God of War II

God of War took players through a spectacular journey in a time when gods were petty and humanity struggled beneath their whims, becoming a powerful weapon in Sony’s entertainment war chest for the PS2. When the sequel was announced, the anticipation for it would become as legendary as that from which it would draw its greatest inspiration from. Even when David Jaffe had decided to step away from the title that he and his team had helped to make famous, the hype didn’t seem to miss a beat and when it was finally released, it brought back every reason that fans had to look forward to with plenty of new tricks. Kratos’ skills are as familiar as ever in his newest adventure against the gods that had helped him dispatch Ares, but the Spartan’s adventures that will take him to the edges of the world will reveal new challenges that will try their best to kill him.

God of War 2 holds anger management classes on the PS2.

Blood Soaked Saga of Revenge

Just as with the first game, the sequel makes full use of it’s Mature rating to tell a tale of sordid secrets and bloodthirsty vengeance as Greek mythology is written with the blood of countless enemies and would-be heroes. There’s blood, there’s sex, there’s plenty here to put it in the same league as an action adventure on the silver screen. It pulls no punches and pushes the envelope a little further with this new chapter of carnage spattered storytelling and it does it very well. The crimson ichor may flow freely from Kratos’ pitiless exploits, but the story, the characters within it, and the struggles and tortures that the ashen skinned warrior is forced to endure will keep you driving forward to find out what can possibly happen next, easily matching the intensity of the action.

After having taken his revenge in the first game by killing Ares, the God of War, Kratos has taken his place on Olympus and has become far more ruthless than the former god had ever been. Shunned by his fellow divines, Kratos has found solace from his painful past and a new family in his people, the Spartans. Favoring the Spartans who begin to conquer all that stand in their way, this eventually angers the gods. Athena, who had aided Kratos in defeating Ares, warns him to stop but Kratos disregards her warning and descends to Rhodes where the Spartans are laying siege to the city.

What should have been another triumph turns into a disaster as Kratos is betrayed by the gods of Olympus at what should have been another moment of victory. As he descends into Hades in death, he is offered a chance at revenge from an unexpected ally in the Titans. Returned to the world of the living, he will embark on a quest to do that which no mortal, or god, has ever done: to change their fate.

Spartan Skills of Wisdom and Death

Fans of the first God of War will feel at home with the controls along with the new weapons and magic that are in the game. Since Kratos won’t have the Olympian gods to rely on for his gifts, many of his familiar powers will be replaced by a variety of others from his new friends, the Titans. Many of these will appear to be similar to his previous gifts, such as Cronus’ Rage which replaces Poseidon’s Rage to become Kratos’ new lightning-based attack. For newcomers, some of the combat, especially that involving puzzle-based button sequences, at the beginning can be tough although the controls lend themselves easily to Kratos’ moves and abilities. Kratos’ moves flow smoothly from one action to the next and easily lend themselves to getting right into the mix with little effort. Complimenting Kratos’ controls is the remarkably sharp camera. Even though you can’t move it around, it works exceptionally well in keeping everything in view for Kratos to grind into pulp, although its not perfect as it can sometimes feel as if it is forced to point ahead as opposed to where you may want to backtrack for a bit.

Kratos can once again finish his foes off with a flourish using special, context sensitive attacks just as he had in the first with even more to look forward to. A button symbol may appear above the heads of those he has pummeled enough allowing the player to execute them with a gory killing move depending on what they are, whether it is to tear a head off of a three headed dog or in beating an undead soldier to death with its own arm. Kratos doesn’t care, as long as it gets the job done. The analog stick is also used in some of these instances, allowing Kratos to rip the head off of a medusa or pull a minotaur down onto its own weapon. Other sequences can get pretty elaborate in becoming Dragon’s Lair-like in their execution as you follow a string of actions, resulting in pain for the Spartan if the player takes too long to press the right button or misses an analog stick turn.

For the most part, these help throw an interesting wrench into simply slashing away at your foes, and many bosses won’t die until you get it right, but it isn’t perfect. Some instances, though, show the symbol and yet the player has to be in a certain spot in order to successfully pull off the move which can result in a few missed, and very painful, moments. In a few cases, it isn’t exactly clear where the player has to be which can be pretty frustrating when you have to smash up the boss all over again just to get it back in position for the backbreaking that Kratos wants to give it.

The Blades of Athena chained to Kratos’ wrists have also gained a new ability, that of being able to be used as a grappling hook to swing across obstacles or race through the air from one ruined post to the next before they all collapse. Thanks to an extremely simplified control scheme, you’ll use the Blades to climb, soar, and spin through one puzzle and the next and its an extremely welcome change that adds another level of coolness to the Spartan’s eclectic arsenal. Other weapons will be added to his collection as he makes his way across the land, although there seems to be less of an emphasis on having to use each weapon. Personally, I thought that this was a good thing, but it also made them far less useful than they they could have been.

As the Spartan defeats his enemies, special orbs will be released and Kratos will absorb these to help power up his arsenal of weapons and magic. As his arsenal improves, new abilities become available making him even more deadly than before. You can decide which ones to improve, customizing his tools to whatever you want him to specialize in. The weapons will also be able to unleash their own special magic which can help tip the scales in battle with more powerful variants unlocked at the higher levels.

Shouldering the World

Puzzles also make a return with the sequel and scale in difficulty from simply moving objects to reflect a beam of magic to turning handles and rotating symbols and mirrors to reveal what is hidden. The artists at Sony’s Santa Monica Studio have blended the puzzles seamlessly in with the Grecian inspired architecture that fills each level, immersing you in the legend that they are bringing to life. It all works and none of the puzzles feel as if they stand out like a sore thumb that shouldn’t belong and each one provides a decent challenge not only in how to think through them on but as a test of your skills as a few will also have Kratos fighting his enemies while trying to use his grey matter.

The world of GoW2 continues its inspired dismantling of Grecian mythology and its epic legends with vast, open areas and literally titanic vistas and environments. Kratos will many times seem like a speck of dust against many of these scenes as well as many of the enemies that will come for him that are literally hulking giants that he’s got to cut back down to size in a variety of satisfying ways. From his old friends, the cyclops, to mythic figures such as Theseus and mauled remains of Jason, the artists and designers have hit the books looking to fill Kratos’ latest vengeance trip with plenty of classical flavor which not only looks fantastic but is every bit as fun as the first. Kratos will even take to the skies and battle his way through the clouds as you guide him to his goal with even more of the fantastic, over-the-top action that he delivers just as easily as if he were back on the ground.

The voice acting also gives each character plenty of personality from the eerie lines hissed by Medusa’s sister, Kratos’ anger as voiced by a returning TC Carson, Michael Clark Duncan stepping in as Atlas, to Clash of the Titans thespian, Harry Hamlin, coming in once again to bring Perseus to hilariously epic life in a confrontation that will have those remembering the film grinning. The music matches the mood of the action with each of the brutal confrontations against the many bosses that now stand in Kratos’ way feeling every bit larger than life as they should be. The final battle is particularly memorable as it leads off into a sequel that will continue the carnage and likely result in the gnashing of teeth as fans realize that another wait is ahead of them. Fortunately, you can play through the game again with everything that you had earned if you simply want to rage through ancient Greece as a God of War, and there are plenty of extras to get into.

Although everything has been raised to another level with the sequel, it doesn’t bring anything dramatically new to the genre aside from raising the volume which suits the formula just fine as there was nothing really wrong with its predecessor. But as a sequel that promises more of what had made God of War an incredibly satisfying jaunt through the environs of ancient Greece, it fulfills what it has set out to do with flair, although a few annoying things had also followed closely behind. For one thing, while context sensitive attacks do help make the regular button mashing madness a little more interesting, they’re absolutely everywhere here. The increased number of bosses that you can dispatch will also mean that there are also a lot more of these to contend with and who will continue to pummel you if you don’t follow the buttons. Not only that, but most every huge door that Kratos will need to open will require the player to jam on the circle button until callouses form on their fingers because it just seems that every other door has to be of the huge variety. I get it that the door is a giant slab of iron and Kratos needs to open it with the player’s help, but it can get really annoying after doing it for the ulteenth time.

Extra Stuff That You Won’t Have to Kill a God For

With God of War 2, Sony has seen fit to celebrate the return of their favorite Spartan with an extra DVD packed with plenty of entertaining interviews and eye opening behind-the-scenes movies that help to lay out what went into the making of the game without asking for anything more than the price of the game itself as a treat for fans. It’s a pretty good extra for no extra cost and is a welcome thank you bonus.

And when you finish the main quest, extra challenges await with more brutal difficulty levels, hidden urns that enable a variety of cheats for use in playing through the game again, and a new series of challenges for players hoping to unlock bonuses such as costumes for Kratos. Even when the first series of challenges are completed and depending on how well you have done in finishing them off, a new set of challenges in the form of an ‘Arena of the Fates’ becomes unlocked providing even more for players hoping to demonstrate their mastery of Kratos’ fighting arts.

Portent of the Future

God of War 2 raises the volume by giving players even more of what they want with a deafening collection of improvements and additions that will take them into the cloud filled skies above ancient Greece and even below the foundations of the very world itself. Although David Jaffe may no longer be a part of the legend that he has helped to forge, the team under Cory Barlog have met the challenge of bringing Kratos back from Olympus by providing plenty of what fans have been waiting for and what newcomers can easily get into. Pegasus will take Kratos into the skies, he will speak with Titans, gather his weapons, and ultimately explore places forbidden to both foolish mortals and immortal gods as he travels to the end of the world in a desperate bid to do that which no god or mortal has ever done in another incredible chapter of harrowing adventure.

– World 1-1

One response to “God of War II

  1. Pingback: Game Reviews, April 2007 « World 1-1·

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