God of War II Review

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Publisher: Sony
Developer: Sony Santa Monica

Platform: PlayStation 2
Reviewed on PlayStation 2

Kratos, the infamous Spartan warrior, defeated Ares and usurped his place on Olympus as the god of war. Upon his ascension, Kratos led Sparta through a series of increasingly bloody victories that left much of Greece as only rubble and carnage. His actions, even more brutal than Ares, have led even the gods to fear and dread Kratos. Betrayed by Olympus, Kratos must escape the clutches of Hades, reclaim his godly powers and slay Zeus, the ruler of Olympus, himself.

Kyle Ackerman

Kratos is a god no longer. At the end of the original God of War, Kratos ascended to godhood, replacing Ares in Olympus' pantheon. And it was richly deserved. Few games remake you as a primal force of destruction, in complete control of the seemingly chaotic tumult of battle, as Kratos' reign of terror did. The game's system of Simon Says-style button-pressing was simplistic, but still created the illusion of control over Kratos' every swing and sadistic death-blow.

Now, Kratos has fallen. No longer a god, he has been betrayed by Zeus, but is too full of revenge and hatred to die. The game, God of War II has fallen, too, but not nearly as far. Not because it pales in comparison with the original God of War, but because it delivers largely the same experience, just a lot harder. God of War was fearsomely new and shocking. God of War II delivers on your expectations. And while the higher difficulty is ideal for the most hardcore gamers, casual gamers will be frustrated with the difficult boss battles on any but the easiest setting.

Old, But Not in the Way

The biggest disappointment is no failing of the game itself. God of War II is available for the PlayStation 2. For a game that's as much about the gore and brutal slayings as it is about exploration and puzzle-solving, it's sad not to see the lush backgrounds and epic characters in the highest fidelity possible. Of course, if this were a PlayStation 3 game, then everyone who owns the PlayStation 3 would have needed to purchase a copy of the game to meet the sales success of the first game. Just be aware that If you choose to play the game, that hollow feeling in the pit of your stomach is probably the urge to see Kratos splatter mythological creatures on the latest generation of consoles. But that's not going to affect the numerical rating of this PlayStation 2 game. If you've been playing on a PlayStation 3 or Xbox 360, just take a deep breath and embrace the blocky gore.

Because this game is about gore. As Kratos, you encounter a pantheon of characters from Greek mythology... and kill them all. The more brutal the kill, the better. Remember Jason and the Argonauts? Splattered. Theseus? Impaled. Perseus? Bruised and Broken. Icarus? You rip his wings from his very back! And that doesn't even begin to account for the myriad minions, and even gods, that will fall to Kratos' twin blades.

Decapitation at The Touch of a Button

Combat is much the same as in the original God of War – you mash particular combinations of buttons (with more available as the game goes on) to slay hordes of creatures; then you brutally bash bosses by exploiting their behavioral patterns until you finally strike a series of buttons that flash on the screen to perform some wicked and grotesque mutilation that serves as the coup de grace. This is the game where you can rip the arm off a soldier and beat him to death with it. But the bosses are a step down for all but the most coordinated gamers.

The original God of War relied more heavily on the sequences of button presses to lay low magnificent mythological monsters. God of War II relies more on standard "evade the pattern and strike" play, requiring enough repetition at even standard difficulty that it ripped away the aura of martial supremacy and was simply frustrating. Even the very final battle, that should have been truly epic, required such split-second timing for button presses that by the time I'd bested my godly foe, I was more relieved than impressed.

This Time, Bigger is Better

Despite the fact that God of War II is available on a platform that's now outdated, the development team managed to eke out an impressive improvement in the graphics from the original game. Levels are even bigger and look better. All are elegantly designed. Pegasus sequences have been added that feel like classic coin-op combat flight games, and the animation and voice acting are superb.

Keeping in mind the changes in difficulty and the fact that any PlayStation 2 graphics, no matter how well rendered, are hard on an eye conditioned to newer platforms, God of War II is an amazing ride. It starts you off fighting the Colossus at Rhodes, a gigantic statue intend on smashing Kratos into pulp, and grows more exciting with every level. Even if you've moved on to more recent gaming consoles, you can't afford to miss God of War II.

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This page contains a single entry by Editor published on March 23, 2007 2:56 PM.

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