Review by grasu

"A comprehensive look at the most poular console of 2004"

The PS2 was launched to great hype in 2000. Since then it was shunned by just about every disgruntled fanboy on the face of the Earth. But it also rose to become the most popular next gen console and another huge success for Sony.

But looking at the PS2 as a console in 2004, how well does it truly stack up against other consoles?

Read on to find out.

Hardware: 8/10

The PS2 really blows it in the hardware part of the review. The simple truth is that the PS2 just doesn't stack up that well with any of its current competitors (the GC and Xbox) and sometimes it even has problems fighting its, now dead, rival the Dreamcast.

The specs of the PS2 aren't bad:

128-bit 294 Mhz CPU (the only one in the current batch, since the Xbox runs a 32bit Intel and GC runs dual 64bits)
32 MB Ram
DVD play

However, the one thing that lacks from the actual specs is what makes the PS2 graphically obsolete... the system has no anti-aliasing (hardware based).

This leads to some problems. The biggest one of those problems is the fact that many PS2 games have ''jaggies'' (minuscule bumps on flat surfaces).

That's not to say some PS2 games to look jaw dropping. Games like Zone of the Enders 2, Silent Hill 3, and Metal Gear Solid 2 all look great... but the truth is that the reason why they look so good is in part because the draw distance is huge in most of these games. With those kinds of draw distances the jaggies can hardly be seen and in games like Silent Hill 3 they can't even be seen at all.

Another hardware problem that the PS2 has is the lack of memory. This has been a forever present problem in both Sony's and Sega's consoles. Without enough RAM slowdowns and long loading times are sometimes apparent on the PS2. Mind you loading times never get to the point were they make games unplayable or were they ruin the experience of playing a truly great game but these problems are non-the-less noticeable. Slowdown is still a problem but occurs far less then on the Dreamcast and, for the most part, it’s the developer’s fault. Since the fact that many developers develop for the PC or other consoles with adequate or even huge amounts of RAM when they're faced with the some of the PS2s problems they often screw up. However, even as such, slowdowns are not as common as on the previously mentioned DC. Some games have them (GTA) and some games don't (MGS: Sustenance, inexplicably it seems the Xbox has more problems with this game then the PS2).

A third problem deals with the infamous DREs... Personally I never had one and I could give less of a damn if I did. Sony repairs these consoles for free so, whatever is left of the DRE problem (since the only PS2s affected by this were part of the earlier batches), has been extinct since were now on the 7th or 8th version of the PS2.

The truth is there aren't that many things you can say about the PS2 hardware to praise it. The PS2 still uses memory cards; it only has 2 controller ports, etc.

The PS2 plays DVDs but its not gonna replace your DVD-player anytime soon. It also plays MP3s, but the same thing that can be said about its DVD capabilities can be said about its MP3 playing ones.

Much like it's counter-part, the PS2 doesn't have almost any advantages hardware wise. Now, its important to know that while the PS1 was severely out performed by other consoles at its time the PS2 puts up more then just a decent fight. Upcoming games such as Killzone, Metal Gear Solid 3, Burnout 3 and more look just as good as some Xbox or Gamecube games.

The bottom line? The hardware in the PS2 does its job admirably for a 4-year-old console. As mentioned above, some upcoming games look as good as their counter-parts running on far more capable consoles... but the truth is that the PS2 can only do that much when it comes to hardware. It’s now left up to the developers to bring out the best in the PS2.

Control: 10/10

The Dual Shock stands as the best controller ever made... well with the exception of the mouse and keyboard, but that's another story.

The buttons on the controller are clearly defined and well spaced. You won't have any problems pushing the wrong buttons when it comes to fighting games or split second decisions.

The R and L buttons are well placed on the back of the controller and they too are well defined and well spaced.

The PS2 has 2 analog sticks placed side by side in between the D-Pad and the action buttons. You may have some difficulty getting used to the analog sticks when playing FPS but with a few hours of practice you'll be just fine. It should also be noted that the analog sticks, when pressed, stand for R3 and L3.

The D-Pad is excellent. Well defined and extremely responsive. Playing fighting games with this baby is no problem at all.

Furthermore, if you would like, you can add a USB keyboard and mouse to the PS2 via it's 2 external USB openings located in a panel below and to the left of the CD tray.

Games: 9/10

When it comes to games the PS2 is king of consoles. It’s just that easy.

Some people complained because GTA or Metal Gear Solid went to the Xbox... so what? The PS2 has far more to offer then just GTA and MGS. And even in the case of those 2, the PS2 is their rightful home; as such their translations to other consoles weren't nearly as successful and were filled with problems (both GTA and MGS have more bugs and slowdown on the Xbox then they ever did on the PS2... and this time you can bet its not the consoles fault).

The only other problem the PS2 has when it comes to games is the fact that some multi-platform releases just plain simply stink on the PS2. Games that developers don't take enough time to port over usually end up looking and feeling like crap on the PS2. Games like: Sonic Heroes, Max Payne and Mafia barely make it as decent games on the PS2 when compared to their GCN or Xbox counter parts.

But with that out of the way lets get to the real good stuff... the PS2 has enough games to satisfy almost everyone.

You want platformers? The Jak and Daxter series has been revolutionary before but now, with Jak 2, it became, arguably, the best platforming series on the face of the Earth. As for Jak and Daxter's ''home town rival'', Rachet and Clank, it too is a superb platformer with great graphics and tons of innovation. Other games no one even played litter the ''platformer battlefield''... Kolona 2 and Sly Cooper are just 2 examples of the many available.

Action games don't have a better home then the PS2. Devil May Cry, easily the best action game of the last 10 years, isn't going anywhere but the PS2. Onimusha, Onimusha 2, Zone of the Enders, Metal Gear Solid... these names are either exclusive to the PS2 or so much better on the PS2 than on any other console.

When it comes to RPGs the PS2 has no comparison. There is just nothing that even as much as remotely competes with all the great PS2 exclusive RPGs. Just look at the crème du la crème of PS2 RPGs: Final Fantasy X, Suikoden 3, Kingdom Hearts, Star Ocean 3, Xenosaga, Dark Cloud 2. Remember these are the top ranked RPGs on the system... there are hundreds more that are equally as good.

To be honest the PS2 doesn't fair to well when in comes to FPSes but it still has some to offer. Half-Life, Quake 3, Timesplitters 2 (best version is on the PS2), Warhammer 40k, XIII and the upcoming Rainbow Six 3 are all pretty good.

Shoot'em-ups are a dying breed and second to the DC the PS2 is the place to find them. Gradius 3, 4 and 5 and R-Type Final are only a few of those great SHUMPs that you can find on the PS2.

Survival horror fans will be more then pleased with the PS2. Such games as Fatal Frame, Silent Hill, and Siren can only be found on the PS2.

The fact that Gran Turismo games are on the PS2 should warrant a purchase for any serious racing fan. But in case your not satisfied you can also try Moto GP, Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit 2 or any of the other great PS2 racing games.

To be honest there isn't any group I can think of that will be displeased with the PS2. Strategy gamers get Romance of the Three Kingdoms (by far the best strategy game on any console), Ring of Red and Front Mission 4. Adventure gamers get ICO, GTA and Escape from Monkey Island. Virtua Fighter 4 alone should satisfy almost any fighting game fan, but with Tekken 4, Guilty Gear XX, KoF2000/2001 and Mortal Kombat fighting fans should be more then pleased.

New and innovative games are all over the PS2... you just have to go out and look for them. Dark Cloud, Amplitude, Gitaroo-Man and ICO are all both innovative and excellent.

To sum it all up, if you have a niche you should easily be able to satisfy it with the PS2s huge repertoire.

Multiplayer: 8/10

Online multiplayer on the PS2 is OK... This is no Xbox Live but it does get the job done.

SOCOM 2 and Champions of Norrath easily come to mind when it comes to online play. But the upcoming FFXI and GT 4 promise to add even more spice to the PS2s online line up.

As for off-line multiplay... the PS2 can't exactly be praised. You need to get a $34.99 multitap in order to facilitate more then 2 players to play at a time. Its a needless expense which will probably go unused sine the PS2 doesn't seem to have that many party friendly games like the GC or Dreamcast.

Value: 9/10

The PS2 will cost you some cash. Buying memory cards for it and other accessories such as a modem and hard disk only drives up the price. But not all is lost.

In order to play PS2 games online you don't have to pay a single cent, that is unless you want to play MMO type games. Also, all 1st party games on the PS2 cost $40 compared to the $50 they cost on other consoles.

But none of that even comes close to the PS2s sole biggest advantage over the other consoles when it comes to value: The PS2s highest ranked games are all under $30. Alone, on that this console would be worth the purchase.

With $500 you could buy a PS2 and about 25-27 of its greatest hits. With the same amount of money you could only buy 10 or 13 games to go along with your Xbox or GCN.

Overall: 9/10

Sure the PS2 is old and you have to buy memory cards for it. But even as such, it should be clear to any serious gamer that the PS2 is the best “living” console of this generation.

Why, you may ask? Simply because the PS2 does what a console should do right: It has many games to fill every niche and gaming desire of the player. And with such games as Killzone, Metal Gear Solid 3, Gran Turismo 4, Final Fantasy 12 and Kingdom Hearts 2 I don't see why that trend won't continue.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Originally Posted: 02/18/04

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