Review by Xenon

"Now that we're two years into the console wars, how does the PS2 stack up?"

Back in October of 2000, Sony made a minor contribution to the gaming world by quietly releasing an obscure little console by the name of the Playstation 2...

Oh, wait, no, that's not how it went.

In October of 2000, Sony finally released their much anticipated and demanded Playstation sequel, the Playstation 2. Getting one within a month of the release date was sheer madness. Online, some PS2 owners were auction off their $300 systems for two or three times that much. The Playstation 2 was in such high demand that it wasn't until February of 2001 when you could walk into a store and buy one without arriving within minutes of the shipment.

But all that is in the past. That was before the Playstation 2 had real competition in the form of the GameCube and XBOX. So now that we're well into the next console war, just how has the Playstation 2 stood up to its competitors?

The answer, I'm afraid, is not too well. Unfortunately, the PS2 falls behind both its competitors in hardware, and while software is truly what makes the system, its dismal hardware performance will cost it in the end.

System & Controller Design

Regardless of anything else, the PS2 looks cool. It also has the nifty benefit of being able to sit horizontally OR vertically. This is especially good for gamers who own a lot of systems and already have a full shelf.

The controller design is what really matters here, though. A good controller can make life easy, OR it can make it a pain. The PS2 pulls through here though. The Dualshock2 is a very balanced and useful controller. While it isn't great at helping the control of any particular genre, it doesn't hurt any of them either. Good for any game!!

Hardware performance

OK, THIS is the PS2's downfall. The PS2's processor clocks in at a little under 300 (274, if I remember correctly) MhZ, while the GCN's clocks in at just under 500 (486, I believe), and the XBOX lands at 733 MhZ. The GCN is twice as fast, and the XBOX is almost three times as fast as the PS2.

Of course, those are just numbers, so what does that really mean? It means that the PS2 can't handle as much as fast as the other two systems. That's why when the action gets really intense like in Zone of the Enders: The 2nd Runner, the game slows down so the PS2 can keep up. Of course, you could try to argue that it would slowdown on any system, but it's not the only case. Take Robotech: Battlecry. In the PS2 version, the graphics are good, but there's some slowdown. In the GCN version, the graphics are sharper, and the slowdown is eliminated. Or Dynasty Warriors 3. Unlike the PS2 version, the XBOX version is lacking the frequent (especially in two player games) slowdown.

The graphics of the PS2 are also inferior to the other two. Games such as Final Fantasy X and DOA2: Hardcore push the PS2 to its graphical limit. Yes, I know, DOA2: Hardcore was a LAUNCH game. That's why Tecmo made the jump to XBOX. It could take it.

Of course, then there's the matter of backwards compatibility. This is a great feature that allows you to play your PSone games on PS2! And in practice, it really IS a great feature. Unfortunately, it doesn't work on ALL of them. It's a shame, but it's still a good feature that I make full use of.

Which leaves us with DVD playback. Which is, to say the least, disappointing. The premise is that you can play DVDs on your PS2. Unfortunately, not all of them work. And, unlike the backwards compatibility where 90% of the games work, the same cannot be said for the PS2. Granted, probably about 70% of the DVDs work, but it accepts and rejects them in what seems a random decision. And it can be at the worst possible time. For instance, on one Anime DVD I had, it wouldn't play the 4th and 5th episodes. Played the rest of the series fine, but it WOULD NOT play the 4th or 5th ones. Go fig. OR, it won't play entire DVDs in a series. It wouldn't play the 6th or 7th DVD of Escaflowne. Now, you would think that it was the cause of a dirty disc, but the 7th DVD was spotless. It also won't play certain DVD movies such as A Knight's Tale and Monsters Inc. In other words, if you plan on playing DVD, have a contingency plan if your only DVD player is a PS2, because it has a good chance of failure.

It's sad really, but this is the price you pay for getting the system out a year earlier than your competitors.

Games

Ah, yes, the heart and soul of any game system is its games. And oh does the PS2 have them. Such franchises as Final Fantasy and Grand Theft Auto have made the PS2 their home, among others. Unfortunately, basically all of the heavy hitters for the PS2, such as Final Fantasy, Grand Theft Auto, Zone of the Enders, and Metal Gear Solid 2, are produced by third party companies. That means that the none of the sequels are guaranteed to be on the system, as all of the makers could jump ship.

However, at least for the moment, the PS2 IS the place to be for RPGs. Also, I tend to prefer my 2-D fighters on PS2, thanks to the Dualshock controller.

The Future

The Future of the PS2 is completely dependent on the gamer. At the moment, their are only two real reasons the PS2 has all the blockbuster games. 1)Exclusivity deal, which no one can do squat about, and 2)More people own a PS2. If more people owned and XBOX or GCN, then that would be the downfall of Sony's little Black box. As long as Sony has enough people convinced that the Playstation 2 is the best system on the block without any reason, then they will continue to dominate. However, if enough people figure out that the PS2 is really the geek on the block, the future will be very dim.

Summary

So there it is. I'll leave you with this. If you are a serious gamer, then you HAVE to have a PS2, it just has too many amazing games for you to pass up. RPG fans must do the same, as that's where the RPGs are. So, you really should probably have a PS2. However, if a game is offered on multiple systems, buy it for the GCN or XBOX if you can. The game will be sharper and you'll have less to worry about.


Reviewer's Score: 6/10 | Originally Posted: 06/22/03, Updated 06/22/03


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