Review by Auction Sniper

"The most entertaining console of the 128 generation! (Mini PS2 review)"

*Note that this is a review of the second revision (smaller) console that was released at the end of 2004.

INTRODUCTION:
After Sony's success with the original PlayStation back in 1994, it was time to deliver another breakthrough console to continue the Playstation tradition. The answer was simply Playstation 2. Incorporating the newest technology at the time, while making sure it was ahead of the competition (Sega's Dreamcast).

Featuring DVD media technology for storage and movie playback, a powerful graphics processor known as the 'Emotion Engine", as well as backwards compatibility with the original PlayStation, it was an instant hit. Launching in 2000, it quickly became an instant success, and knocked Sega out of the console race.

To this day (early 2005), Sony has managed to stay on top of the consoles, despite new systems from rival Nintendo and newcomer Microsoft. To make things sweeter, Sony released a smaller and compact revision of the PS2 hardware that is barley bigger than a DVD case!

FIRST IMPRESSIONS:
Out of the box, the PS2 certainly has a nice look about it. A logical rectangular design with a manner of input ports laid out in a nice orderly fashion. The new version system looks very similar to the original with a few design changes.

Gone are the i-Link port and internal Hard drive bay, as well as the cooling fan (no more whirring fan sounds!). Also, the system no longer has a disc tray, and has been replaced with a top loading door as in the original PSX. Finally, the power supply has now become external in the form of a power brick as found in notebook computers.

Despite the drastic reduction in size, most of the functionality of the original system is here.

FEATURES:
The system has its fair share of features, which I'll explain briefly

PlayStation backwards compatibility - Yes, that's right. Your original PlayStation games can still survive after your PSX is dead. You can play the games as you've always known then, and use your PS1 memory cards. Thankfully, a few enhancements have been added to take advantage of the PS2's power. You can enable texture filtering, which allows games to look smoother, but it's effectiveness varies from game to game, and can even slow down some games. You can also do away with many of those awfully long load times, but it can also make some games crash, and you really don't need it in all games (Tekken 3 is fast enough anyway).

DVD playback - straight out of the box, your PS2 is able to play DVD movies, no remote required, just use the controller. Be aware that like standalone DVD players, the PS2 has region encoding to prevent you playing imported discs. The quality is ok as far as I'm concerned, and the newer PS2 model has progressive scan - which is great if you have a huge HDTV like I do :)

Online gaming - Just like on your PC, you can experience online gaming on your PS2, provided you purchase the network adaptor and games that use it. I haven't tested this feature myself as I prefer PC's for online action, and you have to hook it up to a PC anyway to use it.

CD Playback - as with the original PSX, you can play your audio CD's on your PS2. No big deal, but there is no visualisation option like on the PSX, so it will burn onto your screen if you are a Plasma TV gamer.

Misc. Perhipherals - there are also a ton of game specific addons which would take ages to describe, but among them are Dance mats, light guns, keyboards, microphones and the famous Eyetoy digital camera.

GRAPHICS:
When the PS2 was released, there was plenty of hype surrounding the PS2's "Emotion Engine" which would allow for realistic visuals and physics. Only problem was that very games actually pull off a remarkable lifelike appearance.

Still, the graphics were rather jawdropping compared to most Dreamcast titles. Tekken Tag Tournament - one of the launch games, is still one of the system's most graphically impressive titles. Featuring a flawless 60fps smoothness, detailed and polygon-rich characters, as well as a slew of reflection effects and bump-mapped textures.

Compared to the consoles released after it - Gamecube and Xbox, it isn't so impressive. The biggest graphical problems with the system are the lack of built in anti-aliasing which reduces jagged lines, and a 'faked' 640x480 resolution which makes the screen flicker alot on normal TV's.

Fortunately, some developers can create great games for the hardware despite the limitations, such as Grand Turismo 4, Devil May cry, and Metal Gear Solid 3 to name a few.

Finally, I should point out that to make the most of the graphics, you're gonna need a decent tv setup. The system was designed with HD quality in mind, and a standard tv hookup looks rather bad. The standard composite video connection is AWFUL - everything has fuzzy edges and it will make you cry, not to mention that it flickers alot on a standard TV. To get the finest video quality you will need a HDTV (plasma or LCD) and component video cables. Trust me there is a REAL difference!

CONTROL:
The PS2 uses an upgraded version of the Dual shock controllers as used on the original PSX. The Dual Shock2 controllers now have analog sensitivity for the face buttons (except start and select). Even if its something new, I barley noticed a difference, and you can still use your old PSX controllers.

SOUND:
Not really an issue in the days of optical media. Sound is crisp and high quality, and most games I've played have high quality speech and sound effects. Surround sound is also possible but it is mainly for DVD playback, and I'm yet to see a game the supports it.

GAMES:
This is the category that brings the PS2 over the top of its rivals, you get plenty of great exclusives and support from the best publishing houses including Square, Sega, Namco, Capcom, Konami, and a whole lot more.

If you want RPG's, 3D action, adventure, puzzle, 2D and 3D fighters, sports titles, mascot games, old school 2D classics, and weird new genres, its all Here. A pity that Sony of America doesn't like 2D titles, but you can always import from Japan. I bought a Japanese console as there are more great titles from Japan than there are from anywhere else.

The other consoles don't have a library as good as this system, which makes it a must have. Not to mention that you can play plenty of great PSX classic as well...

OVERALL:
While the PS2's power has been slightly eclipsed, you'll still see a lot of great looking games and plenty of them too! It seems that games specifically designed for the PS2 look better than ports from other systems. If you don't already have one, you're missing out on a great library of A++ titles.

The system can't be beat for value and entertainment, so get one (that is, unless PlayStation3 is out, but you'll still be able to play PS2 games on it!).

-Steven


Reviewer's Score: 10/10 | Originally Posted: 03/14/05


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