PlayStation2: The future of online gaming

This immense graphics capability, combined with the 8GB data capacity of the DVDs, gives developers a great deal of flexibility and enables them to create much more realistic games. The fog that constantly shrouds the background of so many games (PC and console) - because the machines they are played on just do not have the power to generate all of the graphics - are a thing of the past with PS2. There is no longer any need to paint the crowd at a baseball game as a palette of colour blotches.

The developers of the car racing games Ridge Racer 5 and Gran Turismo 2000 have been quick to take advantage of this new power. Earlier versions of Ridge Racer and Gran Turismo were considered to have pushed to the limit the original PlayStation's graphics capabilities, but the new games developed for PS2 are a giant leap ahead.

The fog has lifted on both games. Players can see everything in the distance with crystal clarity. More cars can be on-screen at the same time, and new life has been breathed into the games by such reality effects as a heat haze off the road and exhaust pipes of cars in GT; the effect of wind on trees; tyre smoke caused by heavy braking or spinning cars; and sparks from metal on metal in Ridge Racer.

Square, which is better known for its Final Fantasy series, has developed Gekikukan Professional Baseball for the Japanese market and has taken advantage of the Emotion Engine to bring the crowd to life. You can make out individuals in the crowd waving flags or jumping from their seats to cheer on their favourite players. The players themselves have facial expressions that match their performance.

As if anything more was needed to show off the graphics capabilities of the PlayStation 2, Sony has developed a puzzle game called Fantavision in which the aim is to shoot at fireworks as they arch into the sky. If you hit them in the right order you are rewarded with a spectacular fireworks display. And it is more than just flashing lights. The on-screen fireworks react exactly as the real things do. As the player works through the levels, the displays move from different cities to outer space, bringing another dimension to the game.

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