PlayStation Pro 2.0 - Special: Dissecting the Killer App

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Special: Dissecting the Killer App
By: Ramon Vargas on December 24, 2003

Any major system which any gamer can recall to memory has had one game that can be tacked onto it as a must-own, a cash cow -- a game that can eke out an advantage of that certain system over the other systems available at the time. In the early 90s, Mario and Sonic vied for the spot of video game king as their respective titles duked it out on the SNES and Sega Genesis charts, and at the same time, they aided their console's cause of raking in more revenue. The outstanding component in the two games? Their simple yet addictive gameplay that made it accessible to kids, adolescents, and even parents and grandparents that were slighted in their hand-eye coordination. Speaking from experience as I defended Nintendo and their Super Nintendo legion of titles, the debate stepped up a bit as the Sony PlayStation entered the fray.

Releasing a slew of must-own games such as Metal Gear Solid and Resident Evil 2 to counter the Nintendo 64's own collection of killer apps such as GoldenEye and The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, game developers began to add a new component to the killer app. Fantastic stories coupled with enjoyable gameplay (Metal Gear’s intriguing story and tactical espionage; Ocarina of Time’s epic tale and its swashbuckling adventures through Hyrule) started to elevate gaming to an effective medium to tell grand tales and to give players an adrenaline pumping experience as they prevent a global-scale disaster or hack their way through an epic tale prime with lore and fantasy. So as the PlayStation 2 pounds through its life cycle, it has become a playground prime for “killer apps” thanks to the brilliant minds at Rockstar Games and other developers that continue to amaze gamers with their refreshing intuition.

Rockstar Games shook the gaming world to its very foundations with the release of the revolutionary Grand Theft Auto III, the game that gave gamers the most solid reason to own a PlayStation 2. Grand Theft Auto III provided gamers with a world ripe for exploration (in the form of a modern day urban metropolis called Liberty City -- exchanging knights and horses for cars and thugs), a storyline of betrayal and romance (as the nameless anti-hero redeems himself after being betrayed by his girlfriend and ascending in the ranks of Liberty City's world of organized crime), and a melodious soundtrack that provided the perfect backdrop to a project of this caliber. Hidden locations, tricks, power-ups, as well as a titanic myriad of varying types of missions made the price tag justified. The cool premise and enjoyable mechanics made the game a joy to experience for everyone and their grandmother. Little kids, teenage girls (comically), and un-hip parents joined the hardcore gamers in making this one of the most memorable titles in gaming.

As for the games that I bought PlayStation 2 for, THQ’s 2001 title Red Faction (developed by Volition) and EA Sports’ NCAA Football 2002 lured me in. Red Faction is a killer app in every sense of the word. In your face, ass-kicking gunplay coupled with the ability to CREATE doors by blowing holes with rocket launchers (thanks to Geo-Mod technology). The story followed a young man, Parker (I gave him the first name of Rubrius, because Roman names are ROLLIN’) as he is involuntarily swept up in a miners’ revolt on Mars, led by Eos. Your comrade, giving tracing your steps by computer, is Hendrix. From there, you blasted your way through the mining facility on the Red Planet in adrenaline-pumping gameplay and an intriguing, albeit simple, storyline with action aplenty.

I squeezed about 300 hours out of NCAA Football 2002 (playing from beginning 9th grade to the end of 10th almost religiously). The Dynasty Mode had me absolutely enraptured. I took the Notre Dame Fighting Irish to 3 national championships, making a legend out of my quarterback Hugh Capet, and his wide receiver corps of R.J. Fleming, Moses Malloy. Once they graduated after Year 2 and presumably entered the NFL, my program was ranked 19th. With a slew of freshman, I re-built around my local Indiana boy running back, Fred Gaffney. He rushed straight to the Heisman and propelled me to my third national championship. Recruiting and rebuilding was an absolute joy. I did plenty of that once I left Notre Dame and led Tulane to 2 national championships and Louisiana Tech to a Sugar Bowl appearance on my second season. Not to mention all the times I took it to my buddies, my dad, my sister, and even the ladies. The ladies, however, were less humored by my prowess at it. I dropped a few purposely, well, because, I’m that smooth of a gentleman.

So, the ideal Christmas present for ANY PlayStation 2 gamer this year that is bored with the current repertoire for the system? Any of the aforementioned killer apps. Maybe odd picks, and no they are not by any means classic (save for Grand Theft Auto III). However, they best fit the description I first presented, yet they are accessible to gamers of all walks.

Red Faction is now available on the Greatest Hits label, price $19.99 new. Used it goes for about 7 bucks. As for Grand Theft Auto III, it is also retailing for $19.99. I recommend buying the newest version of NCAA Football (2004 edition). It contains slicker stadium renditions, better player models, and a better engine overall (retailing still at about $49.99). Happy holidays.