One late morning in 2000, I woke up early and went downstairs before anyone else in the house woke up. I ate seven wagon wheels and drank a carton of semi-skimmed milk for breakfast. When my mother got up and put my school uniform on the couch, I immediately vomited. In the hazy way that all memories get after years, I can’t remember if I ate Wagon Wheels and drank milk on purpose. I used to spend school holidays playing games on my Playstation on the CRT telly in the front room. Either that, or I was some kind of goblin boy with no self-control. Probably both if I’m honest.
I wanted to bunk three games to play at school: Hogs of War, Army Men: Sarge’s Heroes, and Gran Turismo 2. All of them had great intro videos and emerged at the height of the PlayStation era. As the old saying goes, they don’t make it like this anymore. First up, Gran Turismo 2, the best of the three, and I apologize in advance for having this song stuck in your head all day.
This is an unmissable introduction. To omit it is cheating. I remember this happening to my dad when we played together. When I asked my dad if he remembered which game this song was from, he immediately said: “Gran Turismo 2. I have a Dodge Charger.”
This song is The Cardigans – My Favorite Game, but with a trance 90’s remix. The US version only had the original track and I think it’s fascinating that they decided to add some trance to the EU release. I can hear someone in the Sony boardroom saying, “Europeans love techno. Americans still don’t get it. ”
It’s also an odd song for a PlayStation game intro—which really stands out when you compare it to other fondly remembered intros from the era, like Soul Age and Wild Arms. Fantastic intro, don’t get me wrong, but nothing like The Cardigans and that iconic DUH DUH DUH-NOW, DUH DUH DUH-NOW, dowww, dowww, riff. He repeated the feat with Gran Turismo 3 and British rock band Feeder’s Just a Day. Another banger, to be fair.
Gran Turismo 2 is one of the best games in the series. The jazzy menu music and sounds are a highlight, and the dark aesthetic makes the game feel cozy, especially if you’re playing at 5:30 in the morning before anyone else is awake. There was no DLC or microtransactions, just a brilliant roaring sound design that blew out my tiny eardrums and cars, cars, cars. Even though I was too short to complete some of the driving tasks and always had to ask my dad to help me, the cars you could get by playing the game. An absolute gem. If you know, you know, and if you know, YouTube a playthrough or emulation of the game. He took me back instantly.
Next up is Army Men: Sarge’s Heroes. It was a very primitive game, even in 2000. I mention it here because it turns out a little boy with plastic army men, of which I had enough to cover the entire living room floor, would love a game where you play. Plastic Army Man. The game’s politics are also a bit dated, pitting the Green Army (Americans led by Jack “Happy” Grimm) against the Tan Army (Communists led by General Plaustrow), but this was 22 years ago. The world was a very different place. Still, a great intro video that parodies military history documentaries and lays the foundation for the sort of intros you’ll see in the first Call of Duty game.
Finally, Hogs of War, one of my favorite games of all time. Rick Mayall’s performance as a British sergeant leading an army of pigs in WW2 is iconic. “You’re in love, private!?” The pig shakes its head. “Then don’t look at me, you’ll give me nightmares!” The late actor voices nearly half of the game’s characters, and that gives this PlayStation classic a timeless quality, despite its dated graphics and gameplay.
No doubt I’m looking back at these games through a terrible window of nostalgia, but Gran Turismo 2 and The Cardigans, the Army Men’s parodic intro and Rick Mayall’s amazing voice acting from Hogs of War make it. You stop for a moment and think – do they make them like this anymore?
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