It’s time to go back to the joys of the noughties without having to worry about accidentally listening to Avril Lavigne’s Sk8er Boi, or ponder whether to go and see The Return of the King again in the cinema because you won’t get to see it again for approximately 6 years because of home release schedules. Debuting all the way back in 2000 - yes, yes, you’re old, we know - the PS2 ushered in a true golden age for Sony.
Big, bold games from Rockstar such as Manhunt, GTA: San Andreas, and Bully ruled the roost, while Capcom’s staggering survival horror onslaught continued with Resident Evil: Code Veronica X. The excellent news is that you don’t have to dig out your PS2 and cry over seas of HDMI converters to relive these glory days. A PS2 Classics section exists happily on the PlayStation Store to scratch your nostalgic itch without any time travel. Just think of the jet lag you’re avoiding. Here are the best PS2 games on PS4 to watch out for.
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The Matrix pulled it off in silver screen form in 1999 but the birth of Bullet Time in games is the sole responsibility of a certain Max Payne. Decades ahead of its time, this is a gritty cinematic shooter with a noir script so noir you’ll be talking like you smoke fifty a day in no time. Before he got all bald and wore bright shirts, Mr Payne’s origins story is all about clearing his name and solving the mystery of the murder of his family so if you want to know where it all began, you’ll need to dive into this shooter. Maybe a slo-mo landing won’t hurt as much?
Bully is what happens when you mix GTA with school. Sure, you can’t drive or shoot a gun per se but you can ride a bike and new kid Jimmy Hopkins is a wince-inducingly wicked shot with his slingshot. As Jimmy you’ll need to go to class at Bullworth Academy, learn chemistry, and, oh yeah, deal with the random acts of extreme violence doled out by young teenagers. It’s oddly compelling stuff and the combat especially impresses as it evolves. And hey, if you get bored of going to class all the time, you can just shove other teenagers into bins. Yeah. Be that kid.
Maybe it’s not as bad as it used to be, you’ll ask yourself. Maybe it’s not as grim, unrelenting, dark and existentially depressing. Oh no. It is. But that doesn’t mean Rockstar’s controversial Manhunt is any less important to play and experience. Crafting the ultimate snuff movie is never going to be pleasant and playing as James Earl Cash, an ex-death row prisoner, this is an exercise in horrifying violence. Stalk your victims in desolate corridors and watch in real horror as the perspective switches to a fuzzy handheld camera that forces you to watch life drain away. The visuals might be pushing it now but Manhunt is still a searing piece of work and you’ll definitely have to watch cartoons afterwards.
Well you could buy them separately but why would you do that when GTA 3, GTA: Vice City, and GTA: San Andreas are all available in one beautiful package of everything brilliant about the PS2 era? It’s not exactly cheap for all three but once you’ve invested once, you’ll be free to roam across Liberty City, explore the neon glory of Vice City in the 80s, and journey across the urban sprawl that is San Andreas, eating as much Cluckin’ Bell as you can. There’s a magic to all three of these games but especially San Andreas, which paved the way for every open world to come. Play it and weep about where all your spare time has gone.
Jak and Daxter Collection
Some of us are old enough for Crash Bandicoot to have shaped our formative PlayStation memories but for a different generation it was all about Naughty Dog’s Jak and Daxter series. Incredibly this collection for PS4 includes the original, Jak and Daxter: The Precursor Legacy, Jak 2: Renegade, Jak 3, and Jak X: Combat Racing. No matter which is your favourite, this collection is like wiring colourful platforming adventures straight into your brain. And we’ll save you the stress of remembering exactly what kind of creature Daxter is. He’s an ottsel, a perfect cross between an otter and a weasel.
Ever wondered what David Cage did before Heavy Rain? While not Quantic Dream’s debut game, Fahrenheit was the first to test out Cage’s interactive cinema element where your choices meant the difference between life and death. Prepare to exercise those thumbs as Fahrenheit ignores your favourite face buttons and instead focuses on swivelling the analogue sticks to solve a series of grim crimes taking place across New York. Are people really being possessed and forced to kill other people? It’s time to find out and test your reflexes at the same time.
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Originally developed as Resident Evil 3 for the Sega Saturn, Capcom’s Code Veronica X takes place a mere three months after Resi 2. A true sequel that follows up the destruction of the poor, unfortunate Raccoon City, Code Veronica X pops you into the very capable boots of Clare Redfield and her brother Chris as they take on Umbrella once again. Trivia of note includes the fact that Coder Veronica X was the first in the biohazardous franchise to make the most of 3D real time environments instead of the prerendered offerings of the first two games. You might not care when you’re stressed and popping monster noggins while manipulating tank controls, right enough.
It turns out that if you were afraid of something in 2004, it’ll still manage to terrify you utterly even if you have learned useful skills like how to change a plug, or have children since then. Forbidden Siren, known only as Siren outside of the West, is a Japanese horror so sweaty palm-inducing even looking back is enough to invoke nightmares. Those brave enough will explore the village of Hanuda, solving puzzles and attempting to avoid ghosts known as Shibito. Hide, sneak and hold your breath. It’s not going to be pretty.
Red Dead Revolver
If you want to see where it all began for Red Dead Redemption, look no further than this 2004 western. Journeying back to the 1880s, Red Dead Revolver plunges you into a sprawling western narrative with sharp shooting a plenty and more The Good, the Bad and the Ugly references than you can shake a dusty stetson at. Following bounty hunter Red on a mission to avenge the death of his parents - yes, it’s always got to involve death - this lacks the slick polish of Red Dead Redemption but is essential if you want to see where the franchise began.
Arc the Lad: Twilight of the Spirits
Arc the Lad: Twilight of the Spirits tells the tale of two brothers on opposite sides of a battle between monsters and humans. The half-monster brother, having been raised by humans, seeks to destroy his own kind, while the human sibling aims to rule the beasts and conquer humanity. A tale of love, loss, and redemption. You know, JRPG stuff.
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