Hardware: Online Arena

An optional feature of the PlayStation 2, or at least the original model in the larger case, was the ability to attach a Network Adapter. This would allow the user to get into the wonderful world of online gaming, where you can enjoy such delights as lag, drop outs and people with annoying voices calling your sexuality and parentage into question. The adapter also allowed connecting a hard drive, which was compatible with a few games, most notably "Final Fantasy XI", an online-only version of the long running franchise.

This Network Adapter came with a pack-in game called “Hardware Arena Online” as a taster of the possibilities of online gaming. It’s no doubt troubling the bottoms of many dusty bargain bins near you, although Network Adapters themselves are somewhat hard to come by nowadays.. especially since the remodelled PlayStation 2 can't take one.

“Hardware Online Arena” is, surprisingly, fun. It’s also possible to play it single player, even though the cover states Network Only - it has a mode where you can play on any of the five arenas and set up difficulty, number of bots and other conditions. Online play, probably dead by now considering the state of the market, the penetration rate of the PS2's online network and the age of the game, allows for up to 16 simultaneous players in an arena and voice chat via USB headset. I for one, although I have a Network Adapter, haven't been arsed to go online with it, as everything I've read about the PlayStation 2 network service seems to suggest it would be a colossal waste of time. Besides, I can be told that I have an excessive appreciation of show tunes and interior design on XBox Live through my 360.

I played the offline training part of the game a fair bit - it's a lot of fun, really. You can choose from four different tanks (stronger armour and weapons, lower speed and handling) or four different jeeps (weaker armour, faster rate of fire and much better speed and handling) with various characteristics, and one of five rather large and reasonably well designed arenas. The arenas include "Area 51", including a couple flying saucers and various buildings, "Mayan City", "Arctic Research Base", "Whatever" and "Bored Now". They're reasonably well balanced and interesting enough to have you come back for multiple games - especially if you turn up the number of bots. Occasionally I would be respawned right near enemy tanks, however, which was somewhat frustrating.

As well as the primary weapon, it's possible to pick up secondary weapons of various forms - rockets, plasma, rail gun, missiles, bombs, lasers (one shot, but one shot kills an enemy), weapon EMP (temporarily stops an enemy's weapons from working) and engine EMP (temporarily stops an enemy from moving). Certainly a reasonable assortment. This game will be awfully familiar to you if you've ever played a vehicular combat game - "Twisted Metal", "Vigilante 8", "Rogue Trip", etc. Good fun, but not worth going out of your way for unless it's 99c in that dusty bargain bin I mentioned.

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