Review by gloBal enemy

"The Playstation's reincarnation is now at a store near you!"

NOTE : This review is based on the Australia SONY-Playstation2 SCPH-30002. This model is from the first released Sony Playstation2s in New South Wales, Australia. Certain details may differ to the Playstation2 in your area depending on where you live, and what time the Playstation2 model is upto.

Introduction
The Playstation released in 1995 was a huge success by Sony and has had many memorable moments for Sony's first attempt at making a home console for entertainment. Whilst many bought this console because it had cheap pirated games available, many others bought it for its true abilities.

Sony then went on to release an upgrade to the Playstation's controller to make it have two analogue sticks for more precise control over games. This was also a huge success and it allowed for gamers to play racing games with full control over turning and acceleration.

-The Specs-

CPU : 128-bit Emotion Engine
The 128-bit Emotion Engine is the driving force behind this full-scale machine. Whilst nothing when compared to the likes of Microsoft's upcoming ''dream PC in a box'' or very puny compared to Nintendo's dress-up cube, the CPU's power is sufficient for the most complex of games.

The Emotion Engine, you guessed it, is focused on creating advanced emotions on faces and making characters more lifelike. With inbuilt modes to make movement, facial expressions and speech just more realistic, the Sony Playstation2 is a very advanced piece of techno stuff.

Being 128-bit, this is the next generation gaming. More advanced than the old Playstation's 32-bit gameplay, this allows for limit-less possibilities.

Speed : 300MHz
The clock speed is the same as the processor speed on your computer. Whilst many will think that 300MHz is very slow for something when Microsoft's console can handle 600. This is where the dependence of the CPU comes in with the help of the graphics abilities.

In case you didn't know, the more memory on your video card you have, the more stress you release from the CPU and your system RAM, thus allowing for faster gameplay. That is the same as with the Playstation2. The Playstation2's processor speed may not be extremely fast but the other hardware inside makes up for that using advanced graphics processors.

The original Playstation had a 33.86MHz Speed.

System RAM : 32MB
This is extremely small compared to what most people would think is needed. But in case many have forgotten, the lonely Playstation 1 lived on a 2MB supply of RAM (+ 1MB for Video RAM and 512kb Sound RAM), and look at what games it has produced such as Wip3out.

The memory is what the Playstation2 uses to store temporary data such as where you are on the map, where you car is in driving game, what the score is in a sports title and so on. So simply put, there is a limit of how many things it can remember but even though many computers have 64mb RAM, the Playstation2 does not have to run background tasks such as Virus-Scanners and an OS (Windows) thus freeing up speed.

GRAPHICS : Graphics Synthesizer
Just the name of the thing which creates the graphics from what is on the CD/DVD into stuff which you can see on your television screen.

Clock Frequency : 150mhz
This is the speed of the Graphics processor. Like I said before, this assists the CPU by taking stress of the CPU's processor.

Maximum Polygon Rate: 75 Million Polygons/Second
The amount of polygons that can be displayed on screen at any one time. All graphics are made up of polygons. Polygons can be described as 3d-shapes. Things such as heads, arms, legs, and so on, are all individual polygons. If there are more polygons, then the object will be more detailed, as seen in the new Gran-Turismo 3 A-Spec. If there can be 75 million, then there could be a very detailed human body, or an extremely detailed car. The original Playstation was only capable of around 360,000 polygons.

Sound: SPU2+CPU
The way that the sound works is that its got a new processor but it also depends on the CPU.

Number of simultaneous voices: ADPCM: 48 channel on SPU2
The number of different audio streams at any one time. 48 different layers of audio can be combined together at one time. Think of it as a VHS tape where there is one layer of video, and one layer of audio, and then think of DVD where there are multiple layers of everything such as different angles and subtitles. These operate on the basis that each layer is played on top of another so thus, making it seem as one stream. The Playstation2 is capable of doing 48 different audio layers on top of each other.

The CD/DVD Drive : CD:24X DVD:4X
The CD/DVD drive is capable of reading data stored on both CDs (650mb/700mb) and DVDs (3.2gb/6.4gb).

It can read CDs at a maximum speed of 24X. Faster is not always going to help the console much. The faster the reading is, the lesser the load times are but the load times are usually because there is a lot of data and this cannot be avoided easily without clever programming techniques.

The DVD drive can of course be used to play DVD movies and can read any DVD at speeds of up to 4X. This does NOT mean you can insert any kind of DVD disc, just DVD games designed for the Playstation2 and DVD movies.

OUTPUT
The Playstation2 outputs signals through the usage of the Combined-MultiAV cable (supplied). This is the common format having 3 different plugs (Red, White and Yellow).

There are of course other methods of output such as using an RF-Adaptor (for older Televisions), S-Video and Individual Component Cables. The S-Video greatly improves video clarity and quality over the standard AV cables and this shows when watching the latest DVDs, making the Playstation2 an excellent DVD-player assuming that the television can support S-Video or Components.

As for audio output, the options are to use the included Combined-MultiAV cable’s stereo support (Left channel, Right Channel), but for older televisions, an RF-Adaptor (Single Mono Channel Audio) might be needed. Those with surround sound audio systems, can take advantage of the Playstation2’s advanced Digital Out (Optical). This will allow for output for Dolby Surround Sound 5.1 and Digital Theatre Surround (DTS) from selected DVD movies, videos and Playstation/Playstation2 titles.

-The System-
The system's got its own special Operating system which is quite unique and workable. Whilst certain aspects of it are dislikable, the majority of it remains usable and pleasant.

The Memory Card Manager
The Playstation2 has a really interesting (and somewhat easy to use) Memory Card manager. By first going into ''BROWSER'' (the name given to the system browser), you can view what accessories you have plugged into your Sony Playstation2. By selecting a memory card, you get a fast-loading (almost instant) memory card screen, with 3d animated Save Graphics (PS2 only..) or 3d Blocks with Save Graphics (PSone games). The copy and delete options are extremely quick and hassle-free unlike its Playstation counterpart. From the Memory Card browser, you can also view how large everything is as well as how much memory you have left on your Playstation (or Playstation2) memory cards.

I suppose this is how they plan on managing the upcoming hard-drive support.

The CD Player
The CD Player is in an interesting format where the design is very weird. The CD Player carries on the design of the floating (and multi-colored) cubes to select tracks. The controller has the same configuration as the original Playstation’s CD Player. However, the method of operating the CD player has somewhat become poor and the troublesome methods of setting a playlist or setting the CD Player to play only one track have become extremely cumbersome. It should also be noted, in case there are a few hoping for this, the visualizations have being removed.. Imagine what the Sony Playstation2 could have being capable of showing, but no, Sony opted to remove the 3d Visualizations.

The DVD Player
The DVD Player uses the Playstation2 controller to control all the features and uses of the DVD Player function. Based on what I’ve seen, the Playstation2 DVD Player is in no way inferior to a standard DVD Player, but superior in many ways such as Digital Optical Output for Surround Sound audio, and Component and S-Video outputs for high-quality crisp video graphics.

As far as controller options are concerned, whilst it would have being nice to have some kind of remote bundled, you can still pick one up for as low as $29.95 Australian for a decent remote. All the options of a standard DVD player are there so you can still access menus, chapters, different audio layers, and subtitles.

We also mustn’t forget that there will of course be Playstation2-specific DVD movies with special Playstation2 components. Just like we’ve seen PC-DVD components, there will of course be Playstation2 similarities. Such an example could include when the Final Fantasy movie (Final Fantasy : The Spirits Within) is released.

The Options
There are so many customizable options which you shouldn't touch. There is the clock and date.. As well as that, I just remembered is the option to press SQUARE and watch the cubes in the background float by. Very interesting effect here. The other options include how to output audio (Normal Output/Digital Optical Out) and the video output configuration (Normal Output or Components).

There are also options to change disc speed and graphics rendering when using Playstation games. These improve loading times and texture smoothing respectively. Whilst many will probably not even notice the effects, and it may even slow down and cause errors in other titles (notably GTA2’s loading is fast but the graphics have become distorted) but some have even lost full compatibility! As a note, do not try this with Squaresoft RPGs as chances are it will not work as Squaresoft have carefully calculated loading times of their CD games and this has potential to change loading times.

-The Controller-
The controller is a revamped version of the Dual Shock already available on the Playstation One. The revamped model includes fully analogue buttons in every part except SELECT and START. This means that the game can tell how hard you are pressing a button during a game.

This feature is used in Ridge Racer V, to judge how fast to accelerate and how hard to break, as well as in Fifa 2001 to judge how strong to kick the ball.

-The Games-
There are many good games already out on the Playstation2 at time of writing this review, as well as many good games about to be released (Red Fraction; Australia; in one day).

There are many good and promising titles already out such as :

SSX
Tekken Tag Tournament
Fifa 2001
Crazy Taxi
Ridge Racer V
Formula One 2001
Star Wars Starfighter
Dead or Alive 2 : Hardcore
Moto GP
Z.O.E. (Zone of Enders)
Quake III Revolution
Timesplitters

.. there are of course many more titles already out worth consideration. As for a long lasting console, there are many more great titles coming out which have high standards to live up to the hype, such as Gran Turismo 3 A-Spec, Metal Gear Solid 2, Final Fantasy X and Grand Theft Auto 3.

Also note, that in the European releases, a Demo Disc features “Yabasic” (the Playstation2 version of QuickBasic), a programming tool to create simple programs savable to the memory card. An excellent inclusion and great for the basic programmer but a USB keyboard is needed to utilize this or you will find yourself with very sore fingers on the Dual Shock2 controller. Also note, the use of a Sharkport (Interact) is available to trade Yabasic programs made with Yabasic.

-Backwards Compatibility-
Yes, this console does play all those great Playstation games. So, there is no need for them to get all dusty. Just like I said before, the Playstation2 can improve the old games but sometimes things can go wrong.

As for other accessories, the old memory card is not usable except with the old Playstation games. To prevent any muck-ups or errors, Sony has opted to make it compulsory to use the original Playstation memory cards to save when using Playstation games. And to also limit Playstation2 saves to Playstation2 8mb Memory Cards.

-Expansions-
The Playstation2 already has numerous options for expansion and usage through the I-Link port, for advanced high-speed multiplayer games, as seen in Unreal Tournament and Gran Turismo 3 A-Spec, the two USB ports for connecting new devices such as computer mice, video cameras, keyboards and gaming peripherals (steering wheels) as seen in Unreal Tournament and the included Yabasic demo.

There is also the expansion bay at the rear designed for usage with the upcoming Modems and 40GB hard drives.

OVERALL SCORES
Unlike my other reviews, or many other people’s reviews, I will judge scoring on different categories besides the usual Gameplay, Graphics, Audio and Lasting Appeal to more suitable categories for reviewing a console.

The Console
Features : 10
Specs : 9
Ease-of-Use : 9
Options for OUTPUT : 10
Controller : 10
The Console’s Extras
CD Player
Design (incl. Menus) : 10
Options : 8
Ease-of-Use : 8
Audio Quality/Clarity : 10
DVD Player
Design (incl. Menus) : 10
Options : 9
Ease-of-Use : 8
Audio Quality/Clarity : 10
Video Quality/Clarity : 10
Backwards Compatibility
Ease-of-Use : 10
Quality : 10
Games
Availability : 10
Pricing : 9
Excellence and Quality : 10

Value for Money : 8

Overall Score (not an average) : 10

Author’s Comment
This console is excellent and I strongly urge you to buy it (if you have the cash). But at $750, maybe you should wait until the two other next-generation consoles are released to hopefully push the price down to the $500 mark. If you are however looking for a DVD player and have an urge to play new games because your computer is in it’s last surviving days, then the Playstation2 is the way to go.

As for future use, remember, it supports the latest in outputs (component and optical audio) so have no fear, that when you upgrade your Home Entertainment system you spent thousands on, the Playstation2 will be compatible.

But all in all, I strongly recommend this console.


Reviewer's Score: 10/10 | Originally Posted: 06/22/01, Updated 06/22/01


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