Screenshot of PCSX2
|Initial release||0.026 / March 23, 2002|
|Stable release||1.0.0 (r5350) / August 3, 2012|
|Preview release||1.1.0 (r5765) / November 27, 2013|
|Operating system||Microsoft Windows, Linux, OS X|
|Size||8.53 MB Installer|
|Type||Video game console emulator|
|License||GNU General Public License|
PCSX2 is an open-source PlayStation 2 (PS2) emulator for the Microsoft Windows, Linux and OS X operating systems. In its latest stable release, many PS2 games are playable, and several games have full functionality. The current development version is reported to be fully compatible with around 80% of the PS2 library. The main bottleneck in PS2 emulation is emulating the multi-processor PS2 on a PC x86 architecture. Although each processor can be emulated well on its own, accurately synchronizing them is very difficult.
PCSX2, like its predecessor project PCSX (a PlayStation emulator), is based on a plug-in architecture, separating several functions from the core emulator. These are the graphics, audio, input controls, CD/DVD drive, and USB and FireWire (i.LINK) ports. Different plug-ins may produce different results in both compatibility and performance. Additionally, PCSX2 requires a copy of the PS2 BIOS, which is not available for download from the developers, due to the copyright concerns and legal issues associated with it. The emulator is not yet compatible with PlayStation games. These can be played with PCSX or other PlayStation emulators instead.
Development of PCSX2 began in or around 2001 by Linuzappz and Shadow, who were programmers for the PlayStation emulator, PCSX. Other programmers later joined the team, and they eventually managed to get simple PlayStation 2 homebrew software and games to run. Many revisions later and with lots of plug-in development, the PCSX2 team managed to get some games into loading screen, and even in-game footage for other games. The team started working on emulating the PlayStation 2's BIOS, which proved to be extremely difficult to accomplish. Once the team got the BIOS to run, it was slow and graphically distorted. After that was accomplished, the team started to focus on implementing missing parts of the emulator and replacing hacks with correct emulation as they started to understand those areas. The implementation of the first recompiler was made by Goldfinger and improved speed greatly compared to the older interpreter, which was slow by design. These improvements slowly increased the speed and compatibility of PCSX2. Zerofrog later joined the team and developed the ZeroGS and ZeroSPU2 plug-ins. He also rewrote the VU and EE recompilers, which lead to huge speed boosts in version 0.9.1, released July 2006.
During summer 2007, GiGaHeRz managed to get the Netplay working. In 2008, Zerofrog left the team, and minor changes were made to the emulator by the two remaining programmers, Refraction and Saqib, to keep the project alive. After the release of 0.9.4 in November 2007, Gabest significantly updated the GSdx plug-in and improved its speed. In February 2009, new programmers were enlisted to work on the emulator. PCSX2 0.9.8 was released in May 2011 and featured an overhauled GUI written with wxWidgets that improved compatibility for Linux and newer Windows operating systems, the addition of a new VU recompiler that brought better compatibility, a memory card editor, an overhaul of the SPU2-X audio plug-in, and numerous other improvements and bugfixes. The SPU2-X plug-in was updated in June 2011 to improve emulation of the PS2's audio.
Several plug-ins are currently being further developed, for performance and compatibility enhancements.
|GSdx||Video||The fastest, most accurate graphics plug-in. Requires Direct3D support and optionally uses a GPU.|
|ZZogl||Video||A less optimized graphics plug-in that uses Open GL. Compatible with Linux and Windows.|
|SPU2-X||Audio||The most accurate sound plug-in.|
|SSSPSX Pad||Input||A simple input plug-in.|
|LilyPad||Input||An advanced input plug-in that supports keyboards, mice, and controllers.|
|Nuvee||Input||An input plug-in that supports lightguns and USB mice.|
|TwinPad||Input||Another keyboard and mouse plug-in.|
|CDVD||Optical||A simple optical media plug-in that runs games from optical discs.|
|Linuz ISO CDVD||Optical||A plug-in which has the ability to compress ISO images.|
|Dev9||Hard drive||Handles PS2 hard disk drive and ethernet emulation.|
|MegaDev9||Hard drive||A more advanced version of Dev9. Currently, it only partially emulates the PS2 hard drive.|
|Netplay||Netplay||A plug-in which allows certain games to be playable multiplayer over the internet.|
Hardware requirements are largely game-dependant although the performance bottleneck of this emulator in most cases is the CPU rather than than the GPU: in short, having a computer with a faster CPU should net you better PCSX2 performance. Some games however may run slower due to unoptimized GFX code or weak GPU cards.
A common misconception is that a higher CPU clock speed guarantees improved emulation performance. Although clock speed is one of the main factors for good PCSX2 performance, it is not the determining factor. Newer CPUs generally perform better than older ones at similar clock speeds. For example, a 2.4 GHz dual-core Intel Core 2 processor will generally outperform a 3.2 GHz dual-core Intel Pentium D processor. Even though the Pentium D is clocked higher, the Core 2 Duo is faster due to the Core microarchitecture of the Core 2 Duo being more efficient than the Netburst microarchitecture of the Pentium D. This is true of many modern Intel vs AMD processors, as the high-end Intel processors are more efficient than the high-end AMD processors. Because PCSX2 only uses two main threads, having a CPU with more than two cores does not significantly increase PCSX2 performance. Performance can be improved up to 70% by enabling the multi-threaded VU (MTVU) hack in the Speedhacks menu, which will use an additional third thread (thus mostly useful for CPUs with more than 2 threads).
Obtaining the BIOS
Dumping the BIOS from the PlayStation 2 console is one of the most important steps in setting up PCSX2 – without the BIOS the emulator will not work. It requires that homebrew software such as Free McBoot be installed on the PlayStation 2 console itself, and the use of a BIOS dumper (supplied by the PCSX2 team) stored on a flash drive to copy the files. From there the BIOS files are moved to the user's PC to be used in PCSX2. The BIOS is copyrighted by Sony, and acquiring it by any other means than from one's own PS2 console is illegal.
In part due to it being the only active PS2 emulator, PCSX2 has been very well received. Matthew Humphries of Geek.com described it as "an impressive piece of work". Alex Garrett of PC World criticized the difficulty of setting up PCSX2 but called it a "masterpiece". Although he also criticized the complexity, David Hayward of Micro Mart called it "technically amazing". Sriram Gurunathan of In.com described PCSX2 as "arguably the most popular emulator around" and named it as one of the site's Top 5 Emulators. Brandon Widder of Digitaltrends.com included PCSX2 on his Best Emulators article  John Corpuz of Tom's Guide mentioned PCSX2 on his Best PlayStation Emulators for PCs article stating "when it comes to stable, playable Playstation 2 emulation, PCSX2 is pretty much the best game in town at the moment". Finally, the German website of the popular Chip magazine provides a direct download of the latest version of PCSX2 on their software page.
- Protalinski, Emil (2012-08-06). "Hey PS2 Fans, PCSX2 1.0 is Out". ZDNet. CBS Interactive. Retrieved 2013-09-03.
- "PCSX2 compatibility list".
- Refraction (2010-11-05). "The History of PCSX2". PCSX2. Retrieved 2013-09-03.
- Humphries, Matthew (2012-08-06). "PlayStation 2 emulator PCSX2 reaches v1.0, plays games in 1080p". Geek.com. Ziff Davis. Retrieved 2013-09-03.
- Garrett, Alex (2011-09-01). "How to Emulate the Sony Playstation 2 (PS2) on Your PC". PC World (IDG). Retrieved 2013-09-03.
- Hayward, David (2013-07-19). "Retro Console Emulators Group Test: PCSX2 1.0.0 Review". Micro Mart (Dennis Publishing). Retrieved 2013-09-03.
- Gurunathan, Sriram (2011-02-04). "Top Five Emulators". In.com. Network 18. Retrieved 2013-09-03.
- Widder, Brandon (2013-04-20). "Best Emulators (NES, SNES, Genesis, N64, and more)". Digitaltrends.com. Retrieved 2013-10-03.
- Corpuz, John (2013-01-30). "Best Playstation Emulators for PCs". Tom's Guide . Retrieved 2013-10-03.
- "Chip.de - PCSX2: Emulator bringt PS2-Games auf PC". 2012-08-12. Retrieved 2013-10-03.
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