Controller Ports: 2
Save Capability: Memory Card
Video Output: RF, Composite, S-Video, Component
Initial Price: $299
No console was more eagerly awaited than the Playstation 2 (PS2). The original Playstation had dominated the video game market since 1995, and even Sega's impressive Dreamcast system failed to loosen Sony's stranglehold. The initial PS2 game selection was modest, but a few can't-miss titles like Madden 2001, SSX, and Smuggler's Run made it respectable. The system had two huge selling points: backwards compatibility with Playstation One (PS1) games, and the ability to play DVD movies. Released at a time when standard DVD players cost several hundred dollars, obtaining one free with a game console seemed like a terrific value. The PS2 DVD player turned out to be mediocre in quality (I recall some sound synchronization issues) but for the most part it served its purpose.
With the help of massive third party support, the PS2 quickly formed a huge library with hits like Onimusha, Twisted Metal Black, Gran Turismo 3, Virtual Fighter 4, Jack and Daxter, Ratchet and Clank, War of the Monsters, and God Of War. Sony often managed to secure exclusive rights to high-profile titles like Grand Theft Auto Vice City, Devil May Cry, Tomb Raider Angel of Darkness, Castlevania Lament of Innocence, and Metal Gear Solid 2, making the console a must-have for hardcore gamers. Like its predecessor, the PS2 became the mainstream system of choice.
It wasn't hard for Sony to maintain its market supremacy with the PS2. Although more advanced consoles like Microsoft's Xbox and Nintendo's GameCube were released the following year, they could only capture a fraction of Sony's market share. While these challengers had a slight technical edge, the difference in graphics was not dramatic, and the Playstation 2 had already amassed a huge library of titles. While the Xbox eventually made some inroads, there was no doubt that Sony reigned supreme for this generation of consoles.
Console design: B+/C. The Playstation 2 sports a sleek, asymmetric "skyscraper" design, and can be either situated flat or stood vertically. Located on the front edge are lighted "standby/reset" and "open/close" buttons. An actual power switch resides on the back of the unit, but due to the handy standby mode, there's rarely a need to use it. An internal fan made the PS2 significantly louder than other consoles that came before it. The front of the system offers two controller ports and two USB ports to connect miscellaneous peripherals like light guns and "Eye Toy" cameras. A multi-player adapter supports up to four players per port, but this is an expensive accessory that awkwardly hangs off the front of the unit. PS2 memory cards can hold substantially more data than their predecessors, but the sports games are real memory hogs. The memory cards and controllers are both incompatible with their PS1 predecessors. In 2004 Sony offered a hard drive add-on with Final Fantasy XI, but this device was poorly supported and quickly abandoned. Also in 2004 Sony released a lighter, cheaper, and streamlined version of the PS2, but it lacked the style and elegance of the original design.
Console durability: C-. I've heard many gamers (and parents) lament how they've had to replace their PS2 consoles over the years, leading me to believe that durability is not the system's strength. The Playstation 2's CD tray feels flimsy and could potentially break off. Initially, some gamers reported having their disks scratched when using the system in its vertical configuration, but these complaints subsided over time.
Controllers: B. PS2 controllers look practically identical to their PS1 counterparts, but their buttons are equipped with analog sensitivity, making them incompatible. Actually, the analog feature is fairly useless, and was probably incorporated just to sell more controllers.
Media: A. Sony struck gold when they opted to use the DVD format for their games. Not only did it allow their system to play movie DVDs, but the format provided more than enough capacity to hold any current-generation game.
Packaging: A. Sony packaged their games in standard DVD cases, which were ideal. Attractive on the outside and easy to store, they were definitely a step up from the previous CD jewel case packaging.
Games: A-. Of all the systems of its generation, the Playstation 2 has far and away the largest library with the widest variety of games. There are epic adventures like God of War, Gran Theft Auto 3, and Shadow of the Collosus. Racing buffs will enjoy Gran Turismo 3, Rumble Racing, and Smuggler's Run, which also offer excellent split-screen competition. Fighting fans have wealth of 2D and 3D options including Tekken 4, Virtua Fighter 4, Guilty Gear X, and Soul Calibur 2. The system offers a number of award-winning RPGs including Disney's Kingdom Hearts and Final Fantasy X. Most sports fans consider the PS2 to be the system of choice due to the controller's ideal button layout. Perhaps the most innovative game is Sony's own Eye Toy, which includes a camera that projects the player onto the actual game screen, creating a new level of interaction. Nintendo's GameCube may have an edge in games designed for the younger demographic, but the PS2's broad selection ensures there is something for everyone. Many PS2 titles have lengthy load times (compared to Xbox and GameCube), but this varies greatly from game to game.
Graphics: B+. While the initial PS2 titles actually looked rougher than their Dreamcast counterparts, the visual quality of PS2 games improved over time. Fantasy games like God of War and Shadow of the Collosus feature some of the most awe-inspiring, majestic visuals you'll ever witness in any game. While the Xbox and GameCube had a slight edge in terms of visuals, the difference was marginal.
Collectability: A-. You can't go wrong with collecting games for the Playstation 2. Since its games are so popular and ubiquitous, hit titles are easy to find and reasonable in price. The systems are not particularly durable, but they do tend to be inexpensive and readily available.
Innovations: Backwards compatibility, DVD player, console can be positioned horizontally or vertically, standby mode, USB ports, Eye Toy
Pros and Cons:
+ Huge selection of games means something for everyone
+ Innovative, attractive console design
+ Games easy to find and inexpensive
- Loading times tend to be long
- Only two controller ports
- May require a lot of memory cards