Play it again, PS2
Sony has worked out how to emulate PS2 games on PS4. Thats good news, and a swift reply to Microsoft's recent noise about its impressive backwards compatibility. And that got us thinking: what classic games would be great to replay on PS4? And can we condense these brilliant games into an easily digestible list of, say, 15?
We applied a few rules when creating this list, so please read before heading to the comments and informing us that we missed X, Y, and Z. Anything that already has an HD version is off the menu. No Resi 4, no Prince of Persia: SOT, no Silent Hill 2 (yes, we know there were some problems with this one). Secondly, we prioritised games that would a) be genuinely fun to play right now, and b) provide experiences that are very different to anything available on PS4.
Final Fantasy 12
Final Fantasy 10 has already received a spiffy HD update, and the ever-popular FF7 is getting a complete remake, but the excellent FF12 has been sorely overlooked so far. Starring a dapper sky pirate and a stupidly strong bunny girl in...questionable clothing, the plot takes a more believable turn than other Final Fantasy stories by being rooted in political turmoil while also taking you through some gorgeous locations.
People might not have been ready for its MMO-influenced combat back in 2006, but by today's standards it feels fresh and inventive. It also appeared right at the end of the PS2's life and is an excellent example of the console's full potential. While it might look a little blurry now, its story and voice work still hold up well today. Even modern RPGs could learn a thing or two about storytelling from this classic.
Burnout 3: Takedown
Vertical freakin' takedowns. Do we really need to say more? On its release, this was the fastest, most exhilarating racing game ever seen and it's amazing how well it's aged. Its smooth-as-silk 60fps visuals have certainly helped, so all that's really needed is a boost in screen resolution on those chunky, gleefully breakable cars and we'll be happy to get straight back in the driving seat.
Criterion understands what a racing game needs to be great. Speed, spectacle, rivalry, crashes, challenge and those sweeping, white-knuckle drifts. Thing is, that kind of thinking is mostly absent in current-gen racing games. Driveclub is close, but it doesn't have crash junctions. Burnout 3: Takedown has crash junctions. *Cackles*
Fahrenheit / Indigo Prophecy
Zombie rufty. A man killing himself over a glass of water. The internet as the main antagonist. They suuuuure don't make games like this any more. David Cage, the chap behind Heavy Rain and Beyond Two Souls, may have lost himself in his elaborate attempts to simulate some of Hollywoods most kooky starlets, but his PS2 detective thriller with a slice of supernatural mystery is a genuine classic.
You play as Lucas Kane (and two detectives investigating him), who finds himself in a public toilet at the start of the game, desperately trying to clean up a murder he was forced to commit. It's all quite point-and-click for the remainder of the adventure, but the plot and characters are strong enough to carry the simple gameplay. The consequence system, which has been heavily aped since, is pretty robust, but can lead to some entertaining fail-states too (like when detective Tyler Miles gets in such a low mood, he kills himself when he discovers the water cooler is broken). Won't look amazing by modern standards, but you're here for the bizarre plot and undead sex, right?
The story in Gitaroo Man is a classic one - U-1 is an awkward boy who gets bullied by his classmates and ignored by the girl he loves, then goes on a journey to win her affection. Oh yeah, and his talking dog teaches him how to play the guitar - before revealing he possesses the legendary Last Gitaroo which must be defended at all costs. Standard, really.
Gameplay is a mashup between PaRappa the Rapper and Guitar Hero, alternating between button-matching QTEs and tracing a line around the screen using the analogue stick to keep the funky J-Rock soundtrack playing. The better you perform, the more damage you deal to the enemies you're battling - which include synthesiser spaceships, samba drumming skeletons and a huge space shark. If quirky rhythm action is your thing (and why wouldn't it be?), you need Gitaroo Man in your life.
Few games revel in the sheer joy of movement as well as SSX 3. Every slide, cut, bank, leap, soar, and landing blends and flows with buttery, tactile heft. It's just a wonder to play. But then there's the world, its sumptuously realised, giddily exciting, festival open-world of connecting tracks, stunt parks and back-country wilderness, that gives you total freedom to explore, discover, and just enjoy being. On the wider experiential level too, SSX 3 is a delight.
And then there's the sheer sense of life. The banging, perfectly curated soundtrack and the warm, chipper, genuinely funny radio broadcasts. The tangible feeling that there's a world going on around this mountain, near and far, wherever you happen to be riding at any given time. With a perfectly-paced unlock system and delirious, escalating challenges (it culminates in a half-hour, full-mountain race, but you'll carry on playing long after that) SSX 3 is a vast, beautiful, long-term experience that begs for a new-gen polish.
Two stand-out memories: 1) The challenge of landing a one-hit-kill Issen counter-strike with milliseconds defining success or failure, thanks to Capcom's exemplary fighting mechanics and basking in the iconic white glow of your Yagyu Blade. 2) Searching the map for hours to locate grumpy antiquarian Magoichi's treasured vintage telescope (one of 125 hidden gift items), for the thrill of the old drunk briefly, incongruously, grinning at his present like a tickled baby.
It's the Empire Strikes Back of the Onimusha quadrilogy: darker, complex and critically-enduring; with stunning cinematic cut-scenes, a cast of vibrant support characters and a villain (Nobunaga Oda) who you really want to kill. For the uninitiated, think Resident Evil-style puzzles, RPG-lite relationship building and Devil May Cry-tight combat. One of Capcom's finest third-person adventure games, a testament to developer Keiji Inafune (Dead Rising, Mega Man) at the height of his powers and a refreshing, angular antidote to the Hollywood sheen of modern equivalents like Uncharted or Tomb Raider.
Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 3
We never would have thought we'd be clamouring for a PS4 port of THPS3 when THPS5 is literally 'a thing' on current-gen already. But here we are and that's what's happening. The third Pro Skater game is the pinnacle of the series, combining simple controls and objectives with a devastatingly deep and rewarding control scheme.
The level design is fantastic, offering additional scale compared to the previous games, without hitting 'current-gen sprawl' like its successors. It's the sweet spot. The likelihood of getting that soundtrack re-licensed in a true HD re-release is doubtful. But emulating the PS2 game on PS4? It's simply got to happen. If only to prove to newer gamers that Tony Hawk games can be amazing.
Ridge Racer 5
There will never be another Ridge Racer game like this one. The entire game is set in one city, with track layouts all intertwined around each other. You listen to the city's radio station while you race, there's a proper arcade-style 'announcer' over the action (with a baffling pronunciation of 'comfort'), and the car handling is solid and grounded the last time we'd see it like this before RR6 made everything exclusively, ridiculously drift-based.
But the reason we need this to be emulated on PS4 is simple. Ridge Racer 5 was a PS2 launch game. And, believe it or not, PS2's launch games were unbearably jagged, since the system had no anti-aliasing built in. Ridge 5 deserves to be drawn with smooth edges, so we can actually play it again. No other game would benefit more from the process.
Katamari Damacy took an absolutely bizarre concept - rolling up junk into a ball - and made it utterly charming. We specific stuff. Roll a sumo wrestler over food to fatten him up. Roll up the most expensive things you can find. Roll up a giant snowball to give a snowman a head. Roll your katamari over whatever you want, but only one bear (the largest you can find, please). It is all utterly, totally ridiculous. And we love it.