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Gran Turismo 2000, One Of The First PSX2 Racing Games

Just Look At How Detailed And Intense This Game Looks

The New Playstation 2 Console (Horizontal)

The Console Is Also Able To Sit Vertical To Be Able To Fit Into Tighter Spaces

Playstation 2: The Straight Facts

We are quickly approaching the 21st century. Technology in our everyday lives is continually advancing, rendering any new product we buy obsolete within days. Therefore, there is no surprise that home video-game consoles are also advancing. We have gone from the 8-bit days of the Nintendo Entertainment System, to 128-bit consoles, either under development, or already released. But, as technology advances, so too do gamers' expectations for consistently good games. It is no doubt that, in the 21st century, the console with the best games will be the winner.

With the Sega Dreamcast already being released to rave reviews, the other two major console manufacturers have to rush to put together an even better system. The Nintendo Corporation, maker of the Nintendo 64, is releasing a console codenamed "Dolphin". Not much is known about the Dolphin, and therefore an accurate view on progress cannot be made. However, recently after the release of the Dreamcast, Sony released full specs and screenshots of its upcoming console, the Playstation 2. Here are the specs...

CPU: 128 Bit "Emotion Engine"
System Clock Frequency: 300 MHz
Cache Memory Instruction: 16KB - Data: 8KB + 16KB (ScrP)
Main Memory Direct Rambus (Direct RDRAM)
Memory Size: 32MB
Memory Bus Bandwidth: 3.2GB per Second
Co-processor: FPU (Floating Point Unit): Floating Point Multiply, Accumulator x 1, and Floating Point Divider x 1
Two Vector Units: VU0 and VU, Floating Point Multiply, Accumulator x 9, and Floating Point Divider x 3
Floating Point Performance: 6.2 GFLOPS

3D CG Geometric Transformation: 66 Million Polygons per second
Compressed Image Decoder: MPEG2
Graphics: "Graphics Synthesizer"
Clock Frequency: 150MHz
DRAM Bus bandwidth: 48GB per Second
DRAM Bus width: 2560bits
Pixel Configuration: RGB
Alpha: Z Buffer (24:8:32)
Maximum Polygon Rate: 75 Million Polygons per Second

Sound: "SPU2+CPU"
Number of Voices: ADPCM: 48ch on SPU2 plus definable, software programmable voices
Sampling Frequency: 44.1 KHz or 48 KHz (selectable)

IO: I/O Processor
CPU Core: PlayStation (current) CPU
Clock Frequency: 33.8MHz or 37.5MHz (Selectable)
Sub Bus: 32 Bit
Interface Types: IEEE1394 (FireWire), Universal Serial Bus (USB)
Communication: PC-Card (PCMCIA)
Disc Device: CD-ROM and DVD-ROM

The specs for the system look stunning. The processor is said to be 8 times faster than a Pentium II computer and 2 times faster than a Pentium III is. 128-bit graphics are state of the art, and from the game screenshots provided, you can tell that they live up to the hype. The games play off of DVD, or CD, and the Playstation 2 IS BACKWARD COMPATIBLE. For anyone who doesn't know, this means you can play Playstation games on the Playstation 2. Also using the DVD format, you can play DVD movies on the Playstation 2. On paper, the Playstation 2 looks to be the winner so far.

But, systems don't sell from what's on paper, as the Virtual Boy, 3DO and the Atari Jaguar have shown. And looking at the picture of the system, it seems to this writer that Sony hasn't put much thought into the interests of the gamer. At first glance, the system looks like a DVD player. With the streamlined, almost aerodynamic looks of the N64 and the Dreamcast, it looks like Sony has chosen to go with the generic look in this area. And while this may not be eye pleasing, the design of the system does not sell it. On the other hand, the small, rectangular, almost "book-like" shape of the Playstation 2 is very space conservative, compared to the aforementioned systems, which take up about 2 square feet of space on a shelf. The most striking, and disappointing feature of the Playstation 2 is the fact that it has only two controllers. Many have said that the PS2's modem will render the need for 4 player games obsolete, but I disagree. There's nothing like playing Goldeneye, or Star Fox, with four players all in the same room, with each player trash talking for every kill. Playing over the Internet is, in my opinion, both innovative and detrimental at the same time. I believe that for this reason, the Dolphin and the Dreamcast will one-up the Playstation 2. Finally, the controller for the Playstation 2 looks exactly like that of its predecessor. I wasn't the only one who found the Playstation controller both uncomfortable and unresponsive. And it seems that with this new system, unless major changes take place, the same sluggish control will be found in many Playstation 2 games. Rather than completely overhauling their controller, like Dreamcast and N64, Sony has gone back to square one, which in this author's opinion, is a big mistake.

As I said before, software makes the system. A 256-bit system would be worthless without quality games, as the 8-bit NES was one of the best systems of all time. As it is, the Playstation 2 looks to have great games, and this could be its saving grace. Gran Turismo 2000, Tekken Tag Tournament, Street Fighter EX-3, and the Final Fantasy Series look to rocket the Playstation 2 from dismal mediocrity, to having a serious bid in the future of video-game sales. However, Sony needs to play its cards right and execute these games well. Squaresoft, confirmed Playstation 2 developer, has already commented that it would look into developing for the future Nintendo system. If Sony cannot make the Playstation 2 compatible to these games, and present an innovative way to play them, they are looking at a complete shutout.

There are other factors to consider in judging the new consoles, such as price. Dreamcast sold for $199, and the Dolphin is said to sell for as low as $150. Early prices for the Playstation 2 are in the $370-380 range, but they are said to drop substantially. Additionally, Sony needs to be careful whom they market their system to. Many insiders have said the Playstation 2 is aimed directly toward an older audience (hence the space-saving shape, the higher price, and the DVD movie compatibility). This could, or could not be a mistake, as most gamers are in the 15-21 age group. It is my opinion that, by marketing this console for more mature gamers, Sony is alienating their core consumer, and this could be a huge oversight in their part.

With the Playstation 2 scheduled to hit stores in Japan on March 4, 2000 and hitting the States and Europe around the Fall of next year, you have to look closely at which system to buy. Sega's Dreamcast is already out and selling like hot cakes and Nintendo will soon be releasing information on their new system "Dolphin", which should arrive a few months after Playstation 2, the choice is tough for many hardcore gamers. Whichever console you choose to buy, you are sure to get the best efforts of some of the best developers in the world in the software department, with state-of-the-art technology to back them up. Games can only get better with the 21st century.

-Andrew Sturgeon

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