Ode to a PlayStation 2
The PS2 era was something of a halcyon time in my gaming history. It was the gaming era that dominated in my formative years, and coincided with me owning my own money for the first time. I could go out and buy games indiscriminately, to start building up a library, free from the old ‘one for Christmas and one for your birthday’ constraint. Not having to buy food, clothes, petrol or second homes for MPs meant that pretty much all my money went towards games, and not having a job or a social life meant that all my not-at-school time was devoted to gaming.
So I played a lot of PS2 games. A lot of them were rubbish, but a few of them were great. Properly, lastingly great, in a way the very few games of this console generation have been. I’m inclined to agree with the people who suggest that the PS2 era represented the peak of console videogaming; where technology and creativity could perfectly intersect. Consoles were finally powerful enough to render humans that looked like humans, with recognisable facial expressions and distinct clothing. We could do audio that sounded proper, and have characters that actually spoke. But at the same time, development costs weren’t so enormous as to restrict depth and creativity.
|Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater|
Modern technology can certainly render object with a fidelity that makes the PS2 look laughable, but it does so at the expense of the deeper experience. Modern versions of older franchises are by necessity more linear and less interactive that their forbears; look at the original Deus Ex compared with the recent Human Revolution, or Final Fantasy XII next to Final Fantasy XIII. And who could afford to take a risk like God Hand or Ico on a modern platform?
|Dragon Quest VIII|
None of this is to say that modern games are worse than those of the previous generation; they’re just different. Games are moving away from broad, deep experiences and towards more controlled, cinematic ones. This is fine. And it’s worth noting that while I hold up the PS2 as the pinnacle of the videogaming experience, there will be people ten years my senior who would offer an equally informed opinion of why the Super Nintendo era featured the best games we are ever likely to see.
But, as we run full-force towards the always-online, digitally distributed and publisher controlled future, stamping gleefully on the shiny round plastic of our past, it is worth stopping occasionally and dusting off a trusty old companion. It’s worth recalling a time with no installs, no firmware, no DLC or DRM, no online passes or pre-order exclusives. It’s worth recalling, if only to remind ourselves that things haven’t always been this way, and to appreciate those games that have defined our tastes, and, by doing so, which define the impact we have on the future of our medium.
Now with that out of the way, back to Gears Of War 3.