#PS2PS4: Why PlayStation backwards compatibility is failing

Posted on Posted in News, Video Games
For the past few years, backwards compatibility has been a major talking point when discussing new consoles. Being able to play previous-generation games is a huge bonus for gamers, allowing them to discover titles they had overlooked and revisit old favourites. At the dawn of the eighth-generation of consoles, backwards compatibility was ruled out by both Sony and Microsoft. Many gamers complained at the outright lack of support, especially considering major titles like Call of Duty and Halo were still drawing in thousands of players in multiplayer modes on the older systems. Though several games have made the leap to current gen through remasters and collections like UnchartedThe Last of UsGrand Theft Auto V and Tomb Raider, it wasn’t until E3 2015 that Microsoft revealed compatibility was back on the table with 360 games being added to the Xbox One library. Unlike the controversial rental service PlayStation Now where players can stream PS3 titles to their PS4, the Xbox 360 games can be saved and stored forever. With the promise of more titles to come as part of the ‘Games with GOLD’ plan, Sony had to do something fast. Following the sneaky release of classic Star Wars games as part of the limited edition Darth Vader-themed PS4 bundle, gamers noticed that Jedi StarfighterRacer Revenge and Bounty Hunter weren’t ported from the PS2 – they were being emulated. They used the memory card system to save and load progress, as if being run on an original console. With absolutely no fanfare or hype, Sony showed that backwards compatibility was possible for PS2 games on current-gen hardware. However, as titles like Dark CloudRogue Legacy and Grand Theft Auto made their way to the PlayStation Store at the start of the year, it became clear that PS2 support wasn’t what we hoped it would be. Here are four areas where Sony are dropping the ball:

1) No PlayStation 2 disc support

One of the major advantages of Xbox One’s backwards compatibility is how it incorporates the original Xbox 360 discs. Players can insert their discs into an Xbox One and receive the game as a free download. This means that not only do gamers have options when it comes to pricing, but also that the discs have a stronger resale value in game stores. For someone like myself who has a couple hundred games on their original disc format, it’s a major convenience to have the game at hand and ready to play. Currently, there are no plans to add disc-based support for PS2 games on the PS4, but this is something that needs to be wholly reconsidered. Firstly, by excluding discs from the equation the list of games will never be complete. Sure, you might not care about something like Little Britain: The Videogame or Crazy Frog Racer but the freedom to pop any disc in and play would have been huge.

For PS4, these are all useless. For PS4, these are all useless.

Lots of popular games like Marvel Ultimate Alliance and Spider-Man 2 will likely never make the jump to digital purely because the rights have changed hands – the Star Wars games managed to survive this, but the majority of licensed games will never see the light of day on the PlayStation Store. Similarly, games which have had major legal issues will probably be exempt from inclusion – look at the whole issue with voice actors in Silent Hill 2 and 3, for example. Konami don’t own the rights to use the original dialogue for the third game, meaning it was redone for the much-maligned Silent Hill HD Collection. By allowing disc based games to run without any interference, they would bypass these legal landmines and allow gamers to play what they want, when they want, exactly as they were originally designed. Now would be the opportune time for Sony to incorporate full offline disc-based support but they’re withholding on it, as the tech behind the emulation offers 1080p upscaling and…

2) PlayStation Trophies

In my personal opinion, trophies and achievements are pointless accolades which add nothing to my experience as a player. However, the majority of modern gamers embrace them and they are seen as a vital component of Xbox LIVE and PlayStation Network. But… there is absolutely no reason to retroactively add trophy support into PlayStation 2 games. They just don’t belong there, it would change the way new players experience these classics dramatically and encourage ruthless, disconnected playthroughs that lose emotional investment in favour of bragging rights. Again, the Silent Hill HD Collection and to a much lesser extent the Metal Gear Solid HD Collection showed that trophies do not fit older games and can impact the experience dramatically. It’s easy to say ‘but you can just disable notifications and pretend they don’t exist!’ but their inclusion is being touted by Sony as one of the main reasons for…

3) The cost

You can easily find a copy of Grand Theft Auto: Vice City for around £2, maybe less. Yes, it’s a critically acclaimed classic that wowed a generation, but it’s incredibly common. So why is a digital copy on PS4 £11.99? The price point for PS2 games is absolutely baffling – sure, for something like Dark Cloud or Rogue Galaxy these prices fit with the value of physical copies, but the fact that no PS2 game is less than £7.99 on PS4 is ridiculous. These aren’t remakes or high definition remasters like Resident Evil HD or the recent Final Fantasy VII port, these are the games running as they did on the PS2 through a HDMI signal. The upscale is not worth the price difference and the trophy inclusion certainly isn’t either – the charge is for the convenience of playing these older games on your main machine, simple as. The cost is way too high for what’s being offered and it’s putting many players off of purchasing these classic titles. When it works out cheaper to buy the original console and the physical discs just for the GTA trilogy alone, there’s definitely a problem.

These prices are almost criminal. These prices are almost criminal.

4) It can’t compete with PCSX2

PCSX2 is the go-to emulator for PlayStation 2 games on the PC. Though some games are yet to be supported and others run with errors, the majority of PS2 titles work great with the program. Though you’ll need to have a good computer to run the games properly, the emulation works wonders with older titles and makes them look better than ever. With the addition of shaders to clean up graphics, higher resolution outputs and patches to enable true widescreen with 60 frames per second, PCSX2 is a fantastic creation that keeps getting better. Plus, you can play from your original discs. Check it out:
If this program can be developed and distributed for free, then why is the PS4 emulation software so expensive? The smart move would have been for Sony to work with the PCSX2 developers and create an emulator on the PS4 as an app, allowing people to play their discs through it - as well as release downloadable games for those harder to find titles. Imagine being able to play almost any PS2 game, from the bottom of the bargain bin to the top of the mountain, in full HD. That's something #ps2ps4 simply can't deliver if it continues like this. However, it is still early days and a lot could change with player feedback. Here's hoping that some of these issues are addressed and rectified, allowing backwards compatibility to truly shine as a feature of the PlayStation 4. In the meantime however, I'll be wiring up my slimline whenever I want my PS2 fix.

 What do you think? Are you happy with PS4 backwards compatibility? What PS2 titles would you like to see added the PSN Store? Let us know in the comments or on Twitter at @gamefaceshow!

Jordan Jordan Noton
Jordan's love for video games started with late night sessions of Streets of Rage II. Almost two decades later, not much has changed. Follow him on TwitterInstagram and Tumblr.
  • Elvick

    Your entire article is built on a premise that is false. It’s not backwards compatibility at all. They never said it was, because it isn’t. So to judge it based on it’s merits as backwards compatibility… is a bit like judging a car for not flying like a plane. It’s not a plane, it’s a car.

    • mamaku

      completely agree. Buying a game you already own for an insane cost is never backward comp. It is a cynical lie.

      • Xizziano

        Emulation isn’t free if u dont break the law

  • Xizziano

    Pcsx2 developers? Lmao they have to follow the law, an its illegal if Sony doesn’t charge, the pcsx2 developers are following the law cuz u can only emulate a game if u own it according to the law otherwise that’s pirating…its not supposed to be free for everyone

    • The reason I suggested that was because the developers behind PCSX2 clearly know how to pull the best out of the emulation software with what they know. Imagine the potential Sony would have if they provided those devs with the source material and documentation behind the PS2 architecture.

      • Xizziano

        The creators behind pcsx2 don’t know anything the ps2 creators don’t already know. Sony won’t do it because what pcax2 creators are doing doesnt follow Sony entertainment guidelines.