“Bitte nicht schießen!”
“Non, s’il vous plaît, non!”
Who says you don’t learn anything playing video games? I remember all sorts of phrases from non-English speaking countries…albeit due to the fact terrorists and civilians alike are peppered with rounds from my over cautious, mainly inaccurate use of heavily modified weaponry.
Much like life itself, when video games were in their infancy, things were much easier to process and much less thought was required. Red was the enemy, green was the good guys, the blue bit was safe the yellow part wasn’t. Today games are ask you all sorts of deep and meaningful questions like, do you want to save your mum or the cat, or do you leave your partner under fire to save the hot girl in a mini skirt? Games now involve all kinds of interrogation about your personal character and can even give you a brief psychoanalysis at the end. Will you or won’t you destroy the town…or does this homeless guy deserve water or a bullet?. If you play video games daily you are asked these philosophical questions regularly, I’m surprised big developers haven’t tied this in already with their ludicrous micro transactions.
Perhaps they will develop a game in which you begin as just a law abiding citizen going about his/her day, a little like GTA but without the movie style script and screen play. You get up, have breakfast and go to the bank to find you have no money, your living arrangements are in jeopardy and the bailiffs are on their way, so you need to go to work.
You then have a choice, commute to work using public transport with the shrapnel you have in your pocket, or alternatively apply for a loan from said game publisher. You are then free to take the money and spend it on whatever you deem necessary to sort out these pressing issues. I can bet that nine times out of if the option was there, you’d spend the money on a 12 gauge Remington and as many shells as you could carry. The bailiffs would meet their maker on the doorstep of your home, which would ultimately lead to your capture or execution after a lengthy police chase, involving stealing your neighbours car and mounting pavements, hanging out of the window taking pot shots at pedestrians.
Everything starts off small, right now we just pay for extra clothes or weapons in a game, but give it time…
The PS2 in many gamers opinions still remains the ‘golden era’ of gaming. In short, there were many quality games, the hardware was sound and there were still no hidden costs. Before the big wigs came up with a battle plan to rape gamers wallets, the humble compact disc provided us with a wealth of gaming, out of the box.
Kazunori Yamauchi is the man behind the infamous Gran Turismo racing series, which has become a must have title in a game stack of anyone who calls themselves a console gamer. He could be considered the Steve Jobs of the virtual racing world as he has pioneered a breath-taking content rich product by setting insanely high standards for a small development team but thankfully without the misuse of foreign labour. Being a racing driver himself, it had always been his dream to create a racing game where you begin your career in a bog standard Honda shit box and after 140 hours of gruelling circuit racing, become the loneliest driver on the racetrack with a 1000BHP supercar that no computer driven vehicle could match.
The personal development in the game was its trick card. By beginning your career with a car that had as much power as an AIWA tape deck, when you can finally could afford a Toyota Supra you will have a learned the tracks inside and out and then the racing became all the more satisfying. All jokes aside, Yamauchi himself is not work shy. The first game started development in 1992 and wasn’t complete until 5 years later. When asked how difficult it was to create Gran Turismo, Yamauchi remarked:
“It took five years. In those five years, we could not see the end. I would wake up at work, go to sleep at work. It was getting cold, so I knew it must be winter. I estimate I was home only four days a year.”
Once the benchmark had been set, Yamauchi has strived for perfection ever since. By the time the PS2 had approached the end of its life, the fruits of his labour had come to being. Gran Turismo 4 was simply staggering on the PS2, there really couldn’t have been much more room for content or improvement on the old girl.
Forcing the PS2 to perform GT4 at 480p/1080i resolution, must have been like asking the remaining veterans of WWII to recreate the D-day landing in inflatable rafts, armed with Nerf guns, on a beach full of machine gun posts manned by Neo Nazi’s. It was said that GT4 was the cause of many deaths of PS2’s as the laser and hardware were pushed to the limit, it sometimes didn’t run at all on the slim version.
Even so, as the PS2 took its final bow, GT had become revered by gamers the world over, becoming one of the biggest selling video games ever, as well as receiving scores over 8.5 and nearing 10 from many game reviewers. For any gamer of my generation we understand just how important GT is, not to mention what we had endured in the past which will just how much hard work had been put into it.
Who reading this remembers Lotus Espirit Challenge on the MegaDrive? It wasn’t all that long ago we were controlling 2D car sprites with only a handful of animations on what effectively was a rolling horizon of a track. Cars would often sound like a man humming noises through a paper bag and tyre screeches were just a repeated time stretched sample of a squeaky shoe. We’ve come a long way and we all owe a lot to Mr Yamauchi and his team, you can nit-pick all you want about the crash damage, the sometimes overly electronic engine sounds and the AI, but GT is a well-polished game that delivers a satisfying driving experience of cars you will never be able to afford.
When the Crystal Maze ended back in the late nineties Richard O’Brian appeared as a ruthless contract killer, in the video game Hitman. Obviously bored of watching dozens of contestants fail at basic physical and mental challenges, he set about ridding the world of its mortals. I digress, but indeed Agent 47 looks like the eccentric 90s TV presenter but it has been very much confirmed that the game character was never based on Richard, post-game show appearance.
“Agent 47 is in fact a clone, created in an asylum to develop into an adult and become an assassin. 47 meets his handler, Diana Burnwood. She assigns him to kill four criminal masterminds and then a doctor who is revealed to be the one who treated 47 at the asylum. The four criminal masterminds that 47 killed were part of the cloning experiment and that their deaths were ordered by Professor Wolfgang Ort-Meyer, the one behind the entire cloning process. Ort-Meyer planned 47’s escape, so he could have 47 kill the other four associates and use 47 for his own purposes. 47, with the help of a CIA agent named Smith, returns to the asylum and plans to kill his creator. Ort-Meyer, having prepared for 47’s return, sends his group of “Mr 48s” to kill 47. The 48s fail their duties and 47 confronts Ort-Meyer. 47 shoots Ort-Meyer, then snaps his neck, killing him.”
In short, 47 is one bad bald motherfucker and with the right person behind the controls, the game has the ability to look slick, professional and altogether satisfying. It is also one of those games which can only be played by people with a little more patience than your average COD player. Watching some people play Hitman is like watching a blind man swat bee’s, it usually ends up in a short flurry of excitement before an abrupt silence.
Rarely are games so satisfying in their results that the environments deserve patience but in the world of Hitman, you’re in control and as the game allows you to dictate the eventual outcome (which is often someone dying quickly and quietly) you don’t mind waiting. That isn’t to say that I enjoy garrotting drug lords with fiber wire in real life, but the way the story plays out like something from a comic book, you can’t help but enjoy the fact your character is both deadly but often subtle. So subtle in fact, there are opportunities in the game to swiftly and easily drop a poison tablet in a drink and walk out of the game environment wearing a chef’s outfit you found in a locker room. This will obtain you a professional rating, something that becomes increasingly difficult as you progress through the game and the reason I have devoted so much time to the series since release.
First person shooters were abundant on the PS2 and there was something for everyone. From serious campaign war type sims to cartoon style romps. In terms of split screen, some of the Co-op fps titles were my favourite to date. The hardware was capable of having you and friend run riot without a much of glitch. Activision and EA battled it out with Call Of Duty and Medal Of Honour titles. A lot of the debate came down to personal preference though and still rolls on today. Weapon styles and load outs, game play physics and maps. It’s a hard thing to balance but Activision got it right many times with their WWII series of games, the flow of the game play meant that you could soon fall into the action and get into the zone, achieving that perfect kill ratio. But World War games have been around long before Sony introduced the PlayStation, the PC had dabbled in a few different FPS genres, it wasn’t long before developers started modernising the game environments in a bold move that has led the way of shooters for a number of years.
I’ve been enjoying laying down some history about the PS2, expect more of this in the next installment of the gaming history plus a part where I’ll talk about my time spent with PC gaming. Hope you enjoyed this, if you did, please share!!
This part of my gaming history, the transition from PSX to PS2 will no doubt have to be spread over two parts. The PlayStation was and still is one of the most popular gaming systems ever made and I did enjoy my time with it. I will try to cram as much as I can into these two parts but I imagine it’ll be like trying to fit my fist in my ear.
Moving out from the home of the humans that spawn you is definitely one of the most exciting, character building although altogether frightening experiences you’ll ever face whether they love you or hate you. Within the first year of moving out I became the owner of two lizards, hosted African dancehall parties (complete with Africans), I was threatened with a bread knife at a house party and I almost drowned at Glastonbury.
The building was a three storey apartment block attached to a large furniture shop, so as their opening times were 9-5pm weekdays, we could blast out music all through the night if we wanted to. I lived with a recently acquired male friend and my girlfriend at the time. When we had become acquainted with the neighbours downstairs, we occasionally had open door ‘block parties’ with a sound system in each flat playing different styles of music, where guests could come and go as they please. The third flat was occupied by a young professional couple, I say professional because I’d see them leave the flat shouting at each other wearing suits. We never really spoke because I don’t do shouting and so we never discussed invitations.
This level of fun and mayhem can and will eventually attract the wrong type of people for a party and I remember several times having to ‘hold the fort’ against druggies, chavs and occasionally the police. At one particular gathering, music was at full chat and amongst the carnage, a lone chav (A mentally challenged youth in sports gear) managed to infiltrate the defences and for whatever reason headed straight for the kitchen and picked out a breadknife of all things. If you enter a house party with the intention to grab a knife from the drawer, why the breadknife? In hindsight when you think of the weaponry usually housed in the drawers of a kitchen, surely the most stabby type blade would be better than a serrated option, then again maybe he had the intention to saw someone like a loaf of bread but I doubt it.
Uninterested in making sandwiches for us, the youth starts waving it at guests in a threatening manner. Too drunk to consider any kind of attack based on any of my martial arts experience, I opted for plan B. Plan B consisted of 6ft 3 inches of man mountain called Jim. Jim was as soft as Dads who shop at Waitrose but he looked rather like Vinnie Jones. I felt like I was asking the older brother I never had for some assistance, tugging at his T-shirt and pointing in the direction of the problem. After I briefed him on the situation he stomped down the corridor with me closely following behind sipping a can of lager, eager to witness Jim confront the twat with a breadknife. He walked in and immediately grabbed the guy by the back of the neck, removed said knife with his free hand and literally dragged him by the collar, down the stairs to the front door and shooed him outside like a beggar found in Harrods.
My flat mate, who for privacy reasons we’ll call Jay, is an avid reader. The kind of guy who has read and experienced so much in his existence that his mind was full of fuck. That’s the trouble with reading, if you fill your head too much with fantasy stories throughout time, you end up over thinking most things and blurring the lines between reality and the book world. I could be wrong, it could be the drugs or the drink, or both but I guess the same could be said for video games…if you’ve ever experienced gaming whilst on mushrooms for example, you’ll understand it’s not all that strange to hide in a cardboard box playing Metal Gear Solid for 15 minutes, musing to yourself about existence in a box within a box within a box…
It was in the year 2000 that I decided as TV had officially died (Due to the disappearance of Knight Rider, A-Team, TMNT, Air Wolf, Transformers, Jayce & the wheeled warriors…the list goes on) I would disconnect the aerial from the light box and forget about TV all together. And I was right to do so (Over 10 years and counting) as I am part of the ever decreasing percentage of the population who are the able bodied, sound minded individuals choosing to no longer pay for mind wank television full of insecure jazz handed, ex drama school nonces, interspersed with advertisements about how inferior your hair looks and what you can’t afford at the moment. Sure, I use the modern catch up programs to enjoy some recorded broadcasts but if I see advertisements now It only builds contempt for the society I live in.
Being an Sony fan boy meant that on the release of the PS2 in the year 2000 I was keen to get my hands on it. Gamers were looking for another vision of the future from Sony and for console fans we weren’t disappointed. Boasting now a 64bit CPU clocked at around 300Mhz, it was DVD/CD with SCART, RGB output and with a range of larger storage capacities as the games grew larger. To show off the raw power of this new vertical standing home console, Sony wheeled out more Tekken, Gran Turismo and Metal Gear Solid which did nothing but impress the fans. Controller wise, the ergonomically near perfect pad of the PS1 had been superseded by an even more comfortable device, the Dual Shock 2.
On release Sony could have issued the statement ‘Don’t bring a fart to shit fight’ as the console could have funded a small war in the first couple of days. In the market place the SEGA Dreamcast was pummelled in terms of figures even though there was never a bad word said about SEGA’s swan song, which did offer a varied selection of titles, internet connection and an array of peripherals.
My limited time playing a Dreamcast introduced me to some brilliant titles including the eye watering Marvel VS Capcom, the gore fest that was House of the Dead and the awesomely strange Shenmue.
Set in the 80’s in a Yakuza area of Japan, Shenmue was the story of Ryo Hazuki. Ryo’s father is killed in the first five minutes of the game and from what I remember I had to then stay with a bloke who occasionally gave me pocket money. Your aim was to then explore the outside world for clues to your father’s death. After investigating the town for over an hour I was beaten and mugged trying to help someone out and had to go home for a Coca Cola and a sit down. I didn’t play the game an awful lot as you can tell from my muddled description but from what I remember the game had a very humble appearance and a satisfying flow to the gameplay. The concepts and content have remained a much praised part of video game history.
By 2002 the Sony PS2 had steamrolled the competition and it wasn’t all about specs. It may not have been the most powerful on paper but it’s adaptability and versatility propelled sales to a monumental scale. I had brief encounters with the competition up until that time, such as the much loved Nintendo GameCube, the Dreamcast and eventually the Microsoft X’tremly large box. On a side note. By 31st March 2012 the PS2 has sold an estimated 155 million units worldwide, in all the colours of the rainbow, with the support of pretty much every game developer under the sun.
Still some of my best loved titles were released on the PS2 and the continuation of certain titles ensured I stayed loyal. Ace Combat was a particularly challenging game early on but the basic control system and in flight physics made it one of the best flight games seen on a console to date. Gran Turismo still retained a top spot for most PS2 owners game stacks and for those who took interest, Tourist Trophy as a motorcycle racing sim was not a disappointment but sadly has not seen a sequel on next gen. New titles like Armoured core was another welcome addition to the roster, a well-crafted Japanese robot shooter is always going to draw the crowds, although the often complex menu systems and gameplay intimidated less experienced pad grabbers.
Racing games came out in force on the PS2, there are far too many titles to mention but it was planes, trains and automobiles for the most part and sometimes obscure racers from developers you’d never heard of and for good reason, as usually controlling said vehicles was much like steering an F1 car on a frozen lake. In fact most genres were tried and tested on the PlayStation, perhaps because of this huge proving ground it’s the reason why we’ve now thinned out the crap and retained some of the best concepts until the present. If you look through the list of PS2 releases on Wikipedia you’ll find more than a few titles you can’t pronounce yet alone recognise.
Like on Facebook and stay tuned for much more on the PS2 and maybe some more irrelevant ramblings from yours truly.