Tuesday, April 12, 2005
The year of the progressive scan 16:9 PS2 games
If you have a High Definition Television, you’ve probably noticed that most PlayStation 2 games look pretty crappy on it. The nature of the display amplifies visual flaws in software, most noticeably the jaggies. That’s true for standard definition broadcasts too, but let’s stay on point. According to Microsoft, we’re another five to seven months away from the beginning of the “HD era” in games. The current Xbox is quite respectable already in terms of decent HD support, but it’s the PS2 that has been surprising me lately with a recent show of power.
God of War, TimeSplitters: Future Perfect, Tekken 5, and Gran Turismo 4 all feature 16:9 widescreen and 480p progressive scan. GT4 even has a 1080i mode, which is insane. Before you get all huffy and tell me there have been quite a few widescreen progressive scan PS2 games already, let me clarify by saying those older titles never looked as good as this bunch. I’m not talking about pure graphical improvements that make gains every year, I’m referring specifically to the impact true/optimum 480p resolution has on the visuals. Perhaps the developer tools for progressive scan have been improved?
Let me put it another way; The visual difference between older PS2 progressive scan games and this new bunch, is comparable to how PS2 games look like with composite video (you know, the old yellow, red, white cables) compared to S-video cables. There is a clear contrast, maybe too subtle for the average person, but it’s there for graphic snobs. And really, if you already own a HDTV then you’re most likely the type that will notice.
If I have one complaint, it’s that many of the above titles don’t completely own their power. Tekken 5 features true widescreen only during the fight. The menus, ending cinemas, and story illustrations wind up getting stretched out. Your only option is to manually change it back to standard display. God of War on the other hand does a brilliant job of presenting all the cut scenes, cinemas, and menus in widescreen. My two gripes this time (and they are minor) is that the videos in Treasures are not widescreen and the PS2 doesn’t automatically kick you into progressive scan even if that is your saved setting.
I’d like to officially join the chorus of folks praising God of War. I just beat God mode last night (the secret message is pretty cool actually, not sure if it was worth the hurt on my hands though) and I’ll probably mess with it a little more before being totally done with it. The whole time I’m playing the game I’m thinking “they are just blowing it out, throwing so much cool stuff at you, what the hell can they do for a sequel?” I won’t spoil anything, but rest assured the special features provide clues that could power five more God of War games. Speaking of special features, the ones in God of War totally blow away most of the so-called bonus Special Edition content you have to pay $5-15 extra for these days. I also thought (MINOR SPOILERS AHEAD…………………YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED) I hate these damn jumping puzzles especially the spiral blade climb crap.
(MINOR SPOILER END…………IT IS NOW SAFE)
I’m going to momentarily jump off the PS2 fan wagon to put a few things into perspective. As good as Tekken 5 looks on a HDTV, Dead or Alive Ultimate looks better. Same goes for God of War compared to say…Ninja Gaiden. That’s for both resolution and sheer graphical power. How you judge the artistic design of these games is up to you. Even when comparing apples to apples, like the PS2 and Xbox versions of TimeSplitters: Future Perfect, the Xbox clearly looks better. It’s damn close though.
That reminds me, I loaded up Ninja Gaiden Hurricane pack 2 this morning and it kicked my ass but good…again. That pretty much deflated most of my sense of unstoppableness gained from beating God mode.
Anyway, the point is that the lion’s share of games released in the next two years will still be for PlayStation 2. Instead of looking upon that fact with dread, these last few games have been beacons of hope for a graphics Nazi like me. The quality of the game itself will always be the most important factor, but one always yearns for a cake that can be had and eaten too.
If I overlooked any other great looking progressive scan PS2 games, drop me an email or comment below.
I can’t wait to see some Xbox 2/360/next games though. Had to throw that in there.
Posted by Wataru Maruyama at 4:30 PM