Game On: Forget the next gen – buy a PS2 instead
Vice City

Instead of diving into the future with a PlayStation 4 or Xbox One, life-long gamer Thomas Leaning has found himself heading back in time with his beloved PS2. Here, he explains how embracing the wonders of the past has reignited his love of gaming.

Vice City
[Vice City: a world of “tongue in cheek free-roam chaos”]

In a world where technology is the epitome of power, we are continuously bombarded with new HD TVs, smartphones, tablets and every other futuristic gadget out there to make our houses look like the inside of the Millenium Falcon.

Although some of these additions are welcome to the masses, many are just spoon fed to us all like the media sponges we are. It’s the battle of the next gen consoles that is now set to rage on throughout 2014, burning down any video game enthusiast in its path who hasn’t purchased one yet.

I’m one of those yet to purchase an Xbox One or a PlayStation 4. Why? Because I’ve recently become a social pariah and bought myself the greatest console ever made instead: the staggeringly brilliant, undeniably enjoyable, best-selling console in the history of mankind. The one, the only, PlayStation 2!

The best gaming years of my life were with a PlayStation 2 controller in my hand. Sure, I’d been playing games for some time by the release of the PS2. I’d owned a SNES, a PS1, a Game Boy and pretty much any other gaming device I could get my hands on, but it was the PS2 that truly ignited the gaming flame inside me.

With a PS2 you end up spending countless hours maximising your Peugeot 106 for optimal drifting on Need for Speed Underground 2, chasing countless women like an American Pie reject in Leisure Suit Larry or webbing your way around free roam New York as your friendly neighbourhood Spider-man. Why? Because you enjoy what you’re doing. You don’t care about beating your friend’s top score, or re-doing a mission 18 times over to earn an achievement. You play the game, you complete it, you move on. Isn’t that what gaming is supposed to be about?

I understand the fact that graphics and performance are better on new consoles as opposed to their direct predecessors and the PlayStation 2, and that each is a step forward into the inevitable ‘all in one’ entertainment system. But do they actually provide a more enjoyable gaming experience compared to smashing into Moleman on Simpsons Road Rage?

I’ve owned six Xbox 360s (great craftsmen ship there Microsoft!) and my most recent one is the most important part of my technological arsenal. I love it, it’s a huge step forward from the Xbox that came before it. It plays games, it has the internet, it has apps, it has everything I need in a modern day console.

I found myself wondering if either of the next-gen consoles had any aspect that made me truly excited for them, compared to let’s say a Nintendo GameCube or a Sega Dreamcast. Sadly, I found nothing.

And in the midst of all that navel-gazing, I began to retrace my steps through the entire life of the Xbox 360 and the PS3. I passed lands far away as I battled the flood in Halo 3, I conquered fear as I delved into Dead Space, I survived the post-apocalyptic world in The Last of Us and it brought me back. It brought me back even further to those days when I used to sit in my room for hours on end, eating only ready meals and drinking Red Bull in a hope to complete ‘just one more mission’. It brought me to the days of, arguably the greatest console of all time, and that was the remarkable reign of Sony’s PlayStation 2.

My girlfriend and I found ourselves sitting on eBay looking at all the old PS2 games we had long forgotten. We began to reminisce about the unrelenting enjoyment of slaying Uruk-hai in LOTR: Return of the King, strolling around with an RPG in hand on the beaches of GTA: Vice City and solving action-packed crimes in True Crime: Streets of LA.

This nostalgia led me to the best decision I’ve made in a long, long time. This weekend I purchased a PlayStation 2 and a dozen games with it. When it comes to games, does it really matter how futuristic they look – or does it simply come down to the enjoyment you get while playing it?

When you think about video games nowadays, its all about the unrelenting amount of downloadable content available or the opportunity to face someone who lives 3,000 miles away in a bid to become the fiercest soldier. No one really mentions narrative any more, or the number of hours spent just experiencing the world that Neversoft or Enix have created for you. To me, that’s completely the opposite of what gaming is about. And that’s something that the PlayStation 2 had as its motto from its inception.

Gaming is about escaping to another world, to fully immerse yourself in the experience before you. To enjoy the character you’re playing as, to feel everything they feel to the point where their quest and your quest becomes one. As I clicked the ‘bid’ button on eBay, I pictured this action as the rebirth of my quest into a console that was made for this. It was made to say to fans: here’s a game, here’s everything we have to offer. Here, take it, embrace it, enjoy it.

That’s what I plan to do. Why do we have to look to the future, when we’ve got such a rich and exciting group of games to feed from from the past?

With my purchase, I added games to my basket such as Resident Evil 4, Destroy All Humans, SSX Tricky, Star Wars Battlefront, Jak II Renegade, Psi-Ops, Vice City, Tony Hawk’s Underground and Burnout 3. Did they cost me an arm and a leg for each? No they did not. Do they require needless amounts of time downloading updates and extra content? No, they do not.

All in all the console and games cost me about £60. A whopping £369 less than what it would cost for an Xbox One, and you know what? Probably offering a lot more enjoyment.

The days have long since passed of waking up on a Sunday morning, wishing to not be a part of the buzz of life outside. Locking your door and placing a disc into your adored PS2 and just becoming the character you’re playing as on screen. Instead, we are stuck with constant invitations by ‘friends’ to join their game, numerous amounts of adverts encouraging us to try out multiplayer mode and time-consuming attempts to actually make the bloody console connect with the WiFi for more than five minutes. Why do we bother?

Sitting down with your pad in hand used to be a time to just enjoy yourself. I never found myself becoming increasingly angry towards a game or its maker, but every time I enter a game of FIFA 14 online I undoubtedly end up swearing down a microphone and promising the EA overlords that I will smite them down in one way or another. Whereas, when I put my disk of Punisher into my Playstation 2, it promptly loads and throws me into a world where nothing else matters but my skills and my enjoyment in the murder and manipulation of the world’s most twisted crime bosses.

Just think about it for a second, a life where your games console, instead of filling you with anger and frustration, filled you with wonder and peacefulness. Blissful isn’t it?

That is something that the PS2 provides. Blissfulness. It’s arguably the most perfect console ever made. It doesn’t rely on the digital aspect of gaming, which is so prominent nowadays, which left much more time for consideration and effort to be taken in its performance and the actual game’s themselves.

It’s the little things that are so important when it comes to this console; the weight and size of the pad is as fitting as it was when my teenage hands got a hold of it. The ‘less is more’ memory cards give the user an easy and fluent way of controlling exactly what saved content you want on the console (something which you can’t even do on the Xbox One). The easy to understand nature of the start up screen of most games were simple to navigate, none of the click-on, click-off trial and error methods you seem to adopt in modern games until you finally find the ‘subtitles off’ category.

Why do games have to be merited on their level of intricacy and complexity? Why can’t we go back to the days of the PS2 when it was just all about a rich storyline combined with the simplicity and freedom of gameplay that made each game more enjoyable than the last.

Since I’ve once again had the chance to play these vintage additions to the video gaming world, I’ve found my level of stress substantially decreased. Putting on Vice City has, for me, brought Grand Theft Auto back to its roots of tongue in cheek free-roam chaos that it was always meant to be. The freedom to, if you wish, wield a sex toy while dressed as a reject from Miami Vice fills you with such a high level of enjoyment I liken it to a child being given candy floss for the first time.

You find yourself rediscovering your love for gaming when you turn a PS2 on, and that’s what’s lost from the video gaming world of late.

The opportunity to play games that don’t take themselves too seriously, which in turn makes your outlook on life much the same. Why do we bother in becoming angered about things that don’t matter? Resolution, customisation, online retrospective and scope. Don’t sweat the small stuff.

Sit back, put your feet up, press that beloved triangular button, and just re-enter a generation of gaming that was made for the fans, by the fans and continues to be the console that all other consoles should aspire to be.

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Are you equally in love with the PS2 era? Has modern gaming lost some of that charm?

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