Sony isn’t letting the PS2 fade away without a fight and God of War II strikes a critical blow for proving that the Last generation just isn’t quite over. Dust off your controller and fork over your money (if you’re over 17 of course) and prepare for a brutal journey through ancient Greece.
A History of Violence
God of War II truly explores the M-rating and doesn’t pull any punches, blades, hammers, or throws. The original God of War made a name for itself in its brutal interactive cut scenes that found new ways to crush the opposition, and the sequel only takes it to a greater level. Battles and bosses are driven by sheer absurdity, finding bizarre new ways to tear the wings off of a griffin or forcing a librarian to read to death. Yet the game takes its combat in good humor and uses the interactive-combat-cut scenes to infuse in puzzle elements into the action. Fights flow seamlessly into the grand narrative of the story and make it a hard game to walk away from. The actual controls feel natural and emphasize the strength of the dual-shock design. The only downfall is because of the frequent need for rapid button tapping, older controllers or lower-end third party controllers may feel the wrath of Kratos and ware out.
When he’s not tearing killing Minotaurs and Medusas, Kratos spends his time getting into some quality puzzle-platforming. Timing is his greatest enemy as the designers of GOWII have put together some great puzzles to get you from place to place. While these head-scratchers may force you to take a minute to... uh… scratch your head, they keep the rhythm of the game well-intact.
Tools of the Trade
God of War II Screenshot© Sony
In order for Kratos to properly take on gods and monsters, he needs the right tools for the job. The Blades of Athena stay in their properly chained place and make a triumphant return, using many of the same moves from the first title. God of War II features more magic and more alternate weapons that you achieve as the game goes on, although nothing can beat the base Blades. The way the weapons work through the graphics and the gameplay create the basic flow of the game.
Added in to the mix are a variety of new relics that will allow Kratos to breathe under water, reflect enemy magic and attacks, even temporarily slow time. Amazingly, between all of these different elements, the game remains well balanced. Each item follows tradition in helping you progress to the next stage, but the basic weapons and magic abilities stay useful (for the most part) through the duration of the game.
God of War II doesn’t fall short in replay value, not only because it’s got a great basic game mechanic, but beating the game unlocks a plethora of new options. As with the first God of War, you need to beat the game on any difficulty to unlock the highest difficulty, but this time there are a set of non-plot game modes for you to play around in.
Challenge of the Titans sets you against a series of, you guessed it, challenges that will allow you to unlock new costumes. If you feel the need to just get your aggressions out in the safest way, Arena of the Fates mode allows you to customize the number and types of enemies that you face. You can take the experience and levels you gain there to play back through the normal mode of the game, just to get in the maximum destruction possible.
Now with Bonus Disk!
God of War II Screenshot© SCEA
Those who played the original God of War may remember the included galleries and designer commentary, a nice extra for anyone who wants to idealize the game’s designers or just find out why the game is the way it is. God of War II again one-ups it’s predecessor by adding in a full bonus DVD filled with behind the scenes of the game. I’m the kind of person who needs the commentaries and bonus features to accompany my DVD’s, and with the growth of videogames in popular culture God of War II takes a step in the right direction in cluing the players in on the creative process.
The special features DVD convientently plays in any old DVD player, just in case you’re too involved to take a disk out of your PS2, and features a Making-Of, Interviews with Developers, featurettes that detail the Environments, Creatures, and even play testing of the game itself. It’s interesting to see the process, also to see what didn’t quite make the cut. There are some big un-necessary featurettes, like the How-to-Play featurette, but it gets out-weighed with the included concept art and other featurettes that focus on the actual making of the game.