Best of playstation still in the planning stage

Rating: NNNNNif nothing else, the much-antici-pated Sony PlayStation 2 is a great way to meet people.Get one -- and unless.


Rating: NNNNN


if nothing else, the much-antici-pated Sony PlayStation 2 is a great way to meet people.Get one — and unless you’ve already placed an order, you won’t until at least Christmas — and suddenly everyone’s your friend. In the one week I’ve owned a machine, there’s been a steady stream of people who “just want to take a look,” from the three kids on the subway who saw the box through the plastic bag and began eyeing me up, to friends hoping you’ll bring it over to try it out on their big-screen TV.

Yes, the jet-black PlayStation 2 looks pretty sharp, more like a stereo component than a video game player, with green and purple lights and a nifty little stand that allows it to sit up on one end.

Is it amazing, though, or even just good enough to wait out in the cold for the next shipment to arrive?

Well, no, at least not yet, and certainly not in comparison with its major rival, Sega’s Dreamcast.

However, the PlayStation 2 is a powerful machine, more powerful than Sega’s box, and it has the potential to grow even further. Right now, though, you’d never really know that.

The console comes with two USB ports and a massive expansion bay in the back, where users can plug in their keyboard, mouse and modem. In time, this will be essential. Sony is planning to sell its software through the Internet, as well as allow users to play games online.

The problem is, these innovative ideas are still very much in the planning stage. During PlayStation 2’s Canadian launch, Sony reps refused to even speculate about when a modem or high-speed Internet plug-in would be available for the machine. Sega, meanwhile, already has its SegaNet online game arena up and running, and is now refunding the entire cost of a Dreamcast to anyone who signs up for the service.

PlayStation 2 also doubles as a DVD player. The component is easy to use and as good as any other conventional DVD player, but it’s not really necessary.

What people will be buying PlayStation 2 for, at least in the short term, are the games. Sony has always had many of the best game manufacturers, particularly sports game creators, in its pocket, which bodes well for the powerful new console.

In their cattier moments, though, the folks at Sega have been saying that Sony spent all this time and money just to create Dreamcast games, and in a way they’re right.

Sure, graphics on Sony games like ESPN Track & Field and NHL 2001 are disturbingly lifelike. Players breathe, scratch themselves and even look like the real guys, and the flow of action, from the underwater shots of swimmers doing 100-meter sprints to the net-cam, is about as close to Hockey Night In Canada as you could get.

But they’re not that much better than those on Sega’s NHL 2K. The real test will come when games that can take full advantage of PlayStation 2’s power, like the immensely anticipated action thriller Metal Gear Solid 2, appear next year.

In the meantime, rent a Dreamcast and a PS2 and compare, or just stick with the original. Potential isn’t worth camping out for.mattg@nowtoronto.com

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