SAN FRANCISCO, California – At this year’s Sony Gamers’ Day press conference, Sony made strong arguments through sales numbers that Nintendo and Microsoft, makers of the GameCube and Xbox, respectively, are merely competing for second place behind the PS2. But in an age when corporate numbers can be deceiving, more importantly, Sony proved its PS2 is ready for battle in the latest console war.

Paul Wong
Courtesy of EA
With the network adapter you can play Madden online.

Sony’s most powerful weapon against the armies of Mario and the Master Chief comes by way of an impressive online strategy. Launched on Aug. 27, PS2 owners can already play a handful of games online. Highlighting these games are Sony’s military strategy title, “Socom: Navy Seals,” last year’s successful “Tony Hawk Pro Skater 3” and the latest football title from EA Sports, “Madden NFL 2003.” As for the rest of the year, Sony plans to have at least 12 games online ready in 2002. Among these titles are “Tony Hawk Pro Skater 4,” “NBA Live 2003” and “ATV Offroad Fury 2.” At Gamers’ Day, all of the above titles were playable online and were relatively lag-free.

So how can one make the jump to cyberspace with their PS2? During its press conference, Sony explained the simplicity of getting the PS2 online. Gamers simply need to purchase the Sony Network Adapter (which retails for $39.99 and includes a rebate for a free copy of “Twisted Metal Black Online”), install it and then set up their PS2 using their existing modem or broadband account. Fortunately, unlike Microsoft’s upcoming Xbox Live online campaign, Sony’s online plans currently do not include additional costs for online gaming.

According to Executive Vice President of Sony Computer Entertainment America, Andrew House, the simplicity of getting gamers online with the PS2 is the key factor to a successful online launch. “With the Playstation 2, we have the first console that is real, ready and realistic to lead consumers online easily,” stated House. Gamers will remember that while the Sega Dreamcast offered online gaming in 2000, the system was already on its last leg.

While Sony put a strong focus on online gaming at its Gamers’ Day event, it appears that those uninterested in taking their game online will still have plenty to look forward to over the next year. For PS2 gamers looking for an answer to Nintendo’s “Super Mario Sunshine,” Sony’s “Ratchet and Clank” and “Sly Cooper and the Thievius Raccoonus” both offer fans of platform games a fresh and unique experience. In “Ratchet,” gamers are immersed in beautifully designed levels, where the duo takes on baddies with an incredible arsenal of weapons, weapons like the R.Y.N.O (short for ripping you a new one). As for “Sly Cooper,” the game can best be described as “Metal Gear Solid” meets Saturday morning cartoons. “Sly Cooper” is set for release later this month, while “Ratchet and Clank” will hit stores around Thanksgiving.

For those tired of platform games, Gamers’ Day featured several other unique titles that will arrive in the next few months. One of the best at the show was the Guy Ritchie inspired, “The Getaway.” Set in London, the game plays like a more realistic “Grand Theft Auto,” featuring real neighborhoods and authentic car models from companies such as Lexus and Land Rover. While the game plays very much like Rockstar’s bestseller, the game’s incredible graphics and “Lock Stock” style make it more than a “GTA 3” clone. Another title that turned heads was “War of the Monsters.” Developed by Incog, known best for the successful “Twisted Metal Black,” the game plays like your favorite “Godzilla” movie with completely interactive (and destructible) environments.

At the conclusion of Sony’s press conference, the media was wowed by a first look at “Rise to Honor,” a fighting game inspired by and starring Jet Li. Using motion-capture of Li’s abilities and moves, the game has the look, feel and even humor of your favorite marital arts’ films. According to Jim Wallace, an associate producer for the “Rise to Honor” project said that as a result of Li’s contributions, the game already overcomes the shortcomings of the recent Xbox title, “Bruce Lee: Quest of the Dragon.” “Jet didn’t want to just lend his name; he wanted to be a major part of the game so it would be great.” “Rise to Honor” is slated for a fall 2003 release.

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