The PS2 was a great console. You can’t really argue against that. It had a great library and played like a dream. But here today, on the battlefields of GHoF we are going to decide which is the greatest PS2 game. The contenders will be the brilliant, stealth classic Metal Gear Solid 3 and the undeniably excellent Naughty Dog entry Jak II. As always Matt and Ian will argue their corners.
Matt: if you read much from our blog, you will know that both Ian and myself are huge fans of this series. In fact metal gear solid has already made it into the Hall of Fame twice. Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater is the game in question this time, and let me say, it might be the best in the series. MGS 3 strips away your futuristic tech and dumps you in the Cold War. Here you play as Big Boss, before he was Big Boss. You embark on a heart-wrenching story of betrayal and loyalty. It’s not just a fanatically well-written story either. The game plays amazingly. With the lack of soliton radar you have to rely on, you know, stealth. Control issues that were present in Metal Gear Solid 2 have been ironed out and the game is far smoother and far more playable. Plus with the addition of the hunting mechanics you feel like you are more of a survivor.
What sets this apart from other PS2 games though, is the sheer quality of the game. It’s beautifully presented, plays brilliantly, and has an amazing and impactful story. In the end, games are just a manifestation of story narrative; hence a good story can make a good game. With that being said; a great story can make a great game. And that’s what Snake Eater is…A great game.
Ian: 3 is the best in the Metal Gear Solid series, hands down, but one thing severely gets in its way (especially when talking about the original release, though the ‘Subsistance’ release goes some way to rectifying the issue) and that is control. As beautiful as the graphics, as convoluted and engrossing as the story and as amazing as the boss battles may be, the game plays like a modified PS1 game. This is Jak II’s party piece. See, the game just handles amazingly well. The left stick moves Jak and the right moves the camera. Simple. Except of course that back in the day, so few actually got it right. Jak II (along with the Ratchet series etc) set the standard for tight, robust controls that games today (things like Uncharted, and even MGS 4) use as the default for third person action game controls.
Jak also benefits from being designed from the ground up for the PS2. Naughty Dog used the systems abilities so that whilst having a fully free-roaming, where you can take vehicles (like the Grand Theft Auto series), complete side quests and explore everything, all in a beautifully rendered world that includes (wait for it…) no load times whatsoever. That may not sound too impressive today, but back in the day that was something rather special for the little PS2.
Matt: it’s true that Jak II has better controls then MGS3; it’s not even worth trying to argue against it. What I can say though, is that MGS3 is better in every other department. It has a better story, better soundtrack, better settings, and its more visually stunning. That’s not to say that Jak II doesn’t have a good story or anything. Its darker plot is very entertaining and the dystrophic setting is wonderful. I just feel that Snake Eater is just a more gripping story. The strange and absurd twists and turns work so brilliantly with the mythos as a whole. We see the origins of our characters, as well as that of metal gear and the patriots. As good as Jak II is, it just doesn’t have the same appeal, to me personally.
Ian: Jak II absolutely has a great story, just different in style to Metal Gear. The game begins with Jak and the gang going through the portal opened at the end of the first. Upon arriving at this dark futuristic city Jak is imprisoned by the police and tortured and experimented on. Daxter breaks him out and they set on a quest to take down the dictator of the city. Along the way you find out that the city is actually the same place as the beautiful tropical paradise from the first game, just set years in the future where man has taken over nature. Another thing that makes the story so captivating is the set of characters. From Daxter’s cocky and downright funny one-liners, to the slimy dealings of Krew all of the characters have their own distinctive personality as well as their own place in the story, there’s no filler here. Without sounding like I’m being down on MGS3, you have to admit that, like with all MGS games, there’s just too many cut scenes. No joke, the first 20 minutes of the game involves you watching videos, listening to codec conversations, climbing a tree, and then listening to more codec conversations.
Matt: When it comes down to it, both games are very different. As Ian said, MGS3 is very cut scene heavy. The thing is when playing a Metal Gear Solid game that’s what you expect. The series is basically an interactive movie. That’s simply what makes it so great. Metal Gear Solid is as cinematic as a game gets (apart from heavy rain, but that’s a whole other matter). You play MGS and you are immersed into a world of intrigue; you lose yourself, just like you would in a film. It grips you and takes you away, you are snake, and the world is your enemy. This is why I believe it is the best game in the PS2 library; It’s simply the most immersive and deep game. Jak II is great, but let’s face it, it’s not Metal Gear Solid.
Ian: Jak II is the best game on PS2. It was designed from the ground up to run on nothing but the PS2, It has characters that define the PS2 and it lived only during the PS2 (the makers made a different series on the PS1 and PS3). But why is it better than MGS3? Sure it’s not as atmospheric or as immersive, but it is a better game. You get to play it, not sit around waiting for a conversation to end. It’s just more fun.
Joe: Ok then, it’s been a while since I last was judge for a GHoF feature, so bear with me while I get my bearings. At least for this one I have the advantage of not having any personal feeling towards either game (not that that would become a factor in my decision of course!). Having not played either MGS3 or Jak II, I really have nothing to go on other than the word of our contenders – so I’ll trust your judgment guys, they’re both great games.
If my experience of Metal Gear 1 and 2 is anything to go by, then yes I can completely understand the heavy cut scene nature of MGS3, and how it makes the game both annoying and brilliant at the same time. The more fluid Jack II (with no loading time – a great achievement on the PS2 I understand) is very different in nature to MGS3, and as this isn’t a comparison of two titles within a given category or genre I think anyone would find it difficult to call a winner. Both tell great stories, albeit through different means. Both provide a fantastic and gripping gaming experience, however shown through a different lense.
A very close call, but I’m going to go with Jak II as the winner. Whilst it shouldn’t affect this award, MGS has already won two GHoF titles, and I feel that a Jak game (that I’ve heard oh such much about, but never experienced) deserves a place in the hall of fame. For me the best game should be the game that plays best, and by that I mean gives you, the gamer, full control to get straight into the game at every point – i.e. no loading times, and no feeling like you’re watching a movie when you should be, um, playing the game (I know that’s a very weak argument…). So Jak II wins!