Growing up, I wasn’t into Star Trek, and I also didn’t have a gaming PC. The computer we had for the family was for website development and it didn’t run any type of 3D applications well. PC gaming was pretty much out of my mind until the mid-2000s, but I also passed this up on PS2. I just felt Star Trek was a boring grown-up show and didn’t care at all. I now love the series and have caught up to halfway through the Voyager series so the characters and flow of the story actually made sense to me.
You play as a brand new Hazard Team thrown together by Tuvok to surgically strike enemy ships. The Voyager gets stuck in space and can’t repair itself or warp out due to something dampening its engines. It’s your job to find out what this is. It plays out just like a Star Trek episode. There is great voice acting from the show’s cast which is really nice. There are a fair amount of cut scenes, but of course, this isn’t anything stellar or memorable. It’s interesting enough to get you through the five hours it takes to finish the campaign and that’s all.
What is nice is the Star Trek experience is here. Weapons that feel like they fit in the universe, you get to explore parts of the ship, and it’s nice to see a 3D interactive world of something you see on TV a lot. Missions are varied thanks to the environments that change up. Sadly, there are no worlds you are plopped down in. Just lots of different types of ships and a few different enemy types. These range from Klingons that we all know to new original species just for this game. This is a typical id Tech 3 shooter with nothing special to it. Enemy AI is pretty dumb and the game is extremely linear. There are no puzzles or thrills. Just blast your way past wave after wave to get to the next cut scene.
There are two different types of ammo types. You pick up ammo crystals for one and regular blue energy for the other. There are nine different weapons in the game including your phaser which has unlimited ammo and does the least amount of damage. The weapons, while original and cool looking, aren’t anything special and their alt-fire modes are pretty bland. I understand this was the early days of shooters, but Half-Life proved you can have a small arsenal and make them have weight and feel unique. It got to the point that I just stuck to two different weapons at all times because the enemies are just bullet sponges. They swarm you head-on and don’t take cover or dodge or strafe. I could stand in one corner and just knock them all out and advance to the next room. The game is fairly easy because of this.
There are only two boss fights in this game and they are both pushovers because you can exploit their dumb AI. Throughout most of the game you have AI companions that do a decent job killing everything, but they usually just stand around and can’t die anyway. There is a single stealth section that felt completely pointless as the AI is so dumb you can walk right behind them and they won’t notice you. Gameplay-wise there’s literally nothing else. Just lots of elevator switches and control panels to press.
Visually the game looks the part artistically. You won’t mistake this for another game, but the graphics themselves are obviously really dated and didn’t look the best even when it was released. However, you know what you’re getting into with a two-decade-old game. It still looks clean and there is a lot of detail in making this look and feel like Star Trek. It’s worth a short play-through on a late-night gaming session, but it’s mostly forgettable.
The PlayStation 2 is not just the best selling video game console of all time, but has some of the most iconic and memorable games of all time. While the PS2 had massive third-party support is had many great exclusives and first party games. While most multiplatform games played and looked best on the Xbox I won’t cover the game I covered over on that article. You can basically check that one out and play the PS2 versions if you want and/or don’t have an Xbox. Check out that article here.
The PS2 was a major part of my childhood. It’s the system that made me a hardcore gamer. I read the Official PlayStation Magazine religiously and I owned three different systems thanks to the disc read error on the early phat models. I got the network adapter when the price dropped with SOCOM being my first ever online console game. This system is amazing and has so many fantastic games, but also has some expensive games. Most survival horror games won’t be on this list or obscure Japanese made titles. The survival horror genre is highly coveted by the niche fans it garners and I am actually one of them.
The PS2 may be the least powerful system of the three consoles but some developers really made miracles on this console. Some games just look downright amazing on here, and while no where near what the Xbox could do, it still managed some lookers. These are games that are in my personal collection, as per the usual, and you can get for under $20.
Ace Combat 5: The Unsung War – Namco – 2004
The Ace Combat series was a PlayStation exclusive for over a decade and this was the last in the series and went out with a bang. Every game was fantastic, but this one looked the best and played the best. There is a whopping 32 missions and a ton of jets and weapons to unlock. If you love air combat games this is the best it got in this generation.
Call of Duty: Legacy Bundle – Spark Unlimited/Treyarch/Activision – 2007
This was a VERY late release for the system, but it contains both Finest Hour and Big Red One. Both were console exclusive Call of Duty games. I played a ton of Finest Hour as it was a present I received for Christmas the year it came out. I also played the online mode a ton. It’s not very good today, but Big Red One is much better. If you hate WWII shooters then skip this as these were at the steep descent of the genre.
This is a Cold War spy FPS, and one of the few exclusives to PS2, and it plays surprisingly well. It was a flop, but it had fun online multiplayer at the time and was released towards the end of the system’s life. All of the FPS games that were multiplatform were better on Xbox, but we at least got something decent.
Dead or Alive 2: Hardcore – Tecmo – 2000
This was a launch title for the system and while the Xbox got a better upgraded version, this one plays very well even if you don’t have an Xbox. The game has a better tag mode and added stages and characters. It’s an early fighter so it feels a bit dated, but it’s still a lot of fun for the low price.
Devil May Cry – Capcom – 2001
This was an early entry and one of the first smash hits for the system. This game was created by the Resident Evil and Platinum Games superstars Hideki Kamiya and Shinji Mikami. It was to prove that fast paced 2D action can be done in 3D and it worked. It’s one of the biggest gaming franchises ever created. While the HD versions are the best way to play now, this version still holds up today.
Devil May Cry 3: Dante’s Awakening – Special Edition – Capcom – 2006
This was released at the end of the PS2’s life, but it went out with a bang, and the Special Edition is superior as it adds a lot of content. You can play as Virgil and Nelo, there’s harder difficulties, a new style and weapon, and a lot more. This game also released for $20 under the Greatest Hits banner and that’s when I picked this up. Sure, the next-generation of consoles were almost here, but DMC3 was still fantastic.
Downhill Domination – Incog Inc./SCEA – 2003
This was a sleeper hit. A downhill bicycle riding game was a weird niche at the time, but the game is a ton of fun and has a great sense of speed. The fun is in the physics and the course design. Jumps, bumps, steep hills, and of course you can knock opponents off their bikes. It’s cheap and a blast to play.
Final Fantasy X – Square – 2001
This was one of the first major hits for the system and even I rented this from Blockbuster when I got my PS2. The game had amazing graphics and was the first ever JRPG I finished. The characters are memorable, it has a great battle system, and the story is actually quite good. I just hated the math game known as Blitz Ball and getting the weapons can be a real chore, but this was re-released in HD on newer systems, so unless you want to play on those this version is pointless.
Final Fantasy X-2 – Square/Square Enix – 2003
This was the first time a Final Fantasy game ever got a direct sequel and it was a huge deal. Some even say this game is superior to X. I do prefer the combat here as it feels faster paced and the game is a bit easier. It features two new characters along with Yuna who become series icons and looks even better this time around. Again, this was also released in HD so those versions are better. My copy is actually the one I gave to my sister for her 14th birthday, but as an adult she grew out of gaming and gave the copy back to me. It’s nice to have it in my collection.
Final Fantasy XII – Square Enix – 2006
This was released just around when the PS3 and Wii launched and despite the late release, and one of the last exclusives for the system, it was a big hit. It featured the same world and art of Final Fantasy XI Online and featured a more real-time combat system, but had great characters and story. The game has been remastered for newer systems so this version is mostly irrelevant now. The copy I have was given to my youngest sister for Christmas in 2007 and she gave it back to me due to her not being interested in retro games anymore. It’s also nice to have that in my collection too.
Gran Turismo 3: A-Spec – Polyphony Digital/SCEA – 2001
This didn’t quite make the launch of the PS2, but boy did I put dozens of hours into this game. It’s still the best game in the series and holds up amazingly well today. One day I plan to play this again and finish every event. This game also showed what the PS2 could do visually and was ahead of its time for the longest time. Racing sims on PC couldn’t even match this game at the time.
Gran Turismo 4 – Polyphony Digital/SCEA – 2004
This game seemed to have taken forever to release, and while not as good as GT3, it still holds up very well today. This issues were with the physics model and quality being all over the place. It’s still a lot of fun with a racing wheel if you can find one. This game pushed the PS2 to its limits and was surpassed by the superior Forza Motorsport a year later.
Headhunter – Amuze AB/Acclaim – 2002
This is a port from the Dreamcast with upgraded visuals. You play as a cop who is head hunting criminals have a variety of moves and weapons at your disposal. It didn’t sell all that well, and feels dated, but a lot of fun as it was kind of unique for its time.
Hot Shots Golf 3 – Clap Hanz/SCEA – 2002
This is one of the best golf games on the system. While it’s not a realistic simulator, it has cartoon visuals and the ball physics are quite good. The game isn’t restrained by licenses or real world courses and equipment. You can level up and buy new equipment and items for your characters. It’s really fun and if you love golf games this is a must have.
This is one of the most unique games of this generation. Despite the terrible cover art the West got this is a treat to behold on the system. It used to command high prices before the HD version was released as well. While that version is better you have to experience this on the hardware it was designed for. It pushes the PS2 to its limits, but also isn’t much more than a concept or tech demo. It’s very short and most people didn’t get the game at all thus the low sales. It was originally developed on PS1, but the hardware couldn’t do what the team wanted.
I played the hell out of this game from Blockbuster when it was released. It was like a cartoony GTA. Well, the game isn’t as good as I remembered and it’s been released in HD since, but this was a huge deal on PS2 and was good for its time.
This game didn’t do as well as Jak II despite improving on it in every way. It had a lot of ‘tude compared to the original’s light heartedness. The game ditches the open area levels for more straight forward platforming and shooting combat. I never really cared too much for the Jak series, but it’s still good nonetheless.
Jak X: Combat Racing – Naughty Dog/SCEA – 2005
This was released late in the system’s life, but was a damn good car combat game. I actually only own all of these Jak games because my youngest sister gave them to me a while ago after realizing she just isn’t into retro gaming. She treasures the memories but doesn’t have the tech or knowledge to get the systems running on modern TVs correctly. They have a special place in my collection. I also don’t own the original game as it was one of the few Sony games that just didn’t appeal to me. I still don’t care much for this series, but I don’t hate them.
I remember following this game in magazines as it was dubbed the “Halo Killer” and of course that never happened. It was panned by critics as pushing the system too hard and being slow and cumbersome. I got this for Christmas of 2004 and loved it to death. I replayed the campaign a few times and thought the weight and slow reloading of the weapons felt good for once. It did have a lot of slowdown, but also looked good despite being very gray and brown. The game is better played on PS3 on the Killzone Trilogy which puts the game in HD.
Kim Possible: What’s the Switch? – Artificial Mind & Movement/Buena Vista Games – 2006
This was released at the end of the system’s life, but it’s a hidden gem through and through. Even if you don’t like Kim Possible this is a fantastic platformer that’s incredibly underrated and overlooked.
Kinetica – SCE Studio Santa Monica/SCEA – 2001
This is an awesome cycle racing game that is often overlooked. You drive humanoid cycle at a great sense of speed and can do some insane stunts. The tracks are crazy, the game looks great for being an early title, and the animations are awesome. If you like Wipeout you will like this game.
The King of Fighters 2006 – SNK Playmore – 2006
A late release for the system The King of Fighters went full 3D with a whopping 38 character cast and dozens of costumes to unlock. It doesn’t feel as fast as the 2D game, but it looks halfway decent and plays well. It’s a fun PS2 exclusive fighter especially with an arcade stick.
The King of Fighters XI – SNK Playmore – 2007
Released long after the next generation of consoles had arrived almost no one talked about this game. This game stuck to the traditional 2D sprites and is a great fighting game. An arcade stick is recommended here as well. If you’re short on PS2 fighters this is one of the best.
Kingdom Hearts II – Square Enix – 2006
Released towards the end of the PS2’s life it went out with a bang with the juggernaut that was KH2. I rented this game from Gameplay the week it came out and it was the only game I ever cried at the end for. Not to mention the theme song by Utada Hikaru is still on my playlist to this day. It’s a fantastic action RPG and yes it has been released in HD on newer consoles, but the PS2 version plays just fine even today.
This was a stylish action adventure game with some stealth elements and it wasn’t half bad. It’s full of cheap deaths and can be really hard, but it looks and plays great even to this day. Sadly, there was no sequel, but I hope Sony digs this up again at some point.
Maximo: Ghosts to Glory – Capcom – 2002
This is essentially a 3D Ghosts ‘N Ghouls. It has a fun art style, challenging gameplay, and is just a lot of fun all around. You can collect coins to continue the game and his armor is reduced as you take each hit. It’s a pretty unique game in its own right and deserves to be revisited.
This is a fantastic top down racer with a great sense of speed and control. You can get power-ups, race through houses and other areas that make you look very small. You can even design your own tracks and it was one of the few PS2 games that interacted with the PSP.
Midway Arcade Treasures 2 – Digital Eclipse Software/Midway – 2004
This is one of the best classic compilations of this generation. This game sold so well because MK2 and 3 were included. You also get Smash TV, Rampage, Narc, and many other Midway classics here.
Outlaw Golf 2 – Hypnotix/Global Star Software – 2004
This does play and look better on Xbox, but I have it on PS2. It’s another raunchy sex infused sports game from the Outlaw series, but it’s actually quite good. The humor is dated, but I still got a few laughs from it.
Outlaw Tennis – Hypnotix/Global Star Software – 2005
Again, I own it on PS2, but it’s better on Xbox. Another crazy sports game with boobs and fart jokes. You can play in volcanos, beaches, and even space. This game features all the characters from previous Outlaw games so it has a lot of content.
Primal – SCE Studio Cambridge/SCEA – 2003
This is essentially a Tomb Raider clone but more fantastical. You solve puzzles, jump around, attack things, and it feels a bit clunky, but has a long run time and a somewhat interesting story and characters. It wasn’t a big seller though.
Prince of Persia: Warrior Within – Ubisoft – 2004
It plays and looks better on Xbox, but I don’t have it on that system. This is my favorite PoP game because of the dark and gory tone and the heavy metal music. A lot of people got mad due to the shift in tone, but I think it was brave and needs to be done more. It’s a huge improvement over the first game and even has a scantily clad antagonist that was plastered all over magazines in the day.
Project Eden – Core Design/Eidos – 2001
An early game for the PS2, Project Eden was created by the Tomb Raider team and was a third person shooter with puzzle solving. It didn’t sell well and I always confused this game with Deus Ex. It’s a lot of fun despite feeling a bit dated and you will be entertained for quite awhile.
R: Racing Evolution – Namco – 2003
This plays and looks better on Xbox, but I have it on PS2. This is a racing sim featuring a surprisingly entertaining story of a busty Japanese girl trying to make it in the racing scene. The busty girl was supposed to be a huge selling point, but the game didn’t do to well. It’s still a great racing game.
Ratchet & Clank – Insomniac Games/SCEA – 2002
This was a game my youngest sister was obsessed with growing up. I liked it to and it was Sony’s more popular mascot platformer over Jak & Daxter. The series was praised for it’s clever humor, memorable characters, and signature guns with awesome alt fire modes. This game was remade for PS4 and is probably the best version to get as well as released in HD a few years back. The first game always feels dated and clunky, but it’s still a good game.
This game was a huge improvement over the first game and was praised by critics from all corners. More levels, bigger weapons, better graphics, more gadgets. The game also retains the great humor and adds new characters. The HD version is probably the way to go but it holds up on the PS2 well.
Ratchet & Clank: Up Your Arsenal – Insomniac Games/SCEA – 2004
Yes, by the third game it was starting to get a little old, but series wouldn’t stop evolving and adding quality content in form of weapons, levels, characters, and advancing the story. This was a rare case in which each sequel was better than the last and not worse. It was released in HD as well so you should play that, but the PS2 version is outstanding. Probably the best game in the trilogy.
Ratchet: Deadlocked – Insomniac Games/SCEA – 2005
Released towards the end of the PS2 life Deadlocked was the only game never released in HD and this is where things started heading downhill. The game isn’t bad at all, but it focuses more on the shooting and less platforming. The game has a lot of combat arenas and is more serious and darker in tone. Clank is also not in this game outside of voice overs which irked many gamers.
Resident Evil 4 – Capcom – 2005
Released a year after the GameCube version, and pissing many GameCube owners off, the PS2 got more content. While you can play better versions of this today, the PS2 version is still solid and well worth a play through if you don’t care about visual upgrades (they’re pretty minor). Or you can hold off for the official remake. My sister pre-ordered this in excitement and after getting scared during the first level before entering the village she turned it off and gave it to me straight up. She actually got the Premium Edition that included some extras and commands a much higher price than the standard version.
Resident Evil: Code: Veronica X – Capcom – 2001
This was a port of the Dreamcast game and was released to much acclaim. The enhanced visuals and new cut-scenes are a nice tough, but it’s just a great classic Resident Evil game. Some even say this is their favorite over Resident Evil 2. This is by far the best version of the game and should actually get a remake too.
Rogue Galaxy – Level-5/SCEA – 2005
An underrated JRPG Level-5 would later go on to make Dragon Quest VIII and Ni no Kuni. This is a fun JRPG with a sci-fi background and allows synthesizing maxed out weapons to help break up the traditional JRPG formula. It’s got a nice story and if you love classic JRPGs from this era you will love this one.
Rygar: The Legendary Adventure – Tecmo – 2002
This is a sword and sandal adventure game with platforming and puzzle solving. It’s not super memorable, but it’s fun and has a decent story and worth checking out for the low price.
SOCOM: U.S. Navy SEALs – Zipper Interactive/SCEA – 2002
This was one of the first major first party shooters Sony was able to get right. This game was a huge phenomenon and one of the first major shooters that went online. In fact, this was the first console game I ever played online and I put dozens and dozens of hours into this game. It was an absolute blast, and while it feels dated, it’s worth going back and playing through the campaign.
SOCOM II: U.S. Navy SEALs – Zipper Interactive/SCEA – 2003
This one had a much improved online component, but issues form the first game’s campaign remained, however it’s still a great tactical shooter despite it’s age.
SOCOM 3: U.S. Navy SEALs – Zipper Interactive/SCEA – 2005
The sad thing about these games is their online component were its strong suite and the servers are long gone. The campaigns just warmed you up for what to expect, but SOCOM 3 added vehicles to the game with improved visuals, controls, and overhaul of systems. It’s the best in the series, but if you have to pick one just jump into this one if you don’t care to see how the series evolved.
Shadow of the Colossus – Team Ico/SCEA – 2005
This was a great game to send the PS2 off. It pushed the system beyond its limits and had clunky controls, but man was it an experience. There was nothing like it. I got this for my 16th birthday and I played through it in one night. Now, there’s no reason to get this version as the HD one for PS3 is superior and even the PS4 remake is even better with improved controls and visuals, but only get this to experience the game as it was on the system it was built for. It’s really something to see, and it’s one of the cheapest complete games on the system.
Shinobi – Overworks/Sega – 2002
This was a reboot of the 2D series and it worked well here. The game has fast paced combat and platforming and is hard as nails too. The game is rather short, but most people won’t see the end. It’s not really a looker, but it just plays really well and if you are a fan of the 2D classics you will enjoy this.
This was another cartoony action platformer smash hit for Sony. It spawned four sequels and they just kept getting better as time went on. This game holds up very well even today, but a better HD release of the trilogy was released on PS3 so go for that unless you want it specifically on PS2. The game has clever writing, fantastic controls, great animations, and addictive gameplay. The third game is also great, but I don’t have it in my collection.
Sly 2: Band of Thieves – Sucker Punch Productions/SCEA – 2004
This game improved upon the first in so many ways. More characters, better controls, larger levels, more things to do, mini-games, and just a perfect culmination of action platforming. I actually have these two Sly games because my youngest sister gave them up as she no longer has a desire to play retro games. She loved the Sony mascot platformers as a kid and they have a special place in my collection.
SoulCalibur III – Project Soul/Namco – 2005
A PS2 exclusive, SC3 was a massive game. 24 fighters, two huge game modes with one including a strategy type game, and robust custom fighter mode which stayed in the series here after. There wasn’t any online play, which sucked, but the game was still a blast and is one of the best fighting games on the system. It’s even better with an arcade stick.
Spider-Man 2 – Treyarch/Activision – 2004
This game looks much better on Xbox, so get it on that if you can. The PS2 version still plays great though. This game was a huge part of my teen years. I bought this game when it came out and played through it more than once. It was amazing swinging through the city with such ease. Open world games outside of GTA weren’t a thing back then like this especially with this quality. The combat was repetitive, but it’s the best Spider-Man game outside of the newest Sony ones.
This game was a huge deal back in the day. Jet ski games weren’t really a thing and when something as crazy and fun as this game came along people talked. The courses were insane, the tricks were fun, and the sense of speed was unreal. It holds up really well even today.
Tekken Tag Tournament – Namco – 2000
This was a launch title for the PS2, and yes it had two fighting games at launch, and this game featured the ability to choose two characters and tag them out. It was a massive hit and was the talk of every playground. It looked good too.
Tenchu: Wrath of Heaven – K2/Activision – 2003
Tenchu returned with much praise. This was more ninja stealth action that played well, felt good, and holds up even today. You need some patience so unless you have that don’t bother with this one. Running around and swinging your sword will just get you killed.
The Getaway – Team SOHO/SCEA – 2003
This was a huge deal when it was released. It pushed the PS2 to its limits, and the game had no HUD. When you drove you only knew where to go based on the car’s blinker and where to turn. This was cool and unheard of back in the day, but also led to many cheap deaths. The controls are clunky, but you have to admire the London style GTA clone that it was and tried to be hyper realistic.
Virtua Fighter 4: Evolution – Sega AM2/Sega – 2003
This is one of the best fighters on the system. Probably the top three. Virtua Fighter 4 is just so fast, fluid, and responsive and feels like its evolved. There’s a quest mode, unlockable fighters, costumes, wallpaper and more. The game is packed with content and plays best with an arcade stick.
Grand Theft Auto was an unstoppable juggernaut in the early to mid-2000s. With the rise of the PSP and its new near PS2 quality visuals, it was a perfect match for the series. Liberty City Stories wasn’t simply a GTA3 port, but a whole new story and set of missions set within the same world. The exact copy of GTA3’s Liberty City is ripped out of the PS2 and copied on the PSP with grace and detail. I felt like I was playing GTA3 the entire time through my 10-hour campaign, but it came with caveats.
When you jump into a car for the first time LCS has that classic GTA feel. Arcadey physics, campy humor, and unrealistic everything else. You can run people over, get 5-star police wanted ratings, jump off cliffs, and do everything else you could do in GTA3. It’s a sight to behold on such a small system. Driving is probably the most enjoyable aspect of LCS including the missions that have you driving the most. When you jump out of the car is when things go awry.
Combat is abysmal in this game and really brings it down. Since there is no right analog stick you must rely on a lock-on system that just doesn’t work. Half of the time if you aren’t facing an enemy shooting at you there will be no lock-on causing cheap deaths. There is no cover system, so missions are tailored toward the console with slightly better controls. It’s impossible to gun down two dozen enemies while also only being able to take 4-5 shots before dying. This is the most infuriating thing about LCS and really brings the score down. I had to use cheats to finish the game. I died maybe 10-15 times on several missions even with cheats! Having only a few enemies is manageable and some missions felt tailored towards the PSP controls and some didn’t. There were missions I really thought were fun, but then I’d be thrown into a multi-part mission and die a dozen times on the last part just to have to restart all over again. It also doesn’t help that you don’t make much money in this game quickly so every time you die or get arrested your weapons are gone. For some missions I was stuck with no money and had to have a weapon so I had to use a weapon cheat. The game’s flow was not thought out very well.
At least the story and characters are entertaining. While not as fleshed out as later games in the series Toni Cipriani and his fellow employers are all classic GTA-style characters and I enjoyed seeing them on screen. The radio stations are back and are one of my favorite parts of the game. Driving around listening to the hilarious commentary is gold. Due to the small volume space on the PSP disc, there isn’t much of it. I would start to hear repeated stuff about a quarter of the way through the game which is a shame, but the game supports custom soundtracks which are nice. There is a multiplayer mode, but it’s nothing really special. You and a buddy can basically wreak havoc over ad-hoc. You can participate in races, taxi, and first responder missions, but there’s nothing special here that wasn’t in GTA3 or is PSP exclusive.
The visuals of the game are pretty impressive, but there is a lot of slowdown and pop-up. LCS pushes the system to its limits, and the amount of detail is crazy. There are reflections when it rains, tons of traffic and pedestrians, large buildings loom over the horizon. The sound is great as well as it feels like a living breathing city despite how little interaction there is. But, on the surface, after the story is over there’s no real reason to come back unless you just want to ride around causing mayhem.
Overall, LCS is an incredible technical feat but is brought down by a mission structure not tailored for the handheld’s control system. It’s way too easy to die with missions that require sometimes dozens of enemies firing at you all at once, which leads to dozens of restarts and endless frustration. There’s a lot of slowdown and pop-in, and the radio stations start repeating after only a couple of hours, but that’s just the roughness of the original GTA open-world games. They weren’t perfect but were enjoyable thanks to their sense of freedom and great writing and character design. I recommend playing LCS, but keep the cheat sheet handy as you will need it since there are no difficulty options.
Max Payne 2 was released a little over a year from the original and a surprising amount of fat was cut from the original. It’s the same game, but more refined and updated and feels more tightly woven than its predecessor. A lot of problems were fixed, but new ones arose as well. The narrative continues right after the first game with Max still trying to avenge the death of his wife and child, still trying to get to the bottom of The Inner Circle, and a new love blooms: Mona Sax.
The game starts off similarly to the first game, we get some weird trippy dream sequences, but they aren’t nearly as awful with zero platforming this time. Once you are in control of Max you can instantly feel the difference. He has more weight, his animations are smoother, and gunplay overall just feels punchier and sharper. More weapons were introduced with many old ones coming back. The new M4 and Kolishnokov weapons are a great addition, but unnecessary. One assault rifle is good enough as well as the addition of the HP5, but the Ingrams do just fine for a sub-machine gun. While the older weapons pack more of a punch the new weapons just feel like they were added just to add to the weapon count, less would have been fine. A new dedicated projectile button has been added so you can throw grenades and molotovs without equipping them.
Bullet Time has been refined and fixed as well. Max can now spin around in a 360-degree motion while dodging and the bullets impact harder and there’s less of a delay when you shoot. There is also better feedback on enemies when hit as they stumble more and drop their weapons so you know they’re dead in bullet time. Max can also stay lying down while continuing to empty a clip so the delay in getting up doesn’t make you completely vulnerable as the first game did. The difficulty has been dialed way back and I died a lot less than in the first game. All these great fixes and additions make Max Payne 2 the better of the two games already.
When it comes to level design, Max Payne 2 has more interesting levels like a creepy funhouse, a sprawling mansion, a construction site, and some apartment slums, but there’s a lot of backtracking and I feel the overall scope of the game feels claustrophobic. The variety is better, but you explore those few areas longer and I just feel I wanted to see more of New York inside this noire world Max lives in. Also, gone are the boss fights so the game feels better paced and I felt a tempo of gameplay going that the first didn’t have. However, the game is much shorter clocking in at 4-5 hours. There aren’t any collectibles or anything like that so once you fly through the game it’s over and there’s no reason to ever go back honestly.
Max Payne 2 is a memorable ride. The story is still told in those awesome comic strips, and I feel at the end of the game we get to know Max and Mona well enough to understand their characters and want them on screen more. Their love story is a great centerpiece for this Mafia revenge tale and it makes Max and Mona feel more human. There’s still a cliffhanger at the end of the story, and a third Max Payne game didn’t come until a decade later, but what we get is one of the best single-player shooters of the PS2/Xbox era. It’s tightly compacted and solid and while its short, sometimes that means quality and that is rare even to this day.
Bullet time. While The Matrix made it popular amid pop culture, Max Payne started it all in the video game realm. You play as a cop, Max Payne, who is framed for murder of another NYPD cop. Your wife and newborn child are also murdered and you are trying to get revenge on the people who did it. The story isn’t anything amazing, but Max Payne’s voice actor, and the well done writing, keep you hooked long enough to find out what happened behind the scenes. The game is told in a comic noir graphic-novel style and it suits the game well. The cut scenes are imaginative and different, and don’t look cheap or like the developers were trying to take short cuts.
Outside of the story, the gameplay is all about shooting because that’s literally it. Max runs around with various weapons such as Barrettas, Ingrams, shotguns, grenade launchers, Molotov cocktails, grenades, and assault rifles to mow down the Mafia and corrupt cops. Bullet time is the main gameplay element here and when activated Max does a jump dodge in the direction you move and you can see him dodging bullets in real-time. This is actually a mechanic you must master as most situations require you to use it to stay alive. You can’t stand in one spot or you will be dead in a few hits and there’s no cover system. I had to quicksave every 2-3 minutes as well because the game is so difficult. It’s cool to jump dodge around a corner, but once Max lands there’s a delay in him getting up and you are completely vulnerable to gunfire. I had to make sure I jump dodged behind cover or across a hallway so I wouldn’t die the second the bullet time finished. You can also activate bullet time and just run your meter down so you can run and gun with it too.
There are very few scenarios in which you do more than press buttons. One scene has Max driving a crate crane around an area, but it’s nothing special, and there are some interactive objects that trigger comic cut scenes, but 95% of the game is just shooting. The weapons themselves feel good and I felt I had to switch up weapons depending on the situation to make my life easier. The locales are varied, but they are a bit too stale and boring for my taste. They don’t quite capture the noir feeling of the comic cut scenes, but there is one level early on called Ragna Rock that was a gothic cult house that reminded me a lot of Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines, so that’s a good thing. The game really does feel like a first-generation PS2/Xbox game, but it’s very polished. The game flows nicely, but the difficulty is all over the place, you will die dozens and dozens of times in this game.
The visuals are clean and look nice even 20 years later. I installed a texture upgrade patch and some other things to make the game upscale to 4K nicely and play on modern hardware, and it looks pretty good. Even in the original, the facial textures are nice and very realistic, and the over aesthetic of the game stands out over most shooters of its time. The voice acting is great, and I finished the game in about 7 hours. After you finish it there’s literally nothing else to do as the multiplayer mode was scrapped. It’s a fantastic single-player game that holds up well even today despite its insane difficulty and unbalanced gameplay. The story isn’t anything special, but Max is a great character to dive into and it makes for a fun evening.
Third-person action games were big on PS2 thanks to games like Devil May Cry. They were some of the largest games you could find on the system, and Bujingai followed that trend. The story is nonsensical and has almost no point existing. You’re following a former master around who has been possessed by a demon and has taken your girlfriend or something lame like that. Having almost no story isn’t a great way to start a game either.
One of the big draws with this game was the fact that the Japanese rockstar Gackt was involved, and I mean about as involved as showing up and grunting. Advertising someone as big as Gackt was at the time and only having him grunt and shout is a complete waste of talent. He has zero lines of dialogue and probably finished his whole recording session in a few hours. There isn’t even any music by Gackt in here which is lame. With that said, the game is all about hacking and slashing and there’s plenty of that.
The game consists of a quick and heavy attack as well as dodging and a defense meter that auto-blocks attacks until the meter is run down. 90% of the regular enemies are brain dead and are a cakewalk to slice through. As enemies die you acquire orbs which are used to upgrade various stats. You also have spells that are hidden throughout levels and can be passive or active. I rarely used these and most are not that powerful, but the passive attack increase spell wound up being the most useful. Lau, the main character, has some really nice animations and the game is very flashy, but there are so many flaws that make this game a frustrating nightmare to play.
Something as simple as platforming is bogged down by an awful camera and finicky jumping mechanics. The character jumps in the direction the camera is facing and the direction can’t be altered mid-air. This led to dozens of minutes just trying to get across a few platforms. You can wall run, glide, and wall jump but they add to the chore and headache that is platforming in this game. The combat solely relies on the lock-on mode as the camera can’t keep up with the action. This proves extremely annoying during boss fights, and the final nail in the coffin is the uninterruptable animations that cause endless deaths and pointless damage being taken. Lau will spin and slice, but one button press is a series of animations that must be played out before you can even dodge. Even if you time your attacks in between the enemies’ most of the time you will still take damage because you can’t stop the attack. This also goes for the fall-down animations that take forever and recovery is just as slow.
The level design is also very bland with generic Japanese folklore-inspired enemies and repeated bosses. There’s not a soul in this game as it just feels like a cookie-cutter Japanese game that tried to get sales with Gackt’s name. I honestly didn’t feel like there was any benefit to playing this game the entire time I played and I couldn’t even finish the game due to how incredibly difficult it ends up being by just fighting the animations and camera. I got to the second to last boss and had to just give up after 2 hours of trying. It also doesn’t help that orbs aren’t given out often enough to allow you to upgrade fully before reaching the final 8th stage. I like how if you die you just restart the area you’re in instead of the entire level, but it means nothing if you can’t progress.
As it stands, Bujingai is a forgettable game with almost no point in existing. If you’re itching for a hardcore hack and slash that requires precise timing then this might be for you, but there isn’t even a decent story to complete and even Gackt fans have nothing to really gain here.
Ghost Recon has always been a part of my childhood as it was one of my dad’s favorite games. While we only had the inferior PS2 versions, they were kind of fun to play and really challenging. The slow pace of crawling through enemy territory and deciding the best way to take them all out without dying after 3 shots could sometimes be quite rewarding especially since this is what the series was popular for. GRAW carries this over on the PC version specifically while the Xbox 360 version is faster-paced. I personally think this is a much inferior version and the slower pace feels dated and boring.
After so many Ghost Recon games, it was exciting to get a new game in the series on the brink of brand new technology. While the PC version sure looks great, it uses a slightly different engine and is in a first-person perspective rather than a third like the Xbox 360 version. Everything just feels completely different such as enemies not staying tagged with the orange diamonds and this became a real big problem. You get a drone in this game but it’s tied to a tactical map rather than viewing it in real-time overhead. You can use basic commands to send squad members to an area and take out enemies, but you’re so blind and the angle of the camera for the map is really strange and distorts your perspective. Many times my men died because I didn’t know what was ahead and unless you play at a snail’s pace you’re going to die a lot.
That also goes for your character. Two or three shots and you die and the checkpoints are so infrequent and spread apart that it leads to many frustrations. The PC version should have a manul quick save feature and it doesn’t. The character walks like a geriatric on a crutch or sprints as fast as a turtle. The maps are bland and void of any type of action or ambiance. Just plain walls, silos, warehouses, and blown-up cars. Once I did get a few bad guys tagged I would send my guys out, but stray too far and the tags disappear which is really pointless. Just on the training map alone, I died maybe 6 or 7 times because it’s just so hard to see what’s coming up in a large open map. I need something like, I don’t know, my drone’s tags to stay up and I see where every bad guy is and either skip some or avoid certain areas.
At least giving commands is rather simple as using the mouse wheel or number row tells your guys to stop, follow, attack, or carry out commands set on the map. However, the AI is weird as sometimes my guys would pop people I never even saw and then not engage on tagged targets I told them to attack. They would just stand there and stare and sometimes get shot up and tell me that the target isn’t reachable. With all of this combined, this makes for a buggy and frustrating mess of a game that doesn’t exist on the Xbox 360 version. The snail’s pace alone isn’t fun and is boring and bland and takes away all the character and amazing pace of the console version. Why Ubisoft tried to make the PC slower is beyond me as I wanted the 360 version just with better visuals maybe? Even the art style is completely different despite most of the maps and missions being the same.
Overall, GRAW on PC is a huge letdown as Ubisoft thinks we want a slower more boring game? It feels more like Rainbow Six than Ghost Recon and carries with it too many of the issues from past Ghost Recon games. Get rid of the slow pace and animations, make the AI better, and stop making up crawl around a massive map trying to pick off-targets. It’s just not fun at all. Some people may love this, such as those who actually like boring tactical shooters that play at a crawl, but GRAW on PC just doesn’t cut it and shouldn’t exist when a superior version exists on Xbox 360.
The PlayStation is well known for its artsy games and games that push the boundaries of the medium. Team Ico already did this with Ico for the PlayStation 2 and then again with Shadow of the Colossus. Pushing the PS2 beyond its limits they were able to create a huge world with massive colossi that must be wrangled and toppled in hopes to save a nameless girl from an endless sleep. You play as a boy only known as Wander and with your trusty sword, bow, and horse Agro, you follow the light from your sword to each colossus to figure out how to take them down.
Each colossus is a puzzle unto itself that requires using the environment, wits, skill, and thinking. One colossus may require agitating it and having it expose a weak point at which you use your bow to make a graspable part low enough to reach. You then climb the colossus, with some being climbing puzzles, and stab each weak point while they buck and try to toss you off. You can hang on by holding R2 and using X to jump. It’s not as easy as it sounds as letting go of R2 can drop you to your death or make you start a climbing puzzle all over again. The controls have slightly improved with the remaster, but the animations are irritating, sluggish, and towards the end of the game the frustration really starts to set in.
While the game doesn’t run at 10FPS like in the PS2 version, trying to do more advanced combat and relying on quick controls is not possible and it gets really frustrating at around colossus 12 or 13. One colossus is a small bull that must be chased off a cliff to knock off its armor and then jumping on it just right from that cliff to land on its back is no easy feat. The issue here is that Wander just doesn’t have the agility to dodge attacks as no matter how much I rolled or jumped the bull always hit me. I missed the cliff jump the first time and I died before making it back up to try again. Wander’s get-up animations are incredibly slow with around 7 seconds passing before he gets up. Some colossi can hit you again and kill you quickly if you don’t know what to do. Outside of combat the animations to jump around and grab on are wonky as long climbing puzzles towards the end have to restart if you so much as get a jump at the wrong angle. You can adjust Wander mid-jump so he will go in that direction until he hits the ground.
Outside of taking down these massive colossi, there’s literally nothing else to do. This large open world is completely void of life outside of some birds and it’s my biggest gripe about this game. As beautiful as it is I wanted more, as the story in itself is pretty bare-bones and vague in terms of what’s going on, even towards the end. I feel like this world could have been fully lived in with lore and people whether they’re alive or dead. It takes around 10 minutes to get to each colossus and that time is spent controlling Agro who has sluggish animations and terrible controls still and staring at a barren wasteland. I understand it’s cursed, but it could have been more.
The visual upgrade is probably the most noticeable as it looks amazing with flowing grass, Nvidia HairWorks on the colossi, HDR lighting, and high-resolution models and textures. On my 65″ LG OLED TV it just pops using the PS4 Pro. That’s also another thing, the game has framerate issues and doesn’t look as good in the original PS4, so the Pro is the way to go here.
Overall, Shadow of the Colossus is well worth a purchase for newcomers and anyone who played the previous two versions. The visual upgrade alone and higher framerate is well worth it and I feel this is the version that the developers originally envisioned, but just couldn’t pull it off with the technology at the time. Shadow of the Colossus is a piece of gaming history. Pushing gaming conventions to their limits as well as an underpowered piece of hardware, and a vision that was bigger than life, Shadow of the Colossus is a must-play for any PlayStation fan.
The very first game I ever pre-ordered. I have never been more excited about a game in my life. Watching gameplay trailers on a PC from 1997 on a 19″ CRT monitor while I stash away allowance bit by bit to get the Premium Pack for PS2. 2004 was an exciting year for gaming and for Mortal Kombat. With Deadly Alliance receiving mostly positive reviews, but a lot of criticism from reviewers, Deception turned everything to 11 and added interactive arenas, more game modes, online fighting. Yes, the online part was the biggest selling point of Deception.
This is the direct sequel to Deadly Alliance. Quan Chi and Shang Tsung have failed to take over and Onaga The Dragon King has decided to rise from Outworld and claim everything as his. A man named Shujinko is now the game’s lead (the first of many to come in later games) who must stop the Dragon King and reverse the actions he made during the Konquest mode that helped give Onaga his power.
Let’s talk about Konquest mode first as most people will dive into it right away. It’s awful and should never have existed. It’s an expansion on Konquest from Deadly Alliance in which Raiden just walks along a path and each “level” is a training tutorial for all the characters. This is an adventure mode where you get quests, find the treasure for the Krypt, hidden secrets, and find out the back story to Deception, as well as meet many MK fighters and surprises. Sounds great on paper right? Well, it’s horribly executed as one of the worst attempts at a free-roaming RPG/adventure hybrid I’ve ever seen. Shujinko runs around in supersonic fast forward motion, the realms are void of any life, they are terribly laid out, and the worlds rely on a grid system to figure out where every secret and item is. The problem is that the map is useless with no actual grid on the map so you run around for 10 minutes trying to find D2 or H8 only to realize it’s locked away and you can’t go there until you complete the Konquest.
That’s the main downfall of Konquest. Quests aren’t logged and the entire game has to be played with a guide. It would take dozens and dozens of hours to figure everything out yourself as locations to solve quests and even chests are incredibly cryptic or specific. Some chests with Krypt keys only appear on certain days of the month and times and you would never know without a guide. You can meditate to make time move by faster, but this whole entire game mode is just frustrating, messy, and irritating. Doing the actual main quests is fine as there’s always a large green pillar of light pointing where to go, but talking to a random character and getting a one-sentence quest saying to find a gem is not how quests should be done.
On top of all this, the worlds are terribly laid out. They try to force a look onto each realm such as Chaosrealm having magic portals that project to you various little floating islands that are “chaotically” made up and don’t make sense. Orderrealm is just a giant circle floating in the sky with “order” to the layout and it looks nice and dystopian. It’s a little corny with the way the worlds are represented, but it’s kind of cool to finally explore these areas despite there being nothing to do in them. The visuals are also abysmal as this looks like an early PS2 game that launched, even a little worse than that. Horrendous textures and models, awful voice acting, and laughable animations. It looks like an amateur game developer made this in a weekend.
Outside of Konquest is when things are much better when you actually get to fighting. If any game were to use realistic martial arts it’s Mortal Kombat. This fighting system and this era of games aren’t most peoples’ favorite. The realism is nice with some good animations and each character having two martial arts and a weapon style. You can branch into these styles with long combo strings, but that’s where the issue lies. This realistic slower fighting style is in contrast to the fast-paced action of the 2D games. The characters look like stiff plastic dolls and the combat is all about memorized combos. It’s fun, and it works with Mortal Kombat, but it’s also not the best way to play these games. The slower fighting pace means more strategy is involved and a new Breaker system has been added to quickly get out of combos.
The interactive environments are some of the coolest features of Deception as they are basically fatalities within a stage. There are yellow lines that indicate when a player can get knocked out and take damage to a new tier and red lines that will kill the player. The arenas are large enough to where a game of tug-of-war always ensues and it makes playing tenser, especially online. Do you just knock them into the trap or play with them so you can do a fatality? Speaking of fatalities, each character has two unique ones and some are great and some are lame. Li Mei, for example, has two fatalities that are just boring. Super punches to the chest and you explode? Yawn. Kick your head off? Seen it before. Some others are rather runny and unique, but there are also Hara Kiris that allow the loser to do a fatality on themselves taking the glory away from the opponent. Whoever inputs their code first gets to take the fun.
Outside of combat, you can play Puzzle Kombat which is just Street Fighter Puzzle with MK characters. At the end of each round there is a fatality unique to the player, but getting your power level up means you can perform a special move that each character has. It can be played online as well and is super addicting and can be a game on its own. The last mode is Chess Kombat which is one of the most unique modes to ever grace a fighting game. Just like a game of chess, you can pick which character is what piece and you play chess, but instead of just knocking a piece over you fight it out MK style. Each piece gets a certain amount of health so pawns of the least amount of health. It’s a great twist that adds more skill to the game and can also be played online. It’s a ton of fun and I hope this mode returns to future games.
Besides the Krypt where you can unlock various stuff for fans like promo videos, behind-the-scenes art, and various goodies, there’s not much else. Online play is incredibly smooth with a full lobby that you can talk to other players in, challenge players, and you have a win/loss ratio next to your name. I never had any connection drops and playing online extends the longevity of the game tenfold.
I also want to talk about the new characters. Since MK4, Midway has had trouble adding interesting new characters and that trend continues for the third time. Dairou and Havik are just boring awful characters that don’t have any personality or soul. They feel forced and I’d rather have a classic character put in than these two.
Overall, MK: Deception is a fantastic fighting game that is only hampered by slower combat, and a horrible Konquest mode that must be played to unlock half the game’s roster and extra costumes. Puzzle and Chess Kombat are excellent modes that add dozens of hours of fun, and online play is always welcome.
Note: As of May 31, 2014, you can no longer play Deception online due to GameSpy servers being shut down. Even then, not a single person played this online past 2006-2007. As Armageddon and other fighters came out Deception’s user base quickly fell after the first 18 months and never went back up. Get a buddy to play next to you instead.
If you ignored the original Killzone back in 2004 I can’t blame you. It was a rough road for Guerilla as they tried to make an exclusive first-person shooter for Sony’s underpowered console to out beat Halo and Metroid Prime. Sony never had an FPS that was exclusive to their system, so it was Guerilla’s time to shine. It was dubbed “The Halo Killer” by fanboys and it sadly received lukewarm reviews upon release. I actually got this for Christmas 2004 and ate it up like candy and was a serious fanboy over this game. Fast forward 14 years later and I can see the game’s many flaws, but also appreciate what it did for the PS2.
You play as a squad of four who are tasked with stopping an evil Nazi-like empire known as the Helghast that is trying to destroy all of humanity over the planet Vekta. The story is bare-bones, but there’s a lot of potentials here with interesting art assets and great voice acting, but it just falls flat. There’s no background on the main characters of the war you’re fighting in. You’re literally just dropped in with no background or reasoning behind it. This was never done with Halo or Metroid Prime as you were pulled right into the war or battles and understood exactly why you were there. It’s just a bunch of cut-scenes with the squad going after various Generals and moving from Helghan base to Helghan base.
The shooting is very interesting as it’s part of why Killzone was loved by those who did like it. There’s a lot of weight behind the weapons and they are actually quite unique and shoot well. It’s your standard array of military weapons but with a twist and with some personality behind them. Honestly, the weapons are the only thing front and center in Killzone and dominate the entire game. From the ISA and Helghast standard assault rifles to rocket launchers, grenade launchers, pistols, and heavy machine guns. Most weapons have a secondary fire that helps balance their weaknesses such as the Helghan’s rifle has a shotgun attachment and the ISA one has a grenade launcher. I personally stuck with the Helghast assault rifle through the first fourth of the game as you can only play as Templar, but once the other characters were unlocked I played as Rico since he has a chain gun with 800 rounds and a missile launcher. It’s seriously overpowered but feels so good to mow everyone down around you. The only weapon I really disliked was the shotgun as it’s so slow to pump and shoot that unless you are one on one with a single enemy you’ll get killed because you can’t fire fast enough. It’s practically useless even in tight corridors.
The downside to the weapons having a lot of weight behind them is the animations. They are so long that it makes the game more difficult than it needs to be. Every time you switch weapons there’s a long animation of pumping the shotgun, fiddling with a rocket launcher scope, flipping up the lid on the scope to the sniper rifle, Rico’s chain gun takes at least 2-3 seconds to swing out then there’s a weird pump animation after so you have to hide behind walls every time you switch weapons because of these animations. The same goes for reloading. Some weapons take over 5 seconds to reload with the shotgun taking nearly 10 to load every single round. It’s fun to see and was never done up to that point in time, but it needed to be sped up or changed.
Outside of the weapons the enemy AI is as dumb as a doorknob with the Helghast literally standing around not shooting at all or they won’t move to cover. Part of this is the underpowered CPU in the PS2 and the game engine that pushed it way too far. There’s so much pop-in with fog of war to make up for the lack of a draw distance that enemies pop in and most of the time all at once so an entire room or corner will be full of Helghasts that are easy pickings with a single grenade or kill you really quickly if you don’t notice them. The game engine just chokes the PS2 like no other game with framerates dipping into single digits. I also played the remastered version for PS3 and while the 720p resolution looks sharper, there are still framerate drops because the engine just couldn’t handle the load. Sadly, because of the limitations, environments are bland and boring with claustrophobic corridors and almost no draw distance. The game is gray, dull, and colorless, and while this could have worked, the weak PS2 brings the art backward because not enough can be rendered on the screen to make it look nice.
The entire game pretty much plays the same way and takes about 5 hours to finish. There are no vehicle scenes, no scripted events, it’s all just running and gunning which gets old towards the end. For the PS2, this game is quite impressive and had a decent multiplayer mode, but there are more flaws than there are perfections. I would rather have had an uglier game that played better, but PS2 fanboys were clamoring for something that pushed the system like Halo did the Xbox. Is Killzone a Halo killer? Absolutely not and doesn’t even come close.