be stupid to pass up on the PS2's catalogue with the various Armored Core games, both of the Zone of Enders, Front Mission 4 (and 5 if you live in Japan), S.L.A.I., and Robot Alchemic Drive. I won't dwell on the sports, puzzle, or racing genres since I don't normally play them - but from what I can tell they each have a number of top-notch representatives. The PS2 also functioned as the "indie" console of its generation - featuring all sorts of artsy and oddball games like Ico, Chulip, Ribbit King, Katamari Damacy, Mister Mosquito, Rez, Under the Skin, Shadow of the Colossus, Stretch Panic, Lifeline, Okami, Killer 7, Disaster Report and Raw Danger.

Cons:

- Hardware

- Aside from the Dreamcast (which bowed out too early for me to accurately gauge its maximum graphical ability), the PS2 was the weakest member of the 5th generation console family in terms of visuals. This is most noticeable in games like Resident Evil 4, which has less vibrant and focused colors than the Gamecube version it was ported from - or from gorgeous titles like Deux Ex: Invisible War on the Xbox which look spectacular that a number of PS2 games simply comes as "last-gen" in comparison. That's not to say the PS2 was without its instances of glory - as a number of titles like Metal Gear Solid 3 or any of the numbered Silent Hill games remain visually superior to more than a few titles from the 360, PS3, and Wii library. The online system in place for the PS2 is actually one of my biggest complaints - as it required more hassle than the Dreamcast did to set up and didn't offer the kind of perks and service that the Xbox did. It also damaged the reputation of one of my favorite games (Resident Evil Outbreak, and its second installment) - of which I'm sure sold significantly worse than it could have because won't people didn't mess with the PS2's online ability and thus passed over a game that seemed marketed to a inaccessible venue. Had the Outbreak games been released on the Xbox instead, I'm sure I would have File #3 sitting in my collection in some way or another. Lastly, the PS2 had a disc reading issue that cropped up on certain models over time, as well as a cooling fan that had a tendency to get too loud on occasion for some of the PS2 designs.

- Software

- There isn't a whole lot in terms of Sony's gaming library I found unfavorable, as even with a number of bad games in it - you could count on twice as many good of great ones from the sheer volume of titles. As I mentioned before, the RPG genre didn't have as many classics in it as the previous generation - although the blame lies not with Sony but to the stagnant Japanese creativity pool, which hasn't put out much worth mentioning in the RPG department going on a decade now. The only other thing I came to be annoyed with on occasion is that the Xbox sometimes got enhanced version of PS2 games, even though those packages sold less on the Xbox (Run Like Hell, Onimusha: Warlords, Silent Hill 2: Restless Dreams.. although that was eventually re-released as a Greatest Hits feature with all the goodies intact). The PS2 also lacked the concept of "DLC", the impact of which didn't hit me until I started playing my Xbox 360 and saw the value of expanded campaigns, new maps, and various other fresh content.

Overall - 9/10

The Playstation 2 managed to not only meet the expectations of its highly-lauded predecessor, but surpass the former on almost all fronts. It remains in the upper-most ranks of consoles in my opinion, and you really couldn't consider yourself a gamer last generation if you didn't have any kind of experience with Sony's machine and its torrent of gaming achievements. I hope that the Playstation 3 eventually captures the steam that the PS1 and PS2 had, or that their next machine is the result of whatever creative and business-savvy mix that led to this console and the one before it.


Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 08/16/10, Updated 09/01/10

Game Release: PlayStation 2 Hardware (US, 10/26/00)


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