PS2 Turns 20! Our Favourite Games
The PS2, the best selling video games console of all time turned twenty recently, a major milestone. To celebrate this momentous occasion, a number of members of the Player 2 team got together to discuss their favourite games from the enormous portfolio of PS2 gems. These are their stories
Dylan Burns – Grand Theft Auto 3
The PS2 released at a time in my life when money was tight and spending $700 on a console seemed impossible. As luck would have it, though, an opportunity came up at work, where I was casually employed, offering several weeks of full-time night shift, including bumped pay for working into the middle of the night. I grabbed the offer with one vision in mind for that eventual pay: a PS2 and Grand Theft Auto 3. The first payday came and I threw that cash money at the bewildered Toyworld cashier and rushed home with my prizes. For the next few weeks, every night when I got home at 3 am, I would shower, grab some food, disappear into my room (I still lived at home) and immerse myself in open-world shenanigans for a couple of hours before succumbing to the need to sleep and start the whole routine over again.
GTA 3 blew me away at the time. The world felt so alive around me and I spent so many hours just enjoying the strange and hilarious goings-on of Liberty City’s inhabitants. I still remember my open-mouthed surprise when an ambulance turned up after a particularly nasty incident that may or may not have been my doing. It was hilarious to watch people crossing the street and talking to each other, or witness a gang fight break out on a street corner, causing traffic to panic and run over pedestrians, further adding to the chaos. The way GTA 3 reacted to your active involvement with the world is still one of the cornerstones of gaming as far as I’m concerned.
Stephen Del Prado: Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas
15 years after release, there’s very little more that can be said about GTA: San Andreas, one of the most iconic titles of the PlayStation 2. A culmination of everything the series had done previously combined with late PS2 era technical know-how, Rockstar created their most ambitious title to date. I remember being blown away at just how vast the game was, especially as it loaded seamlessly between areas unlike the prior games – remember the loading screen in Vice City crossing from one island to the other? I’ve revisited San Andreas a number of times over the years and the atmosphere it creates is still palpable in those opening moments; “Grove Street. Home.” To cap things off, although it launched six weeks prior my memories of San Andreas are always intimately tied to the release of the PlayStation 2 Slim as I picked both of them up on the same day. I could scarcely believe how Rockstar had pulled off the creation of San Andreas, let alone how Sony had packed a PS2 into a shell the size of a game case. While I still have my PS2 Slim, I’m still holding out hope Sony will show it the respect it deserves with a PS2 Classic console sometime soon.
Jess Zammit: Guitar Hero
If you go through photo albums from my teen years you can find two separate photos, about three years apart, both of me playing the new Guitar Hero game that I’d received for Christmas and both showing me making exactly the same face. It’s a game face. A determined face. The kind of face you only make when you’re sure that what you’re doing is extraordinarily important and messing it up would have grave consequences for not only you, but the world. Objectively, looking back, being able to play Guitar Hero well didn’t make me any kind of rockstar, but at the time it was a game that really managed to make video games feel cool in a way that no other had before. I wasn’t playing a real guitar, but I held the controller like you would hold on, I hit the notes as if I were actually filled with any kind of musical talent, I was finally able to discuss rock songs with my friends – it was all positive. Sure, the clacking of my fingers on the keys detracted from the experience just a little, replacing a satisfying (I presume, I don’t know, I’ve obviously never played a real guitar) strum with a disruptive tap, but I didn’t care.
Guitar Hero changed the game for what peripherals could be, and how they could make you feel, and I still have the urge to go and dust off the old controllers and have a gaming jam session. And no, despite bringing me great joy, it never inspired me to pick up a real guitar. A friend of mine once won some money during a uni open day for his skills at Guitar Hero, which is more than being an actual musician will often get you. So, don’t let anyone tell you being good at this game is a waste of time.
Tim Henderson: ICO
Few games have Ico’s staying power. Few games suffered complaints that seem so silly in hindsight. People complained that its eight to nine-hour runtime was too short. Some thought that its combat was underbaked. Most amusingly, I still recall reading criticisms saying that it lacked in story.
Ico was (and remains) a masterclass in maximum information through minimum obvious information. Words are seldom used, but the fantastical castle in which it is set is just dripping with history. It stands confident as a world with a past, saturated in mythology, never feeling pressed to spell anything out. Combat is simplistic because anything else would be thematically at odds with its soul, even were it not a puzzle game about a cursed child and an ethereal girl trying to escape captivity together in which holding hands is a central mechanic.
Ico uses its mechanics and visual design (nearly two decades later and it is still a beautiful game) to speak. Most actual words are gibberish to the player. And yet Ico established a growing and believable relationship between the two characters at its core. More impressive still, it pulls out an end game revelation that leaves most verbose RPGs of the world on their knees.
Shaun Nicholls: Aggressive Inline
The success of the Tony Hawk Pro Skater series led to many different extreme sports games trying to capitalise on the formula that made the games successful. While I was never much into surfing or BMX riding, Aggressive Inline latched on to the 16-year-old inline skater in me that dreamed of being able to pull off a 540 mctwist on a vert ramp. With professional inline skaters, a soundtrack that is part hip-hop and part punk-rock, Aggressive Inline could have been labeled a simple clone of the THPS series. Where it stood apart from the THPS series was the removal of time limits on levels, allowing players to take as long as they wanted on a level to find the best run possible or even just explore to their heart’s content, something that would later be incorporated into the THPS series.
I spent many, many hours living out my extreme sports fantasy, where there was no risk to life and limb to myself. My poor avatars would take a beating as I pushed the limits on what they were capable of doing, feeling the rush and elation as I managed to land a trick off a monster transfer, ignoring all laws of physics and the limitations of my frail human body that would have been reduced to a misshapen lump of shattered bones and exploding squishy bits. Even as I write this I can still recall hitting the Movie Lot level, the guitar intro to Hoobastank’s Crawling in the Dark leading in as I build up speed and explode into the air. Good times.
Matt Hewson – Beyond Good & Evil
Photography, Green makeup and Pig People. These are the initial impressions for anyone firing up Beyond Good and Evil for the first time. From their things get exponentially wilder and weirder, with strange aliens, stranger sidekicks and Rastafarian walruses. This is a game that builds a world so unique, so wonderful that the simple act of exploration is one of joy. The gameplay is somewhat similar to something like Ocarina of Time but for me (and I realise this is sacrilege) I found Beyond Good and Evil far more enjoyable. To this day it is one of my favourite games ever and waiting for the sequel has been almost physically painful. What’s more, unlike a lot of games from the PS2 era, this game is still wonderful to play to this day. If you have never had the joy of going on an adventure with Jade and Pey’J do yourself a favour because it is unforgettable in every respect.
Paul James – God of War II
I am of the mind that the PS2 has the weakest first-party library of any Playstation platform to date (and that includes the PSP and Vita), but there was one franchise in particular that shone brightly amongst a sea of mediocre to good games, and that was God of War. Sony Santa Monica hit the scene with a massive splash when Kratos’ first adventure hit the PS2 in 2005 with sensational combat, epic scale, and (then) jaw-dropping visuals. The bar was lifted tenfold however with the release of God of War II, months after the launch of the PS3. God of War II took advantage of every bit of processing power (and seemingly then some) that the PS2 possessed, producing a mind-blowing playing experience that still resonates with fans of PlayStation and the God of War franchise. Sure, the franchise upped the ante further, and then completely revolutionised itself further down the road, but God of War II served as the greatest possible exclamation mark on the most successful console of all time.
These are but a few of the great games found on the PS2, and there’s countless more to be discussed. What are some of your favourite PS2 games? We’d love to hear your thoughts so let us know via Facebook or Twitter!