Game On

PS2 Round Up

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.

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Thanks for the memory?

I have the misfortune of owning three multi-page PS1 memory cards – the type where you hold down a few buttons on the controller and then switch to a new page of memory. Why is this unfortunate? Because I now own a PS2 and these cards don’t want to work with that!

Initially I noticed that when I had a multi-page card inserted and loaded a PS1 game up on the PS2, it would tell me that there was no controller present, even if there was one. Then I realised that I couldn’t change between pages of the memory card on the PS2 – meaning I had to stick the card back into the PS1 and change it there, which is not ideal.

My solution was to go to EB and buy a few one-meg single page cards to copy all my game saves onto, but even with three memory cards I still have stuff left on the old multi page cards! So now you know – if you’re getting rid of your PS1, you may aswell sell any multi-page cards you have along with it, ‘cos you cant take them with you to the future of the PlayStation!

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Driven to distraction

Thinking of treating yourself to one last quality PlayStation game before the developers completely turn their creative talents over to the PS2? Well, if you are, Driver 2 does not fall into the category you’re looking for!

I’ll just sort of list the faults this full price game has; The frame rate and draw distance are horrendous – the fog in Tony Hawks first outing was a far better solution to the problem than buildings appearing out of nowhere. It has so much pop up it should carry an epilepsy warning. The gameplay for the most part is trial and error – one mistake most missions will mean you have to start again. Did I mention starting again? Well, you cant skip the much improved video sequences – hence by your 20th attempt at some shit mission where an armoured truck can out drive your car, you’ll be sick of it. You can reel someone in by driving at break-neck speed accross a city – only to discover that your car can then only go at exactly the same speed as the car you are pursuing – likewise, if you’re driving a big slow bus, your foe will suddenly find his gettaway vehicle handicapped in a similar fashion.

Add to this that the game will also freeze from the ridiculously bad slowdown, meaning that you have no control over your car for the brief second it can take for you to hit one of the invisible walls that jut out from road side buildings.

As a PS2 owner, this will probably be the last PS1 game I buy, so it really pisses me off to pay full price for a game that falls short by such a margin. They might argue that it’s the limits of the PS1 – which is true, the PS1 is now a very dated console. But I would argue that I don’t build huge, graphically intensive websites and then blame it on the limitations of the web when it’s slower than a tortoise in Night Nurse. At the end of the day, developers should design a game to work to a high standard on the given hardware.

The PS1 is not a PC – we cannot turn off options like detail level and lighting effects just so that the game will run at a decent speed. Of course, you do have the option of turning off Driver 2 and playing a game with decent coding, like TOCA World Touring Cars or Gran Tourismo 2.

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