Playstation 2 Review

by Mike Shea on 6 June 2001

In my article on Why Computers Suck I talked about the advantage of console machines over traditional PCs. I also described the requirements for my ideal console, the one that would change our world of entertainment. Recently I broke down and purchased a Playstation 2 and put my Dreamcast up on ebay. Sure, ever since playing Everquest I rarely even play any other game, but I still love consoles and the five minute stint with the newest arcade visual feast. Although the Playstation 2 does not have all of the features I want, including some vital ones, it is still a very strong system and one I hope to recommend for some time.

Graphically, the Playstation 2 is solid but missing some key pieces. The Playstation 2 is capable of NTSC 640x480 interlaced resolution on a 4x3 display. After playing a Dreamcast for months on a VGA monitor I was not impressed with the Playstation 2 at all when hooked up to a composite screen. I would have hoped that the Playstation 2 would offer HDTV quality or at least 480p VGA quality graphics, but with a component input onto a large display it does look very good. Many playstation 2 games run at 60FPS, definitely a must for solid video quality. There are composite, s-video and component video jacks available for the PS2.The Playstation 2 is capable of full 5.1 channel Dolby Digital sound for both games and DVD playback. It is also DTS compatible, though I doubt games will support it.

Initially the game are still being release with Dolby Surround sound, but there is no reason that more 5.1 channel games will come out in the future.One of the bigger failures of the PS2 is the lack of network support out of the box. Even though there is strong support for future expandability and a solid business deal with AOL for a $60 ethernet / modem adapter to support network pay, it will not see much penetration. If history has shown us anything, it has shown us that accessories for a console never sell well, thus penetration of connectivity to PS2 users will be slim at best. If the adapter does come out, it will have to be easy to use and easy to sign up for. They will have to release many great games that support online play in order to drive consumers to buy it and pay for the service. Many PS2 owners already have a computer so just offering a browser isn't enough.

The PS2 is fully compatible with USB devices. Everything from a keyboard, a mouse and a modem can be connected easily. Any USB keyboard and mouse can be hooked up to the PS2 right now and use them for games like Unreal Tournament. This will be a huge benefit for any online RPGs like Everquest. The Playstation 2 also has a firewire jack for very high speed connections. This is used right now to link PS2 consoles together for multiplayer games. Also included is a drive bay for a hard drive expansion. Sony has already released information on a hard-drive and ethernet expansion by fourth quarter. While it would have been better to include such features, it is still a big benefit for future growth.A $299 pricetag was a big high for the PS2 but when you consider it is a fully functional DVD player, many families that would have avoided it will now spend the money to buy it. $199 would have been better, but impossible with everything the system offers. This December should see the first wave of price cuts for the system.

The Games

Systems aren't defined by how much memory they have or how powerful a processor they have. Games define a game system. The original Playstation was defined by the huge variety of games they had from almost every major company. Everything from Tekken to Metal Gear Solid, to Resident Evil to Final Fantasy defined this system. The PS2 gaming library looks to be as good as the old one. With a year ahead of systems like the Microsoft X-Box and Nintendo Gamecube, they will have solid well polished games while the others are scrambling for something to look good. While the initial releases for the PS2 were as weak as any initial console release, there were some solid performers. Games like Devil May Cry, Metal Gear Solid 2 , Gran Turismo 3 A-spec, and Fianal Fantasy X will take this system by storm during this years holiday season.Sony's stranglehold on the market with the Playstation and their current lead on any and all competition put it in a very solid position with third party developers. This means that within the year we will see some of the best console games ever published.

The Controller

The Playstation 2 controller is by far the best controller I have used. It acts almost exactly like the Dual Shock controllers of the PS1, but every button on it is analog. That means for those racing games, pressing light pushes the gas a little ways while pushing hard floors it. This is a brilliant move. Without making the controller any harder to use, they have added a huge level of interaction between the player and the game.Every PS2 controller has a rumble feature built in. I was sold on the rumble pad ever since playing Metal Gear Solid. Rather than the typical ways it is used, Metal Gear Solid used it as an artificial adrenaline rush when your character was suddenly discovered and let you feel approaching helicoptors by feeling the blades turn. Proper use of a rumble pad can truly add a whole extra level of human computer interaction. Now in Gran Turismo, you can feel when your car is about to slide before actually seeing or hearing it. By packing it in with the system, game developers don't have to wonder how many players will be able to use the feature if they add it in. With the PS2, all of them will.Between the analog buttons and the rumble pad, Sony has gone a major step forward with a controller that is very easy to use and offers a huge range of interaction between the player and the system.

The DVD Player

The Playstation 2 is the first system to include a DVD player and it is very good. It includes both DTS and Dolby Digital output via an optical connection but no coax which is unfortunate. It can be connected via composite, component and S-Video but currently does not output progressive component or any form of HDTV. Rumor has it that the system can be upgraded to progressive component with a software upgrade, but a VGA output would have been better. No remote control is included but for about $40 more you can purchase one for it. For $300 it is hard to beat this system as a great DVD player that also happens to play games. For the home theater enthusiast, you might consider it if you are ever familiar with a joypad.

Conclusion

The Playstation 2 has a lot of potential. Even though it is short on a couple of the requirements of the system of the future, if it gets enough of a base out in the consumer world, it could really turn into the "PC Killer" I so want it to be. There are a couple of things missing however. The biggest is solid internet connectivity that the majority of users can use with ease including both modem and Ethernet. Second is higher resolution display outputs including VGA and 480p progressive component. A price drop to $200 sure would make a huge difference in getting consoles into living rooms. Games are what defines a system and while the initial releases for the PS2 were not very strong, some true classics will be released before any of the competition can get in the way.Like to give your opinion or see the opinion of others? Discuss this article!Mike's Game Reviews

Associated Links

groups.google: rec.games.video.sony groups.google: alt.games.video.sony-playstation2 IGN: Playstation 2 Gamespot PS2 Underground Online PS2 Planet PS2 EB Games: PS2 Amazon.com: PS2 Google: PS2

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