A reader celebrates the 20th anniversary of the PS2 and explains why the console and its games have a special place in their heart.
On the 4th of March the PlayStation 2 turned 20! (in Japan, it didn’t come out here until 24 November).
I dabbled a little with gaming before I got a PlayStation 2 but it was during my time with Sony’s second console I became a serious gamer. This was largely due to the fact that I became disabled then and was suddenly stuck inside far more, unable to participate in more physical hobbies, so instead I lost myself in gaming.
Below are some PlayStation 2 games that are really important to me, they might not all be the best ever games but I have so many happy memories playing them and they helped to secure a special place in my heart for Sony’s sophomore console.
Max Payne 1 and 2
As my current favourite game series is Uncharted it’s very surprising to look back and realise how much I played these two games back in the day – I’ve gone from a gloomy cop to a cheeky thief!
Sure, Max was a glum chap but wouldn’t you be if your loved ones had been murdered and most of New York’s underworld were trying to kill you!? In between his Eeyore like film noir narration Max made blasting bad guys in slow motion seriously fun!
On a side note I’ve always thought that Rocksteady were inspired by these Remedy games when it comes to the Batman: Arkham series – the last goon you take out is signalled by a slow-mo swirling camera shot. We had an additional playable female character in the second game of both series and one of the Scarecrow sequences has multiple Batmen in cells, just as there are multiple Maxs in jail cells in a dream sequence in Max Payne 2!
Rise To Honor
Long before Wei Shen went undercover with the triads in Sleeping Dogs (and ate a serious amount of pork buns!) we had another undercover cop in the form of Jet Li! We didn’t just get his voice and face though, we also got Jet motion-capturing his fighting moves. As a massive fan of Mr Li’s films actually being able to fight like him via the wonder of video games was a massive thrill.
A brilliant first person shooter by British developer Swordfish Studios, which blended satisfying, meaty shooting (you could reduce enemies to bloody, limbless lumps!) with a strong story. It also threw in the ability to create cover on the fly by flipping tables over and crafting Molotovs and explosives with items you found on missions.
You play Andrew Sterling, an MI6 agent who starts off stuck in a Chinese jail as he’s been disavowed by the UK government when his last mission went wrong. Two old friends help bust him out then persuade him to work with them to initially stop a missile guidance system falling into the wrong hands but things get far more complicated. The story was aided by some excellent voice performances, especially Nathaniel Parker as Sterling and Tom Baker.
A very creepy survival horror action game from Surreal Software. You play Torque, a prisoner who claims to be innocent of the crimes of murdering his ex-wife and children but whether he’s guilty is up to you as there’s a morality system where your actions will give you one of three possible endings.
You arrive on a prison island where all hell has broken loose. A lot of the monsters you fight are based on modes of execution, like the Marksmen with guns on their back (a firing squad), Mainliners with toxic syringes in their eyes and back (lethal injection) or Noosemen (hanging, of course!) who drop down from the ceiling and try to hang you! Torque himself could turn into a monster capable of decimating his foes when he filled an insanity meter. As you worked your way across the island the atmosphere was brilliant, something which I felt was sadly lacking in the more urban setting of the sequel.
SSX On Tour
I don’t think this SSX was generally that well received but it’s the only one of the PlayStation 2 era games that I got round to playing, and my brothers and I always had a lot of fun with it. We spent most of our time just mucking about rather than racing and we even invented our own little challenge, called Knockdown, where we would see which one of us could ‘accidentally’ bump into and knockdown the most computer boarders as we went by! We also enjoyed the option to use skis instead of snowboards, which was a first for the series.
A first person shooter set in a steampunk Wild West from High Moon Studios, oh and it’s also a horror game with vampires! You play Jericho Cross, an outlaw who starts the game robbing a train only to unleash Lazarus, a vampire, who bites you. As you transform into a vampire you team up with the Darkwatch, a group fighting against the undead evil, to try and stop Lazarus. As with The Suffering there’s a morality system which unlocks varying powers and two different endings.
Grand Theft Auto series
My first experiences with Grand Theft Auto were the City Stories games (Liberty and Vice) that were for the PSP but also came out on PlayStation 2. I went on to play the PlayStation 2 trilogy as well and must have sunk a huge amount of time not just finishing the stories but just mucking about in the marvellous sandbox worlds Rockstar had created.
I’ve moved away from this kind of game now, preferring more heroic protagonists, but looking back these games gave me so much fun. While I’ll admit to going on my share of rampages (a lot!) the memories that really stick with me are just driving around enjoying the radio stations (especially Vice City’s excellent ‘80s sounds) or riding my BMX (at a time when I could no longer physically ride a bike) around the San Andreas countryside.
Tomb Raider: Legend and Anniversary
The Tomb Raider games were the main reason I bought the original PlayStation but after Lara’s woeful PlayStation 2 debut in Angel Of Darkness the raiding duties were given to Crystal Dynamics.
Legend was an excellent return to form as it wasn’t a bug-riddled mess and it actually involved tombs and lots of exotic locations (instead of too much time wasted in the Parisian Ghettos of Angel Of Darkness!)
It was also the first game where we had Keeley Hawes supplying Lara’s voice, who was the perfect blend of cool quips and vulnerability as Lara began her quest to find out what happened to her mother.
Anniversary was a remake of the very first game and what an amazing remake it was. The environments and puzzles were bigger, but it was still so faithful to the original while deepening the story to tie-in with Legend and the final game of the trilogy Underworld (which came out on PlayStation 3/Xbox 360).
Atari made a brilliant Transformers game for PlayStation 2 which blended solid shooting with exploration. You could choose between three Autobots (I was always Optimus Prime!) who had to go to Earth and find the Mini-Cons (tiny Autobots!) You explored jungle regions and snowy areas (loved the crunch of the snow under my big metal feet!) and as you found Mini-Cons you could equip them to give you different abilities (including gliding, although I always sucked at the landing!) When you had collected enough Mini-Cons you had to return to Cybertron to stop Unicron from destroying it!
Devil May Cry
While I’ve played every game of this series the first game is the only one that I regularly return to even now. I know the combat is better in later games but to me Dante has never been more heroic and likeable than he is in his debut game. This was the very first game I completed on my PlayStation 2.
Resident Evil 4
I saved the very best for last! My favourite game of all-time came out in the PlayStation 2 era. I first played this when it was a GameCube exclusive but it was released later the same year on PlayStation 2 with an extra mini-campaign, called Separate Ways, where you played as Ada Wong and an extra weapon and outfits – a very cool gangster one for Leon and a hilarious but useful (as she takes no damage and can’t be carried away while wearing it!) suit of armour for Ashley!
I must have played this game so many times over multiple formats but on PlayStation 2 I managed to get a five-star rating on every map with every character on the Mercenaries mode, unlocking the mighty Handcannon!
So there you have it, my PlayStation 2 memories. Happy birthday PlayStation 2 and thank you for making a tough time a bit easier by allowing me to escape for a while and have some epic adventures.
By reader LastYearsModel
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