Online play has finally arrived for video gamers, and it looks like a major force in console gaming over the next few years. As the first of the current generation consoles out of the gate, and the market leader to boot, Sony has a lot of pressure on them to do it right. Sony's strategy is a good one, allowing unlimited play at no cost, aside from the $39.99 you spend on the hardware itself. The Network Adaptor that's been released is an excellent device from a technical standpoint and should go a long way towards easing console gamers into this new world. What's interesting about this device is that it supports both dial-up and broadband connections. This means players won't have to worry about which one to get. Another interesting point is that while other companies are charging a connection fee, there's no added fee for PS2 online gaming once you've purchased the device.
Included in the package is the Network Adaptor itself, a manual and plus the setup disc. Attaching the NA to the PS2 requires you to unscrew the expansion port on the back of the machine and plug the device into the PS2. It's a simple process that should take around a minute or two. Once this is completed, you turn the console on, insert the setup disc and follow the instructions. The onscreen menu is simple to navigate which makes things much easier. Your next task is set the network configurations. If you have a standard dial-up connection, this means that you have to enter all the ISP numbers, and port settings that you're going to use. AOL members however, only need to enter their phone number, screen name and password, which makes life easier on them. Setting up a broadband connection was a little tricky, but should be easy to configure once you figure out that since the connection is always on, you merely need to select Automatic for most server connections, which is deceptively simple. This is the most difficult part of the process, but it's really only a matter of knowing where to look on your PC to get connected. While the manual was decent, it really didn't offer the kind of step-by-step most console newbies will need, but we found the support forums on the official SCEA web-site quite helpful in easing the setup process. Overall., this process should probably take you anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour depending on your expertise and type of connection, but once you're done, you save the settings to your memory card and then you don't have to worry. We tested the device using a Cable Modem and while it took a while to figurer out all the connection settings, once we did, we had little problem in the technical operation. Playing online is simple and the network rarely crashed or kicked us off the server, unlike online play with computers. Score another point for having a stable platform, as opposed to the nightmarish patchwork that plagues PC users. Sony has done an excellent job setting up its online games, making play easy and intuitive. Some games aren't that popular but even though some rooms are a little under-populated at this early stage, it's likely the number of gamers will increase rapidly over the next few months, which will make finding opponents much easier.
Even though the peripheral doesn't include a game, the basic package includes a coupon to receive the excellent Twisted Metal Black Online title. This adds even more value to the package and makes it an even better purchase. However, while you wait for the freebie to arrive, several commercial games are already out that support the Network Adaptor, including SOCOM and a few sports titles. Most of these games follow the same convention, where you have to sign up, register a name and password, then are able to play. The process isn't too terrible in and of itself, but a unified system would've made life much simpler and saved memory card space. However, that's the disadvantage of having a decentralized online strategy. The plus is, of course, that there are no connection fees. One thing that we should mention is that while there is support for dial-up, many of the most-anticipated online titles (such as SOCOM) will only work with broadband connections, and most titles won't allow narrowband players to go against broadband gamers, which will probably limit dial-up players. However, the games are well-worth upgrading your connection for.
Players probably don't have to worry about having enough games to play, as it looks like the device will have solid support. There are several promising demos included on the demo disc, with Madden and Frequency making an impressive start, plus there are movies of several other titles as well. While the device doesn't allow you to browse the web, new hardware such as a hard-disk drive and a keyboard, plus the partnership with AOL means that this ability is probably coming as well. In it's current form, Sony's Network Adaptor should offer plenty of fun beforehand, it's easy to use, simple to set up and exists on a stable network. There may be some bumps in the road, but it's going to be an interesting war online. By covering both ends of the connectivity spectrum, the PS2 has a good chance of bringing online play to the mass-market. Since the NA is so easy to set-up and use, there should be little doubt whether or not to purchase one. If you're already online (especially with a broadband connection), you have no reason not to get a Network Adaptor since its going to add so much to the console over the next few years. The device is so easy to use an excellent chance even the PS2 community who aren't currently connected will embrace this new form of play.