PCSX 2 - Version 0.9.6

Monday, 9 March 2009


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One of the pieces of software I’ve been following over the last few years is a program called PCSX 2, an emulator on the PC that will allow you to run Playstation 2 (PS2) games and software.

Development started roughly in the middle of the PS2 life cycle around five years ago, after the success of many emulators at that time (e.g Playstation 1, Nintendo 64, Super Nintendo), the PS2 was the next on the list for consoles to be emulated on the PC.

Now I can’t fathom why anyone would brave an attempt to emulate the PS2, it runs off an extremely complex chipset and even game developers at times have found it challenging to develop for.

But that’s exactly what one group of developers have done, the developers of the Playstation emulator ‘PCSX’ decided it was time to step up to the challenge and build a brand new PS2 emulator through reverse engineering.

The the original PCSX emulator was one of the most technically successful emulators on the PC and was often used as a model on how to structure other emulators, due to its open architecture and unique plug-in system.

To date PCSX 2 is the only PS2 emulator that I know of which is still being developed and has a constant buzz of activity. Some other projects have come and gone over the years, the only other project that has drawn a large amount of attention in regards to PS2 emulation is NSX2, which looks to be no longer under development.

So where does PCSX 2 stand today?

After years of development, PCSX team have released what I consider the most stable and compatible version of the emulator so far.

In its current form, with a powerful modern computer, it’s possible to get a considerable number of games running at either full or close to full speed. Previously many games would run but would often be to slow or suffer from errors during play, this latest release corrects a lot of those problems.

There is still more work to be done on PCSX 2, it’s not yet error free or even represents perfect emulation but it’s a lot closer to being a fully usable emulator than ever before.

What are the benefits of using an emulator of this kind ? 

Emulators can often improve the graphics of certain games, offering higher resolutions, improving game textures and anti-aliasing all thanks the latest modern PC Video Cards.

Here are some screenshots from Final Fantasy X on the PCSX 2 with Pixel Shaders 3.0 and DirectX 10.


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They’re also useful if you wish to store away an old console but would like continue to play a few treasured titles from a previous era, the convenience of running multiple platforms on your computer and having access to older software collections is a huge benefit to any serious gamer out there.

What about emulator performance speed, frame rates and accuracy ? 

Some tests were done on a laptop using Windows Vista Ultimate, a Core 2 Duo processor clocked at 2.40 Ghz, 2 Gigabytes of memory and a 8700M GT Video Card. The test game of choice was Final Fantasy X by Squaresoft.

Using the standard settings of the emulator, the performance was varied, Initial loading times were fast but just a little after the opening sequence things began to slow down considerably. Frame rates were sitting initially at a comfortable 50fps (frames per second) which is good and represents the general speed that PAL televisions run at (60fps for NTSC) but as soon as the action picked up they dropped roughly to 20fps, with the average being somewhere around 34fps and the lowest frame rate coming in at 15fps. The graphic settings were set to 640x480, running in a Window and using DirectX9 2.0 Shaders.

These initial results were a little disappointing as they weren’t really much better any the previous version of PCSX 2 I’d tried. There was a mention on the authors website about improved speed performance and the implementation of new code from the PCSX 2 Playground team. With the kind of results I was getting, I was reluctant to believe that any of these changes had made any impact, However I decided to hold out on my judgement and started to review some of the additional features included in this latest edition….and was pleasantly surprised.

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After finding the speed hacks tab and changing the settings for both the Graphics and Sound, I was able to get the emulator running consistently between 40-50fps, often averaging at 50fps. The sound was coming through at a reasonably quality and speech was working with little or no slow down. Graphics were running at a tidy 1280 x 720 and looked sharper and cleaner than what would have been possible on a real PS2.

These were the results I was looking for.  Final Fantasy X was finally playable at a decent speed not missing a beat with any movie sequence or game elements that I had seen so consistently fall over in the past. The only aspect of the game I noticed that was slightly off beat was some of the lip syncing was occasionally out of alignment.

So what’s the catch? 

In order to run software you will require an original bios from a real Playstation 2. Bios being the boot / loader software for the PS2, it’s the only part of the emulator that hasn’t been reversed engineered and is required for any game to run on the PCSX 2 properly.

The PS2 bios is copyright protected code and requires you to own a PS2 in order for you to use it. To understand more about the topic please refer to the developers website at the following link: http://www.pcsx2.net/guide.php#Bios

Without this file the PCSX 2 will not run of any commercial games. The bios used to test the PCSX 2 software has dumped from my own PS2 and used with an original copy Final Fantasy X.


Below are some examples of the PCSX 2 in action:







Here is another example, this video has been taken with screen capture software through Windows, The speed is slightly reduced due to the high demands that both PCSX 2 and the screen capture software place on the CPU. This should provide a better idea on the image quality you can expect.



If you find Playstation 2 emulation interesting I recommend visiting the official PCSX 2 website  http://www.pcsx2.net/