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Playstation 2 Comments

Vaipon, and old friend of mine and most excellent Quake player in the UK recently got himself a Playstation 2.  Since about 1/3 of our visitors expressed an interest in the PS2 a couple of months ago when I ran a poll on it, I thought you guys may be interested in what he wrote.  He ordered it from Fanscompany.com for a price of 445 British Pounds.


From: Vaipon
To: DaveW

I wish I had a digital camera, then I could take some real close up pictures of the PS2 when I get it. One amazing output I only learned of last week is a digital optical out. This means I can extract CDs to minidisc digitally, and also DVD soundtracks etc. It has an internal DTS decoder as well, meaning no seperate box is required as long as your amplifier supports it. The network connectivity is rated at 100mbps so it is ready for cable modem and xDSL etc, but I think the PC will always be the machine to be online with. The PS2 really is a multimedia delight, not just a games console, and it seems likely that Sony may well realize their dream of producing the first accepted set-top box hardware platform everyone will have in the living room.


From: Vaipon
To: DaveW

My Japanese PS2 arrived yesterday morning, along with Ridge Racer 5 and Tekken Tag Tournement. Here is the lowdown:

The console itself is about the coolest thing you will ever see! It's quite small considering how large it looks in all the photos, and is probably a bit bigger than PS1 + a lot heavier. It has two LEDs on the front, one which cycles from green to red to let you know when it is turned on, and the other a bright blue LED which looks cool for the DVD drive eject. There are a few ports, including the brilliant optical out which I can use to make perfect digital copies of CDs and DVD soundtracks to mini disc :) When you first turn the console on, you see a very nice attract screen with transparent cubes and light pulses refracting in them, and then you get the main options screen. All the time you are navigating the boot menus, there is the sound of ocean waves crashing against the shore and the wind blowing peacefully. It is the most amazingly well presented console I have ever seen. You can change loads of stuff like screen aspect ratios and component output etc from the menus. I have tried a few PS1 games, and they run perfectly (The PS1's chipset is inside the PS2 as the io-controller chip so they should run perfectly really). My utility disc is version 1 which means that the region 1 DVD hack works, and playback is good but not perfect. First of all, there is none of the "visual artifacting" reported on the net after the Playstation 2 festival in Japan. This is a load of rubbish, and DVD image quality is pretty much perfect. The area which suffers is framerate, but it is very *very* slight. When a smooth camera pan occurs in a film, the screen bobs slightly and I think the reason is that it's dropping an occasional frame which is a shame really. This will probably be fixed when they optimise the DVD drivers, but installing new drivers means the region 1 trick won't work so there is very little I can do about it Oh well, I can still watch all my films on the PC in a higher res anyway so it's no big deal to me, but I don't think the PS2 is a substitute for a hardware player like a lot of the gaming sites are saying. The weird thing is, the MPEG 2 demo on the util disc runs perfectly smoothly, so it could be an issue with region 1 discs and there may be a few bugs that still need ironing out. It will only output NTSC as well, meaning that even though I have a few region 2 DVDs, none of them will play :( The power requirement for the PS2 is higher than any other console as well, at 100~120volts 50 watts. The DC only needed 25 watts, and I had to buy a heavy duty transformer before I could leave the thing turned on for more than a few minutes.

Ridge Racer 5 is very fast. The framerate is 60 fps constantly no matter how much or how little is going on in the scene. The draw distance is gob smacking as well, and when you are on a long straight and you see skyscrapers on the horizon that isn't a bitmap you are looking at, that is real 3D in the far distance. Nice effects like reflections of buildings in the windows of cars and offices are present, and there is an amazing effect whereby when the camera is focusing on your car, all other scenery (distant and near) is out of focus slightly (DaveW: He is describing depth-of-field, like on the Voodoo 5). It gives the replays an incredible look. Brake light blurring and sparks flying from the rear of the cars when they scrape the road are very nice also. Oh, and the intro is cool with one of the most amazing polygon models of a girl I have ever seen. Overall, the game isn't a massive leap over R4 on the PSX but it is early days yet and even though the PS2 has few games out so far, the Japanese DC launch had even less! The dual shock 2 controller is used for steering and acceleration, but the new analogue buttons are very weird. They *feel* exactly the same as a PSX pad when you press them (they CLICK into position that is). One you have pushed the button down though, you can continue to add more pressure which gives a greater effect, and in R5 you have to push the button quite hard to get full acceleration out of the car. I think it must be the same technology they use in electronic scales.

Tekken isn't as good a game as R5 I don't think, although the graphics are better. Again, the framerate is locked onto 60, and the number of effects on screen in this title is incredible. Pools of water on the floor reflect the surrounding scenery, and light sources illuminate characters casting shadows in the appropriate directions. Individual clumps of grass are scattered everywhere, and leaves on the floor are displaced when a character hits the deck. There is a lens flare effect when the sun comes into view, and waterfalls etc adorn the backgrounds on other stages. One amazing thing about the backgrounds is that they are full of other people watching the fight. I'm not just talking about 1 or 2 people, I'm talking about crowds of fully 3d rendered spectators. The detail in the backgrounds is really stunning, and even though the main character models have a ridiculous number of polys (just try and spot a straight edge in any of them) it's as if they still had a fair bit of power left over so they put a load more models in the background as well. The only problem with TTT is that it's just more Tekken, and if you've played T3 on the PSX then you'll already know all the moves and there won't be anything new to do.

The bottom line is, PS2 will (in a few months) have some of the greatest videogames ever made being released on it. It has the strongest ever 1st gen titles out of any of the consoles, and considering neither of the games I own even use the two vector multiplyer units found in the graphics synthesiser chip, it says a lot about the untapped power. Now Sony have released the libraries to the developers, we should start seeing the REAL quality being released in about 3/4 months time.


From: DaveW
To: Vaipon

..As for the slight jumping that your are getting on the DVDs, well this sounds very similar to an issue that I have playing PAL (DaveW: PAL is the British TV format) DVDs or video tapes over here. Because the kit is geared towards an NTSC display (30 fps) and the DVD is PAL (25 fps) every fifth frame is displayed twice as long as normal, resulting in a slight jumping which is noticable especially during panning etc. So your issue maybe this aswell, since the Japs use the NTSC video format, it may not be an actual hardware problem at all...


From: Vaipon
To: DaveW

...The DVD stuttering is very slight BTW, and isn't even noticeable under normal conditions, only when there is a fixed speed smooth camera pan or something like that. It does sound similar to what you describe, and the problem may not be that frames are being dropped at all, instead it may be stalling frames once in a while. Maybe the PS2 is decoding the stream slightly too fast, and it has to keep re-synching every few frames. I can only play my region 1 discs as region 2 UK discs are PAL which the Jap PS2 cannot output. Jap PS2 is NTSC only. I dunno if the stutter problem has something to do with the fact that the drivers are Japanese DVD drivers and therefore are not geared towards Region 1 discs, but I am not sure what the exact differences are between region2 NTSC and region 1 NTSC. Like I said, the demo MPEG2 stuff on the utils CD is perfectly smooth, but I haven't got any Jap DVDs so I cannot do any more conclusive tests. If some of your readers are after a PS2 because of it's DVD funstionality as well as the games, then I would still advise them to get one as the playback is very respectable. A friend and I watched a couple of films on the PS2 last night, and after a few minutes we didn't even notice the frame dropping (if that is what it is).


DaveW: There you go, obviously my friend loves his PS2.  He does own a PC too by the way, which has a TNT2-Ultra in it.  Vaipon has owned almost every major console out there, including a NeoGeo and a PC Engine GT, he has also been through a C64, Amiga 500, and in the past few years a PC.  Vaipons moto is "If the games are cool, who cares who the hardware is made by?". If he sends me anything else worth reading about the PS2 I will add it here.