Next Generation Console FAQ =========================== 1. Hardware Specifications 1.1 Playstation 2 1.2 Xbox 1.3 Gamecube 2. Essential Purchases This section describes what every gamer needs to buy when they pick up their new system. Today's systems are typically packaged with a similar set of accessories: hardware unit one controller AC power cord stereo A/V cable (for RCA composite video input and stereo audio inputs) To avoid creating overlaps in this FAQ, I'll avoid discussing specialty video and audio cables here, as these will be the topic of the Special features section. A note about third-party accessories (memory cards and controllers): Although third-party accessories are generally cheaper than first-party varieties, their quality and reliability can vary greatly. To play it safe, many people recommend sticking with official first-party accessories. 2.1 Playstation 2 * Memory card - the PS2 can read both PS2 and older PSOne memory cards. You can only use PS2 memory cards to save PS2 games, and you can only use PSOne memory cards to save PSOne games. * Second controller - original Playstation controllers will work on your PS2 * Multitap + additional controllers (for 3- and 4-player games) - the original Playstation multitap will not work with PS2 games * Games! 2.2 Xbox * Second controller * Additional controllers (for 3- and 4-player games) - X-box features 4 controller ports, so no multitap accessory is needed * Games! 2.3 Gamecube * Memory card * Second controller * Additional controllers (for 3- and 4-player games) - Gamecube features 4 controller ports, so no multitap accessory is needed * Games! 3. Special features 3.1 Video PS2XBoxGamecubeComposite VideoYesYesYesS-VideoYesYesYesComponent (480i) videoYesYesYesProgressive scan (480p) video*YesYesYesHigh-definition (720p, 1080i) video*NoYesNoWidescreen (16:9) output*YesYesYes * these features are game dependent, i.e. a game must be specifically programmed to allow this feature 3.1.1 What to buy Here's what you'll need to enable the special video features on your console: Composite video - Nothing! All three systems ship with stereo A/V cables standard S-video - S-video cables are available from both first and third party vendors (including Monster cable). Microsoft offers an Advanced A/V pack for the Xbox that provides an S-video output for use with any S-Video cable Component, Progressive scan and High-definition video - Component cables are available from both first and third party vendors (including Monster cable). Microsoft offers a High Definition A/V pack for the Xbox that provides a component output for use with any component cables 3.1.2 How to setup your widescreen TV for games Quote: If a game supports 16:9 widescreen mode, the TV should be placed into "Full" or "16:9" mode (this may be called something else on some models of of TVs) to display the correct aspect ratio. In this more, the game image will fill the screen. If the game doesn't support 16:9, the TV should be placed in "Normal" or "4:3" mode to display the correct aspect ratio. This mode will place grey or black bars on the side to compensate for the change. (thanks Graeme Clark!) 3.2 Audio PS2XBoxGamecubeOptical Audio OutputYesYesNo5.1 audio, cutscenes and cinematicsYesYesNo5.1 audio, realtime (in game)Yes*YesNo * Some PS2 games by EA have an option for realtime 5.1 DTS sound effects, however the PS2 has no built-in hardware for 5.1 sound encoding. The Xbox's audio processor can encode sound in Dolby Digital 5.1 in hardware in realtime. Although Gamecube has no optical audio output or 5.1 encoding, some games, such as Rogue Squadron II: Rogue Leader, feature Dolby Pro Logic II-encoded sound effects. 3.2.1 What to buy Here's what you'll need to enable the special audio features on your console: Optical audio output - The output jack is built into the Playstation 2, but requires either the Advanced A/V pack or High-Definition A/V pack for the X-Box. A standard optical audio cable (TOSlink) will work with either system. You must have an optical digital input on your A/V receiver as well 5.1 audio - You need an A/V receiver with Dolby Digital and/or DTS processing. 3.3 Online connectivity PS2XBoxGamecube56K V.90 modemWith adapterNoWith adapter10/100 EthernetWith adapterBuilt-inWith adapterOnline gamingYes*Yes**Yes*** * Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 3 is the first PS2 game to feature online play. It requires a USB-to-Ethernet adapter that connects the PS2's USB port to any internet connection. Online support in newer games is delivered via Sony's Online Adapter. ** Microsoft's Live service requires a starter kit from Microsoft. Some older (pre-Live) games (such as Halo) can still be played online using Gamespy's Tunneling software. See http://www.gamespyarcade.com/support/tunnel_xbox.shtml for details. *** Gamecube's online gaming selection is limited at best. 3.3.1 What to buy Xbox requires a $49.95 starter kit that includes Live software and a headset for voice communication. You also get a 12 month subscription to the Live service. It is not yet known how Microsoft plans to price subscription extensions. PS2 requires the purchase of a $39.95 online adapter, which includes both 56K and broadband (ethernet) connections. There is no subscription charge. Gamecube requires the purchase of either the $34.95 modem adapter or the $34.95 broadband adapter. There is no subscription charge. Be aware that some games on each of the systems may charge their own connection fees for online usage (e.g. Sega's Phantasy Star Online for Gamecube). 3.4 DVD playback PS2XBoxGamecubePlays DVD moviesYesYes*NoProgressive scan for moviesNoNoN/ADolby Digital/DTS outputYesYesN/A * requires Microsoft's DVD remote 3.4.1 What to buy Xbox requires the DVD remote to enable DVD movie playback. PS2 can play movies out of the box, however, it is HIGHLY recommended that you purchase the official Sony remote control for PS2. This remote features a CD with updated DVD drivers for the PS2 that are stored on your memory card and fix a number of playback issues (including the lip synch issue). * NOTE: If you buy a PS2 today, you should have the updated DVD drivers already installed by default. Nevertheless, I still recommend Sony's excellent remote control if you plan on utilizing the DVD playback features. 4. Additional resources Be sure to check out this thread for the latest list of 16:9 and progressive scan games for all 3 consoles. Anandtech has two excellent technical articles on both the Xbox and the Gamecube.