Review by yyr57695

"You can hate it like I did, but you'll have to buy one eventually"

Sony started spinning the hype machine long before the PlayStation2 ever actually appeared in anyone's hands. I'm sure you all remember...

The PlayStation2 is going to be THE single most kick-butt system ever, with 90 million polygons per second blazing across the screen, or more. It's going to have the most amazing and realistic imagery ever seen, the best game library ever, and in the future, you'll be able to do everything with it from browsing the Web to recording TV shows, and much, much more. Don't even bother with the Dreamcast...

...and you know what happened? Most people and a lot of developers (including the biggest third party, Electronic Arts), did indeed skip the Dreamcast, leaving it to become one of the most underrated systems of all time and a commercial failure, despite having one of the most overall incredible libraries of games ever and scores of arcade-perfect and innovative, original games. But this review isn't about the Dreamcast.

It's about the black box we call the PS2. So, how did this PS2 come out, anyway?

I still remember the stories of lines that were hours long (maybe you were waiting in one?). I still recall hearing about the launch games... Tekken Tag, Fantavision, SSX, among others... and the incredible games that were either coming or sure to arrive in due time, like The Bouncer, Final Fantasy X and Metal Gear Solid 2. But was the end product worth all the hype that surrounded it, I wondered?

Finally I saw the reviews come rolling in as I continued to enjoy my Dreamcast. I heard about the low number of true quality titles, and the frustration over finding accessories like memory cards, and the abundance of games that really didn't turn out to be all that great. I said, ''Well, I guess the PS2 wasn't all that and a bag of chips after all...''

Then the Xbox and GameCube were announced, and I patiently waited as both were released, titles began appearing, more of PS2's promised titles came out and the Dreamcast slowly faded away. I figured I'd wait until all three had established themselves in the market and then, possibly, choose one.

And finally one game was announced that sealed my fate, essentially forcing me to buy a PS2: DDRMAX. As a huge fan of Konami's innovative Dance Dance Revolution series, I decided that since the series was moving to PS2, I would have to as well.

That was over the summer; now, I have a modest library of PS2 games and have played quite a number beyond that. I feel that at this point I'm qualified to judge the system. I've played some truly innovative and engaging games, like SSX and its follow-up, SSX Tricky; I've played games that I feel are more hype than anything, like the snore-fest that is Gran Turismo 3; and I've played games that I felt could have been done on the Dreamcast or other hardware (quite a number of those, actually).

The PS2's graphic capabilities are a mixed bag. The texture memory is half that of the Dreamcast, and some games, like Grand Theft Auto III, suffer from overly muddy textures as a result (think N64). Luckily in the case of a game like GTAIII, excellent game design can overcome subpar graphics. Still, I believe a bit more memory could have been added, and a lot more could have been done with it. The polygon capabilities fall far short of the 90 million that the hype promised long ago, but go a ways beyond what the Dreamcast could do... not as far as everyone expected, but far nonetheless. The anti-aliasing is not hardware-based from what I can tell, and so the polygon edges in many games look blocky. Compare games like DOA2 or Virtua Fighter 4 to their original Naomi- and Dreamcast-based versions and you can see the difference. However, many developers have nonetheless been able to surpass most of the system's limitations and create graphics that are still excellent by today's standards. Some games, like Gran Turismo 3, are simply beautiful to look at (although whether they're fun to play is another issue entirely).

The expandibility is alright. PS2 doesn't have out-of-the-box online play like the Dreamcast did, but it's added easily enough with the $40 adapter (provided you have a broadband connection). The online games are beginning to trickle in, but there's no killer app yet. This could change in due time, however, and the people that are playing online now are generally having a good time. There's still no word on whether the hard drive is coming to the USA, although it seems like most developers will not take advantage of it -- as is the case with all too many add-ons -- and it will become another useless add-on ignored by all.

The games... well, there's a ton of crap, just like the PS1 had. But most of that is not Sony's fault, it's the fact that the game market is simply over-saturated. There are too many developers cranking out too many games, many of which don't deserve your attention or dollars, and a few of which truly DO deserve them but won't get the marketing or popularity they should. The thing that disappoints me is the fact that quite a number of PS2's big-budget ''dream games'' have turned out to be disappointments. Heck, most of the launch titles weren't very good, and early adopters had to wait a long time for the GTAIIIs, the Devil May Crys, the true classics. Fortunately, there are a lot of good games, solid titles like Klonoa 2 to keep you busy. But the number of truly incredible, triple-A games seemed much higher on the Dreamcast, which delivered one great experience after another: Sonic Adventure and its sequel, Jet Grind Radio, Shenmue, loads of Street Fighter and KOF, great shoot-em-ups like Cannon Spike, Ikaruga and Mars Matrix, online fun with Phantasy Star Online and Unreal Tournament, lots of quirky titles like Seaman and Typing of the Dead. PS2 seems much bigger on genre, ''mainstream'' games. You don't see many arcade-style or very many ''risky'' games on PS2 coming out any more, and I find that truly depressing, as if nobody wants to innovate or take a risk any more.

But when it all comes down, PS2 already has the largest next-generation library on the planet, and it's growing at an alarming rate, set to become what could be the biggest system game library, ever. More choices generally means a better system. So the hardware is inferior to Xbox or GameCube... so the online play needs an adapter... so there aren't as many ''must buy'' games and a ton of shovelware. In the end, you might just not care, because there's the handful of games that you DO want. For me, that handful includes the DDR and other Bemani games, SSX, Tekken4, Ridge Racer V, the Silent Scope games, some platformers, some GTA and a couple of others here and there, not to mention some random $20 Greatest Hits titles. And I know you're got your handful of games as well, and that's why you either own a PS2 already, or will own one in the future.

Reviewer's Rating:   3.5 - Good

Originally Posted: 12/17/02, Updated 12/17/02

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