Just what the heck is an "Action Replay 2" when it's at home, you may ask? If you haven't come across Datel's "game enhancement" devices before, this may come as something of a shock to you. It's a way of cheating.
Cheating is as Cheating does?
The word "cheating" is rather unfortunate in this case, because for the most part, people buy the Action Replay 2 to take advantage of the little extras and Easter Eggs programmers build into their games. If you look at the official website for the AR2, www.codejunkies.com, you will find all manner of codes to keep your interest levels high, and if you are looking for a little nod in the right direction by way of an Extra Lives cheat or what-have-you, they are available in abundance also. The theory behind the Action Replay is that it locks itself into the boot ROM area of the console so that its instructions are executed prior to those of the games themselves. The codes you enter into the AR2 prior to starting up your favourite game contain two things; a memory address and a value. If you are targeting something simple like infinite lives, the code first attaches itself to the memory address for lives, then forces it to 255 whether the game tries to change it or not, effectively preventing you from losing a life should you die thereby allowing you to try a certain level again and again. Of course, the implications of such a technique are plentifold. You can literally change anything and force games to do anything within the bounds of reason.
Actually using the AR2 for the PlayStation 2 is pretty damn simple. We received our package last week and found it to contain a modified memory card, a couple of CDs and a no-frills manual. The first CD is the actual AR2 unit, which contains some starter codes for various PS2 games, and the ability to input new ones as more games are released and save them on the accompanying memory card. The second disc includes an archive of PSOne codes for those who still buy the odd title, as well as FMV-based walkthroughs on how to use the unit. Interestingly, the ability to search for your own codes is not yet included. Previous AR units for other consoles allowed users to try and find their own codes by using a programming feature to find the right memory addresses and values. No such luck yet. Other points of note about the AR2 are its future expandability. A USB keyboard is to be made available so that you can get on easier with the interface, and a USB-to-USB cable will be produced so that people can store their codes on their PC's hard drive. In this manner one could amass a collection limited only by the amount of space on the drive, rather than the memory card. Online is where Datel wants to go with the AR2. A modem is scheduled for release shortly that should see to that, offering tighter integration with www.codejunkies.com. Gamers can look forward to all manner of things from the system's online community, where a thriving code-finding forum and website already exists.
Certain features that are worth mentioning here are the unconfirmed ability of the discs to run imported games. Having no foreign titles lying around it was impossible to test, but due to the AR2's interfacing with the boot ROM areas of the PS2, it would seem highly likely that some form of import-savvy setup will be possible. The one disc we did have that we thought worth trying was a preview version of Midnight Club on CDR, but this did not work. Of course, the big question for people as professional gaming is kicked around on the Internet's discussion forums, is whether or not cheating by use of a third party tool like the AR2 lies on dodgy moral ground. In a sense, as we see it, these tools will never be allowed to be employed in a tournament where prizes are at stake, so what's the bother? Online tournaments will no doubt include preventative measures to eschew such exploitative apparatus, and judging by Datel's attitude, this is not what they set out to offer with the Action Replay anyway. As big money gaming tournaments arise using the Internet as a catalyst, cheaters will go a lot further than using an Action Replay 2, one would imagine. We would liken the AR2 to a training session. After all, footballers often play small five versus three training matches in preparation for situations like this that may arise - how is the use of an AR2 to isolate challenging areas of a game any different?
The Action Replay 2 is a very interesting idea; it always has been, but it isn't for everyone… yet. When the programming features of the tool become available for the PS2, the communities surrounding it will no doubt increase exponentially. Datel also plans units for the Xbox and other systems.