Three weeks and three games on, the PS2 has pride of place in my living room and has become the focal point of my evening entertainment. What am I playing? – SSX, DOA:2 and Smugglers Run!
SSX was the game I got with my PS2 and it was instantly playable – the graphics are fantastic – there’s always something going on in the background and the whole thing looks brilliant. Sadly the gameplay is a let down by the worst collision detection going – it’s really hard to find the motivation to race all the tracks with the different characters when the difference between winning and losing is a matter of how well you judge the invisible parts of the barriers. SSX 2 will probably see a marked improvement in gameplay, and I hope they include an option to turn off the comentary without losing the character voices.
Dead or Alive 2 is the alternative to Tekken – although I’d suggest a definate rental before you buy this one – it’s a little samey and a bit of a button masher, although it looks brilliant (the water effects are unbelievably good) and the music is outstanding. I think I’ll be taking advantage of EB’s trade in offer in January, though – it’s not really my cup of tea.
Smugglers Run is probably the best of the bunch when it comes to good old-fashioned fun! Driving about the vast levels in various vehicles with pogo-stick like suspension, fending off the suicidal cops is a great laugh. Not since the survival mode of Driver have I seen a game where the AI opponents are as certifiably insane as in Smugglers Run. Unlike SSX the collision detection is spot on – when you skim past a tree, you skim past the tree – you don’t hit some invisible part of it. The team based missions are the most fun – especially those where it’s your team against another team and then the cops get involved just to make things chaotically complete. The missions have a nice variety, too, and since they cover a huge area you’re unlikely to take the same route twice.
Up until you get to level 13, that is – there had to be a Driver 2 style trial and error level in there somewhere, I suppose – all game makers seem to make this kind of mistake at some point, although here they really have screwed up the pace of progression in the game – some people may be asking for their money back as it does seem impossible. It took me more than sixty attempts to do and then it was only by the skin of my teeth. Perseverance is the key, but you’ll wonder why on earth they placed a mission like this right in the middle of a bunch of easier ones.
Level 13 is not the only sore point – slowdown on 2-player mode is a bit of a pain, the radio girl gets a bit tedious after a few missions, and the landscapes are as sparse as they are vast. The whole game has a sort of unfinished feel to it – as if the developers gave up to meet a deadline rather than complete it. In the obligatory sequel I’m sure all of the fine tuning will add up to the perfect off road style game, although as it is, Smugglers Run is a fine game and the best of the three I own at the moment.
Giving the quality of other offerings, I think I’ll stick with these and my PS1 games until titles like Gran Tourismo 3 arrive in a few months time.