Special: And some say PS2 has no good games? sheesh
To say this fall season will be rather competitive is an understatement. With Nintendo set to release their much-heralded next-generation system, the GameCube ? and newcomer Microsoft attempting to buy their way into the market with Xbox ? the current market leader, Sony has to fight back with a wide array of solid and/or spectacular titles. While the big N and Microsoft will spend their winters pushing their fancy new hardware, Sony is all about the games. And there's plenty of them.
This fall and winter, Sony and its 3rd parties have an avalanche of popular sequels, fully remade classics, and a few stunningly original titles hitting the PlayStation 2 console ? more than enough to satisfy any PS2 gamer.
Unfortunately, with the wide stash of great games hitting, a few are destined to slip through the cracks and become largely ignored. That's where I come in. While this fall will be loaded with instant-hits and classics, there's no doubt there's going to be a small handful of sleepers that deserve more than their fare share of the spotlight. We'll cover those hidden gems in a bit, but first, let's discuss the games we already know are going to set the world on fire.
The Must Haves
Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty: By now I'm pretty sure you've either heard of or played the demonstration version of Hideo Kojima's latest (and apparently last in the series) work of art. While indeed a sequel to an already wonderful game (moreso than past Metal Gear games), MGS2 takes the elements of the first game to the next level. With much sharper enemy AI, ridiculous amounts of depth and strategy (like shooting particular areas of an enemy's body, toying with them like prey), and possibly the most in-depth story ever arranged (with plenty of rather disturbing realism for sure), Sons of Liberty is the epitome of ?can't miss.? With release right between the Xbox and NGC launches, the timing cannot be better.
Devil May Cry: Recently released in full over in Japan, the Americanized demo of Devil May Cry has just recently come into the hands of Resident Evil fans, with purchase of Resident Evil CODE: Veronica X. If you read my hands-on preview of DMC, you already know I long for this game more than Metal Gear Solid 2, which, considering how good MGS2 is ? that's a hell of a feat. Using a control system that should be used from now on in any Survival Horror game, and with a style that makes the lead character, Dante, seem like the baddest mofo on the block, Devil May Cry is incredible. The mission-based gameplay is a welcome change from the ?all in one? format of Resident Evil, and the focus on action, not puzzles, makes for an exciting time. One of the handful of totally original games hitting PS2 this fall, DMC is destined to be another mega-hit in the vein of Resident Evil, and another huge franchise for Capcom.
Silent Hill 2: The original Silent Hill was in places an obvious Resident Evil copy ? but SH managed to top RE in terms of pure horror. While RE can get predictable in terms of scares, Silent Hill was just so utterly disturbing that you'd be terrified to turn the corner or go into a dark room. The multiple endings within also made for a mental debate over which was the true ending. And now here we are with the sequel, Silent Hill 2. Using the power of PlayStation 2, SH2 mixes in the same kind of disturbing scares and tension as the original. Perhaps more of a sleeper than any other game on the list of must-haves, if only because RE is way more popular, most hardcore gamers will want to get their hands on Konami's brilliant Survival Horror experience.
Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 3: The first THPS took some people off guard. Not truly hyped all that much, compared to other games, the original PSOne rendition of Tony Hawk went on to sell like wildfire after a seemingly endless row of praise from game journalists, as well as gamers themselves. The trick system was creative, the park designs were original and huge, and it had Tony Hawk, who's probably the only skater around who's a household name (thanks in part to this game, of course). The sequel was also great, if more of the same. It was definitely superior to the original, but it didn't really add anything new, except for the Manual system, and the awesome park editor & create-a-skater.
Now for the first time on PlayStation 2, Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 3 hopefully will blow away the first 2 THPS attempts, as well as any other skateboarding game out there. Including full online play, as well as all the great features that make Tony Hawk great, THPS3 is destined to excel. While it might be more of the same again, it looks to add more, larger parks, a deeper creation mode (for both skaters and parks), and more objectives to complete. And the redone graphics engine allows for greater detail, as well as more stuff on the screen to interact with help a bit too.
Jak & Daxter: Once Naughty Dog's top-secret project, J&D looks to establish Sony yet again with a spectacular adventure/platform game like Crash Bandicoot. J&D is heavily ambitious, with gigantic environments, with no load times at all, due to the background loading that a handful of PSOne games used back in the day. J&D looks incredibly impressive, with loads of animations, lots of polygons, and cool lighting effects too. The gameplay doesn't seem to be totally original and very similar to past platforming games, but the more unique additions put into Jak & Daxter make up for it. Considering Naughty Dog's track record for excellence, there's no reason why J&D will be a bad game.
WWF Smackdown: Just Bring It: Wrestling video games sell. Period, end of story. When a new one is set for release, the fervor is even larger than it would be for Madden or any other sports game ? and WWF Smackdown: Just Bring It should be no different. On the surface it looks just like the first 2 Smackdown games, but when it comes to the gameplay, the enhancements and additions to the already solid mechanics. With more matches than you can shake a steel chair at, most of the WWF Superstars, a hopefully advanced career mode, and the great Create-a-wrestler system of SD2, Smackdown 3 is pretty much guaranteed to sell like wildfire when it hits in October. I for one, cannot wait.
The Hidden Gems
Dave Mirra Freestyle BMX 2: Yes, this game was just recently released, but it's a definite sleeper. I've had the chance to play a bit of BMX 2, and I must say I'm very impressed with how it plays and looks. While it's not the best looking game, the huge parks (and I mean HUGE) are incredible, and the depth within is sound. Unlike THPS and its somewhat strange parameters for clearing levels, BMX 2 pushes in not only a more realistic way of doing things, it even mixes in some small RPG elements as well, for unlocking extra parks and bikes. There's also a good park creator a la Tony Hawk 2, to create your own dream park. Mirra 2 is the perfect way to bide your time awaiting Tony Hawk 3.
Ico: As one of the handful of big SCEA projects for this fall, Ico went rather ignored until this past E3 show. Since that time, the hype has escalated, but it's not really at the forefront of the hot PS2 games. Ico is the very definition of sleeper hit. Looking past the amazing visuals and wonderful sound effects, Ico is a textbook example of a mind-bending adventure. The emphasis is taken off of violence (though there is a bit of it), and more on solving the various puzzles that block your way from advancing. Adding to that is the responsibility of helping a mysterious princess escape as well, without letting her out of your sight. Ico is a sure-fire solid game, but probably not one that will sell as fast or receive as much praise as MGS, DMC, etc.
Spy Hunter: With the help of Paradigm Entertainment, Midway is bringing back the 1983 arcade hit, modernized for the PlayStation 2 console. Instead of the overhead angle of the original Spy Hunter (released in arcades and the NES console), this fully-3D rendition of Hunter plays sort of like Gran Turismo (racing) meets Twisted Metal (blowing stuff up). With plenty of objectives to go along with the gameplay, for added depth, Spy Hunter is nearly assured of being a great game..but more than likely one that will not be appreciated by the masses. If only ALL remakes of classic games could turn out this promising.
Legends of Wrestling: Just a second here ? doesn't placing this game in sleepers contradict my statement that all wrestling games sell? Yes, and no. Big licensed games like WWF wrestlers are guaranteed to sell, but a game such as this has sleeper all over it. LoW is Acclaim's latest grappler, filled with many of the most famous wrestling personalities. From Bret ?Hitman? Hart, Terry Funk, George ?The Animal? Steele, and Captain Lou Albano, many of the best of the best are included. While the past Acclaim wrestlers WWF Attitude and the 2 ECW games were disappointing rehashes, Legends of Wrestling promises a brand new scheme and fully enhanced graphics. The only reason I label this a sleeper is because some of these names may not be as well known to younger fans, thus not interesting enough for them. It looks good, however.
Crash Bandicoot: Wrath of Cortex: There was once a time when a Crash game was a guaranteed seller. But now that Crash is in the hands of another company (Traveller's Tales, to be specific), the status of the pants-wearing bandicoot is up for grabs. Nobody can be really sure of the quality of the 5th Crash platformer ? but from the looks of things, chances are it just might be as good or better than the previous Naughty Dog efforts. Featuring a nearly full-3D levels, new moves and ?weapons?, yet sticking to the classic Crash feel, Wrath of Cortex is shaping up to be a solid, if sleeper, game.
There are many, many more games coming out this fall for PlayStation 2: Max Payne, Ace Combat 4, Half-Life, NFL2K2, NHL Hitz, NFL Blitz, SSX Tricky, Portal Runner, GoDai, 18-Wheeler Trucker, along with the remaining load of racers and updated sports games that are par for the course. The point is however, these 11 games here are either going to change gaming, or get overshadowed by the more popular games, handicapping the intended audience possibly. But no matter how you look at it, PlayStation 2 has more than enough solid games hitting the console over the next 4 months ? giving us PS2 owners something to tide us over until 2002 ? ya know, when Maximo, Onimusha 2, Tekken 4, Virtua Figher 4, as well as that one game..oh what's it called..oh yeah! Final Fantasy X are released. Don't fret PS2 fans, there's plenty to do and see, even with the pending release of new consoles.