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The PS2 Blues.

Frustrated with underwhelming first-generation games, players want to know: Will the real PlayStation please stand up?

So you managed to get a PlayStation 2, Sony's powerful game console that was in painfully short supply during the 2000 holiday season. Or you may lust for what continues to be a hard-to-find purchase, even with its $300 price tag. Almost as maddening as having to look at a bunch of empty PS2 "display only" boxes at your favorite electronics store is having to stare at tantalizing games that you still can't play.

Either way, you may be frustrated. Many of the relatively few garners who have gotten their sweaty hands on a PS2 are discovering that the quality of many of those games has been disappointing.

Take, for instance, Silent Scope, Konami's scaled-down version of its popular arcade shooter game. In an apparent gamble to have games ready for the PlayStation 2 launch last year before they were actually ready, this slow-paced sniper game is about as exciting as watching ice cubes melt. Little, if any, of PS2's much-heralded processing speed and heady graphics capabilities is on display when playing this stiff, two-dimensional shooter.

With rare exceptions, the games released in recent months for PS2 have felt and played a lot like games made for the old PlayStation. Rival console maker Sega tried to capitalize on the letdown by pushing its much cheaper game box, Dreamcast, and its deeper inventory of impressive games, including online gaming, which Sony can't match.

GET WITH THE PROGRAM

Part of the problem, explain many game developers, is that whenever a new game system is released, there is a learning curve for game designers. The more complicated the new console, the longer it takes for designers to learn how to create games that can make the most use of the new hardware. Game designers for the upcoming new platforms, Microsoft's Xbox and Nintendo's GameCube, are most likely going to have to wrestle with a similar learning curve.

"People don't understand the time, money, and commitment that it takes to create video games these days," says Chris Mike, vice president for marketing for the game developer Activision. Some of the newer games, he says, can take up to five years to complete from concept to store shelf.

"For a new game system," adds Melinda Mongelluzzo, a spokeswoman for the game developer Capcom, "it takes a good year for the developers to learn how to optimize a system, to fine-tune."

PlayStation 2 appears to be the most demanding on designers so far. But that, game-industry experts contend, won't stop the PS2 from reinventing video gaming. It just didn't do it right out of the box. All indications are that the emerging batch of games scheduled for release by spring and summer will begin helping the new game machine flex its considerable digital muscles.

THE NEXT GENERATION

The second-generation games have to restore players' confidence in the PlayStation 2 before the Xbox and GameCube come along late in the year. By the fall, more than 200 new games are slated for release. Among them will be Konami's Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty. Early buzz on this stylistic, third-person, action-thriller game is that it just might redefine the video game in the same way that The Matrix transformed Hollywood.

"Things are going to get much more realistic, very much like movies," says Robert Kotick, co-chairman and chief executive of Activision. He adds that gamers should see PS2 games that will start to push the limits of smoother, more sophisticated graphics--games that will feature characters and environments not only more realistic, but even mind-bendingly surrealistic.

Gamers are certain to see significant advances this year in how games will play on the PlayStation 2. Onimusha: Warlords, an adventure game from Capcom set in feudal Japan, should be out later this month in the United States. Its rich graphics, special effects, and convincing action helped it to sell 560,000 copies in just four days when it was recently released in Japan.

Another Capcom game, Devil May Cry, was the talk of the Consumer Electronics Show in January. It's a 3-D shooter and strategy game set to debut this fall. Other anticipated games on the horizon are Gran Turismo 3, Resident Evil 4, Final Fantasy X, and Kessen II.

PROMISING PIXELS

There are already some glimpses in current titles of the kind of game magic PlayStation 2 can conjure up. Take a peek at Tecmo's DOA 2: Hardcore. Its characters are rendered in exquisite 3D. Their martial-arts moves are artfully articulated, hardly ever showing a trace of jagged edges. And the game's environments have finally transcended pretty wallpaper. They have depth and dynamic lighting effects. When a fighter battles another in an abandoned building, puddles ripple whenever anyone steps into them.

Sony officials say to expect much more game innovation in the near future, although they aren't talking much about exactly when PlayStation 2 will make the Internet innovation into online gaming. Going online didn't save Sega, which recently surrendered in the console war, saying it would stop making the Dreamcast and start creating games for the PS2, as well as the Xbox and GameCube.

Both of those rival consoles are billed as more powerful than the PS2. Some game developers even suggest that the real enthusiasm has shifted away from the PS2 to the Xbox. Because consoles are only as good as their games, Sony now appears to be emphasizing getting titles to the market that will satisfy gamers who haven't been wowed yet--before they're .wowed by someone else.

"Everybody wants to see more graphics, better and deeper game story lines," says Activision's Mike. "Everybody wants more, better, bigger, and faster." It remains to be seen which console will win that game.
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:disappointing quality of PlayStation 2 games
Author:Marriott, Michel
Publication:New York Times Upfront
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Mar 5, 2001
Words:961
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