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Why PS2 was the best console ever

It’s taken 12 years, but as the final PlayStation 2 rolls off the production line, I’ve reached the personal conclusion that PS2 is the greatest console in gaming’s history. Its core values, incredible tech and near-perfect design combined to create a phenomenon. One that will never be repeated because its feature set is too narrow for today's market. But I should point out it has taken pretty much the full 12 years to reach this gushing conclusion. Because when it first launched in 2000, I have to admit: I thought it was dreadful. Allow me to explain how it won me over so completely...

When the PlayStation's successor was announced, I was still at college. A college that blocked my favourite games site because I used up a massive 9MBs of 'IT resources' downloading a trailer for Sonic Adventure. Years away from even working for my local paper, let alone GamesRadar, I was still a keen gamer. I remember printing out pictures from the early PS2 tech demos using the college’s colour printer and marvelling at them. Could these images genuinely be real-time? One was the spiky balls, as pictured up there behind that PS2, and the other was this incredible image:

This single screenshot of the cars from the CG intro of Gran Turismo 2 running in real-time with ludicrously shiny bodywork was enough to amaze me. And that was without even seeing the demo actually moving, which you can see below thanks to the wonders of the modern internet. A single glance was enough to convince me: PS2 was the future.

But then there were the promises made over the ‘Emotion Engine’. All the talk was about artificial intelligence so alive that NPCs would be able to smell things and be moved by them. And feel upset at fallen comrades. And this is where I started to dislike the idea. It was trying to be something gaming (to me) was not. And the fun in all this was... where?

PlayStation 2 looked dressed up to deliberately distance itself still further from any 'toy' preconceptions cultivated by Nintendo in the 1990s, developing its brand instead with abstract imagery and more mature themes. From the bald-headed vulture in the later TV adverts (pictured) to the ethereal dancing lights that played around if you didn't have a disc inserted, PS2 was clearly not being billed as a family plaything. Ironic, considering its name.

It looked strange too, with an asymmetrical design and a workmanlike, industrial-looking grill. Suffice to say I didn't like this new direction (which seemed pretentious to me) having been perfectly happy with the 'press buttons for fun' style of games consoles. I wasn't alone, either. After PSOne's incredible success and despite massive anticipation from Sony's massive legion of fans, launch came along and... the unthinkable happened. PS2 floundered.

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PlayStation PS2

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28 comments

  • emeka-skerritt - March 23, 2014 3:13 p.m.

    It's definitely the Super Nintendo. I've got nothing against the PS2 but when people say it's the best selling console I wonder sometimes in what way?? The population is always growing so the latest console is always likely to be best selling ever. Before the super nintendo came out, kids were actually spending a BIG proportion of their pocket money on arcades. That is simply unthinkable now so it goes to show how important gaming was to kids at the time. The Nintendo simply stopped all that and by bringing out an affordable console that rivaled the arcades for the first time in history.
  • Cyax - February 7, 2013 3:34 a.m.

    Could you guys please leave your opinion on consoles you like here? http://yourfavoriteconsole.com/
  • matthew-stoddard - January 23, 2013 2:45 p.m.

    The greatest system was the Dreamcast and it's a shame that the thing didn't get more support. It was the first console to do many of the things that consoles now are doing. I did love PS2, but the Dreamcast was just amazing. Overall, I've enjoyed 360 more than the PS2 as well..the whole online set up makes XBox better than PS. I play both, but use more PS3 for more exclusive games and the XBox for everything else simply because the online is much better.
  • michaelkaramas - January 12, 2013 8:04 p.m.

    Dualshock 3 still has pressure sensitive buttons.
  • shawksta - January 11, 2013 7:12 p.m.

    It is, along with SNES, but the rumble is another story for another article. PS2 was awesome, had awesome first party, had Shovelware but also had Mainstream 3rd Party, which, basically, made the Wii an inferior PS2 with no mainstream/Major 3rd Party
  • sk8r7 - January 11, 2013 6:25 p.m.

    many fond memories, some of the best i've ever had with friends, and making companions. my favourite console of all time
  • CommandantOreo - January 11, 2013 2:35 p.m.

    The PS2 went out with a fight, still coming out with good games even in it's later years. Pretty impressive, I must say.
  • Pruman - January 11, 2013 11:04 a.m.

    I was a senior in high school when the PS2 came out, and at the time, I could have cared less about it. Thanks to my family getting our first Windows machine at the beginning of '99, I had just gotten into PC gaming in a big way. I was also still hooked on Perfect Dark and Goldeneye, and after two crushing disappointments on the PS1 in as many years (Final Fantasy VIII, and then Chrono Cross), I wasn't willing to ever trust Sony with my money again. Even Final Fantasy X, which looked kind of neat after I had skipped IX, didn't grab me enough to get me to buy a system. Three factors worked to change that mindset once I left for college: 1) I went to a school that issued every student a laptop, which was fairly revolutionary at the time and tickled my techno-nerd fancy. Once it was in my hands, I was crushed to find that it had NO DEDICATED GPU, causing games with any kind of 3D to put up slideshow framerates, at best. Since buying or building a decent gaming rig was beyond my meager resources at the time, I had to make a trip back to the console well if I wanted to play anything new. 2) When I got back from winter break, one of my friends down the hall was playing Grand Theft Auto III. I sat watching him play it, totally transfixed by what I was seeing, for at least half an hour. Then I decided that I had to have this game. 3) At around the same time, a friend of my roommate's ran into some legal troubles, and, needing to raise some quick cash, offered me his launch system, a memory card, and 9-10 games for $300, which is what the still-tough-to-find base model was going for in stores. Needless to say, I jumped on that. I'm glad I did, too. The PS2 might have been my least-played console of that generation, but I got some pretty solid entertainment out of it. GTA III, then Vice City, both God of War games, Final Fantasy X (which ended up being awesome and is in my personal top 3 for the series), Metal Gear Solid 2 and 3, Gradius V (second best shmup ever after Ikaruga, and definitely the best horizontal one)...the list goes on and on.
  • Elix - January 10, 2013 11:44 p.m.

    PS2 didn't save the video game industry, nor did it revolutionize the industry.
  • taokaka - January 10, 2013 10:30 p.m.

    I still play my ps2 every now and then, even for the first one or two years after I got my PS3 I still played the PS2 more than it. Some of my best gaming memories orientate around my ps2 and it was also the console I first got into serious gaming on instead of just playing tekken, tony hawks or digimon games almost exclusively. Fantastic job on the article, however tekken tag was easily the greatest launch game for the ps2 and possibly the best installment in the franchise.
  • brickman409 - January 10, 2013 9:20 p.m.

    I never liked the dualshock controller, I don't know it just doesn't feel comfortable to use, it has a nice build quality to it, but when I hold it, it just feels awkward. Idk maybe its cause I was used to the more ergonomic GameCube and Xbox controllers.
  • talleyXIV - January 10, 2013 6:01 p.m.

    Still sticking with SNES or maybe the Gamecube...
  • TheDudeFromNowhere - January 10, 2013 5:37 p.m.

    Home of all many memories..
  • ertywerty - January 10, 2013 3:05 p.m.

    Ps2 was special becausofmtheir exclusive games... For me it was the R&C series, Jak and Daxter and Sly cooper series that I'll remember the ps2 for, it's not that the game were as complicated but were more substance over style which I think many games try too hard to include all of the great graphics but miss the story and connection to the characters and because of that many of those games are better than games in recent years on ps3 and have loved what thise companies have done since. I think uncharted series are a perfect blend of both as the graphics are amazingis and you feel that connection to the characters
  • jackthemenace - January 10, 2013 1:44 p.m.

    Aside from a couple of GBC Pokemon games, I'm too young to have really played anything before 2001 or so. So the PS2 was literally the machine that got me into GAMING. Not Pokemon-ing, GAMING. And I love it for that. I insanely regret selling my PS2, even if the PS3 I bought with the proceeds is backwards compatible, purely because of the memories I have from it- even though I still have all the games, and even my memory card. Thanks Justin- This little bit of Nostalgia has really rounded out a pretty good day :D
  • FlyinHawaiian13 - January 10, 2013 12:41 p.m.

    So many memories. One of the best is when me and my friend marathoned Red Dead Revolver to unlock all the multiplayer characters, then had a bunch of other friends come over to play. The resulting games spawned catch phrases and in jokes we all still spout to this day. Also our multiplayer matches in Freedom Fighters were so awesome. We got our Red Dead follow up where is my Freedom Fighters 2!?
  • runner - January 10, 2013 12:08 p.m.

    I what think PS2 did was similar to SNES did with 8-bit console. The predecessor console before them was somewhat of an experimentation with technological limitation and they were developed base from that. Power up, trim the excessive fat while, as in your article, still focused as a gaming machine. Sadly, also with the success of it, the market became a hell lot bigger with much more money and business involved. Now gaming machine can't be just a gaming machine, new and risk ideas are hardly come into fruition, the developer and publisher somewhat lose their focuses and the market is saturated. Something not unlike Hollywood films.
  • dcobs123 - January 10, 2013 12:52 p.m.

    Sums up my thoughts exactly.
  • brickman409 - January 10, 2013 9:22 p.m.

    gamesradar needs a like button or something
  • Cloudiology - January 10, 2013 11:37 a.m.

    That brought a little tear to my eye.. Excellent eulogy (type thing) to the system that I will forever treasure. Nice one Justin!

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