News Article

News Article

In Memoriam: Playstation 2


When we’re in the twilight of this console generation, with both Sony and Microsoft promising new consoles by the fall that will replace the Playstation 3 and Xbox 360 respectively, it feels a little odd to be discussing the Playstation 2.  However, Sony has announced that they have finally ceased production on the influential console after 12 years of production, ending an astonishing run that boasted over 150 million consoles sold worldwide, a library of over 10,000 titles, and software sales exceeding 1.5 billion units sold.  It is easily the most successful video game console of any generation, and its astonishing life cycle has left an indelible mark on the industry that is unlikely to be topped.

That indelible mark has also been left on horror games, as that massive library boasted some of the best fear and frights that the industry has ever had to offer.  Join us as we reminisce over the life and death of horror gaming on the Playstation 2.

Silent Hill 2

While Silent Hill was introduced a generation prior on Sony’s Playstation, Silent Hill 2 distilled the formula into a perfect bubbling brew of brutal monsters, deep psychological horror, and haunted pasts that has not been matched since, no matter how many times they want to reuse Pyramid Head.  The raw horsepower that the PS2 offered at the time offered some phenomenally detailed character models that still look good to this day, especially when hidden behind the game’s thick grain filter.  It’s a game that looked so distinctive and worked within the technological constraints so perfectly that playing it in 1080p in the recent Silent Hill HD Collection somehow feels less genuine than the original 480i output of the Playstation 2.



Right before Resident Evil 4 redefined survival horror, Siren was offering a more traditional take with a vicious twist.  While the usual survival tropes were in play—limited resources and a series of physically frail protagonists—the game also gave you the ability to “jack” into the senses of the zombified Shibito monsters that stalked the ruined town of Hanuda, Japan.  This allowed you to see and hear what your enemies could, allowing you to more skillfully run and hide from the stalking Shibito as ten different characters, each represented in a non-chronological slice of a story that centered on a religious cult and the awakening of an ancient god, almost like a J-horror riff on Lovecraft.

Fatal Frame
Siren wasn’t the only game to deliver a new wrinkle to the survival horror genre.  Fatal Frame empowered your character with the Camera Obscura, a supernaturally powered camera with which you photographed—and defeated—the ghosts that pursued you through the dilapidated and haunted Himuro Mansion.  The formula was further defined in the sequel Fatal Frame II: Crimson Butterfly, which offered a deeper story and far more personal scares.  Unfortunately, Nintendo now controls the rights to the franchise, which means that we’ve been denied the Wii-based Fatal Frame 4, developed by Suda51 and Grasshopper Manufacture (which would probably be the most insane game ever).  However, that doesn’t take away from the frightful fun of being a paranormal Peter Parker on the PS2.

Devil May Cry
Originally envisioned as an entry in the Resident Evil series, Devil May Cry was born when its signature acrobatic action was determined to be a poor fit for Capcom’s slow-paced survival horror series.  Instead, the demon-hunting Dante was created, running his titular business through three separate titles, facing off against infernal foes and his own twin brother Virgil.  Its influence is still felt to this day, through modern brawlers like God of War and (appropriately enough) Dante’s Inferno.  Its legacy will continue next week when Capcom releases the Ninja Theory-developed reboot DmC, which will start the cycle anew on the current generation of consoles.

There were several other notable titles released through the Playstation 2’s 12-year life cycle.  Crystal Dynamics wrapped up the epic vampire tale Legacy of Kain, the JRPG genre was revitalized by Persona 3 and 4 and Shadow Hearts, and biological survival horror saw several solid entries, including Cold Fear, The Thing, and The Suffering.  It was a long, amazing run for one of the most influential consoles of all time.

Good night, sweet prince.