God of War II
Developer: SCE Santa Monica Studio | Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment | Release Date: 2007 | Genre: 3rd Person Action / Adventure | Website: N/A | Purchase: Amazon
One would think that after exacting brutal revenge on Aries and taking over his mantle as god of War, Kratos would have relaxed a bit. Unfortunately everyone’s favorite angry Spartan does not share that sentiment and continues growling and sneering at everyone in sight. The other gods obviously take offense to this, and while Kratos is of wreaking havoc with his Spartan army, Zeus intervenes and strips him of his godly powers. Since Kratos is never in a good mood, even at the best of times, this latest turn of events is all the excuse he needs to once again go on a rampage and kill everyone and everything in sight.
The original God of War was a phenomenal game and one of the best PS2 exclusives. It left some pretty big boots to fill, but God of War 2 is more than up to the task. Kratos is back and angrier than ever, with a new quest that leads him to the sisters of Fate in an effort to try and change his destiny. The game kicks off with a bang as Kratos have to content with the enormous Colossus of Rhodes trying to kill him. Armed with the blades of Athena, Kratos mows down enemies by the dozen while the Colossus tries to get to him. It’s a visual spectacle and shows just what the humble PS2 hardware is really capable of. Epic scenes like this is now common throughout the game, and massive boss fights way more frequent than in the previous installment. As far as sequels go, God of War 2 checks all the right boxes by delivering more of what made the original great while piling on lashings of cool new features.
While still a hack and slash of epic proportions, the puzzle quotient has also risen, along with the body count. I’m not talking about boring filler puzzles that most other games content with, GOW2 actually contains a few real head-scratchers. They are of course very gratifying to solve, and make for a nice break from the violence and bloodshed. Don’t worry, though, as spilling enemy entrails with over the top combos is still very much the focus of the game. There’s still tons of quick time events too, but at least they look impressive and the button combinations actually feel like they have some bearing to what’s happening on your screen.
Besides his trusty blades, Kratos soon gains access to the Spear of Destiny and Barbarian hammer to supplement his arsenal. I didn’t use them as much as the blades, but combo fans will love them. All weapons are upgradeable with the red orbs found all over the place, so by the end of the game, you’ll have some pretty slick moves you can pull off.
The game doesn’t skimp in the item department either and the golden fleece as well as the wings of Icarus are just two of the highlights. Then there’s the souped up magic spells to wreak even more havoc with. Even with so many moves and abilities at your disposal, the controls are a breeze and with enough practice you will be pulling off big combos in no time.
In between the killing and puzzle solving, Kratos will have to do a bit of platforming as well. I found these sections to be easier than the last game, but that could just be me. Kratos can swing from certain sections by using his chains and this provides a few adrenaline soaked scenes. Swinging from crumbling pillars as you desperately jump between them to reach the exit on time is quite a rush. The tight controls are a blessing, but I can’t always say the same about the fixed camera angles. They work fine for the most part however, and do a good job of showing off the excellent surroundings. There’s even a flying level thrown into the mix, as Kratos takes to the skies on the back of Pegasus.
Kratos’ journey to find the sisters of Fate take up the bulk of the game, but it does lead him through some interesting locations. He leaves his bloody footprints all over the Island of Creation, Bog of the Forgotten, Temple of the Fates and many more. The levels are actually pretty linear with only occasional backtracking. You can wander off the beaten path a bit to find all the secret chests if you wish. What’s most impressive is that they display all these stunning locales with now slowdown and barely a hint of loading. I saw some screen tearing here and there, but it still remains a technical feat.
The audio shares the same high production values as the rest of the game with some suitably epic orchestral scores. The dynamic soundtrack fits every area of the game to a tee. The voice acting is also pretty good, although Kratos is still yelling every line he has. The rest of the gods and Titans give a more subdued performance.
It’s rare for a game as good as God of War to spawn a sequel that almost wipes the floor with the original, but GOW2 comes as close as I’ve ever seen. The frequent and interesting boss battles that effortlessly mix combat and puzzle solving is excellent, and while the story is a bit flat compared to the original, it still packs a punch. There were a few areas that were a bit too trial-and-error based for my taste, and unlimited enemies spawning when you have to pull a lever or rotate a platform gets old very fast. Still, for every moment of frustration there are ten that will take your breath away and not once did I feel like giving up on the game. This game reeks of polish from start to finish, and if you enjoyed the first game, you owe it to yourself to play this one. It may feel like it’s over all too soon, but only because the game is so addictive. Upon completion, you also unlock a whole bunch of new costumes and modes, so value for money is guaranteed. Judging by the ending, things can only get bigger and better for the franchise.
*Review originally published 2007.