Dungeons & Dragons Online: Stormreach

In other words, Sega must create and maintain servers for Sega titles, EA must support EA titles, and so on.

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TaxCut Online Premium largely mimics the new, green-and-gray tabbed interface of its desktop counterpart.

While rival Xbox has a slicker, more integrated online implementation and includes online voice support, Sony’s network adaptor gets PlayStation 2 gamers online with no additional fees and allows dial-up users to join in the action. After establishing a login account for the individual game, you can either jump directly into a death match (in Twisted Metal Black), or head to a «match-making» lobby chat room where you can size up potential opponents before inviting them to play a head-to-head game of football or basketball.

Sony was first out of the gate with launch of the PlayStation 2 Online Adaptor. But like everything in the console world, the ultimate success of the PS2 network adaptor will be the games that best utilize and optimize its features.

The mechanics of online play will be instantly familiar to PC gamers. Snap in your telephone line or Ethernet cable, and the hardware side of the installation is done.

The included software disc takes you through the setup and installation routine step by step.

The video-game console market’s own version of Clash of the Titans has finally moved to the online arena. For the Xbox online gamer, that means a consistent level of service; universal features (such as voice chat); and a single, universal login name and password for all online games.

Interestingly, the PS2 network adaptor features internal connections for a standard hard drive and is even emblazoned with the letters hdd.

America Online users, beware: whether you access AOL’s dial-up or broadband service, the online behemoth will assess you an additional $4.95 per month to facilitate access via your game console, be it the PS2 or the Xbox. Currently, AOL broadband access is not available, but the company plans to offer it in the near future. Such a hard drive, already available in the Japanese market, would further narrow the feature gulf between the PS2 and the Xbox, but Sony remains mum on when such a hard disk would be available in North America or how it would be implemented.

Performance

Once the setup software verifies the connection and stores the ISP settings on the memory card, the business of competing with opponents around the country can begin.

Sony doesn’t charge any fee for online access, instead relying on you to use your existing Internet service provider (ISP). In and of itself, this does not adversely affect gameplay. Installing the hardware is a snap. Just like their PC brethren, however, gamers will find connecting through their cable or DSL modems to be an infinitely smoother and more satisfying experience.

While rival Xbox has a slicker, more integrated online implementation and includes online voice support, Sony’s network adaptor gets PlayStation 2 gamers online with no additional fees and allows dial-up users to join in the action.

Features

The PS2 network adaptor provides Ethernet and dial-up connectivity.

While Xbox gamers get a two-way voice headset and the convenience of a «walled garden» approach to gaming, PS2 owners get the option of dial-up access and the absence of a yearly service fee.

Just as the company has left it to independent ISPs to provide Internet access, Sony has left all the responsibility of facilitating online play to its third-party developers.

We also like that it transfers federal data into your state return. Another result of Sony’s approach is the fact that you must create a separate login name and password for each PS2 title. As with competing Web-based solutions from Intuit TurboTax and 2nd Story Software TaxAct Online, TaxCut Online logs you off after several minutes of inactivity, which is a good security feature, particularly if you’re doing your taxes at work.

So, unlike Microsoft’s broadband-only approach with the Xbox, legions of dial-up gamers aren’t left out in the cold. After popping off the expansion bay cover on the back of the PlayStation, the network adaptor plugs snugly into the console’s back with just a few twists of two mounting screws to lock it into place. Most games display skill levels, ping times, and disconnect percentages, giving you an informed perspective on how serious (and dependable) a gamer your perspective challengers are.

TaxCut Online Premium 2006 packs more questions on a single screen than it did last year, but it lacks some helpful features offered by its desktop counterpart.

Microsoft, Sony, and to a lesser extent, Nintendo have each launched their own iteration of Internet gaming in a bid to bring console gamers the same sort of head-to-head gaming action that PC users have had for years. Given its scarcity on store shelves, a huge number of PlayStation 2 owners have already taken the online plunge.

Just like anything else online, broadband gamers will have a much smoother experience than their dial-up counterparts. Microsoft, Sony, and to a lesser extent, Nintendo have each launched their own iteration of Internet gaming in a bid to bring console gamers the same sort of head-to-head gaming action that PC users have had for years.

Sony includes playable demo versions of Madden NFL 2003 and Frequency and provides a mail-in voucher for a free online version of car combat classic Twisted Metal Black. It also means that Microsoft charges a yearly subscription fee, while Sony’s service is free.

Users with a robust home network already in place will benefit most; stretching an Ethernet cable from the PS2 to our two-year-old NetGear router had us up and running on our EarthLink DSL connection in no time.

Design

The PS2 network adaptor is a simple black slab, not even as big as a standard trade paperback book.

The PS2 Online Adaptor has a street price of $40. But those who are looking for some worthy online competition will want to steer toward newly available online-enabled titles such as Sega’s 2K3 lineup of sports titles, EA’s 2003 sports titles, Sierra’s Tribes Aerial Assault, Activision’s Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 4, and Sony’s SOCOM U.S. It is when you’re spending hours filing a complex return.

«Free» is at the discretion of the game publishers, however, and forthcoming premier titles (read: EverQuest) will no doubt charge a monthly subscription fee. TaxCut offers a streamlined tax interview that fills in the tax forms behind the scenes. Sony was first out of the gate with launch of the PlayStation 2 Online Adaptor.

Sony’s «every developer for itself» online approach contrasts significantly with Microsoft’s Xbox Live service, which is run solely by Microsoft.

The Take Me To button jumps to a menu of topics in the order you answer them. The online version reduces the number of clicks you make by combining two related interview segments onto one page.

The video-game console market’s own version of Clash of the Titans has finally moved to the online arena. However, it does provide the potential for uneven options and support across the spectrum of PS2 online titles if, for instance, one software company is less experienced in the online arena than another.

With potential killer apps such as EverQuest, the Sims Online, Counter-Strike, and Star Wars Galaxies slated to hit one or both consoles in the coming months, the battle to win online gamers is just beginning. Primarily, this process consists of entering your Internet access username, password, and settings.