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God of War II (PlayStation 2) artwork

God of War II (PlayStation 2) review

"Kratos. He was once a legendary Spartan warrior who fought in many great wars, and he conquered all of them. However, there was one battle he could not win. On the verge of a grisly defeat, he implored for the assistance of the God of War, Ares, to come down and smite his foes. In exchange for the godly intervention, Kratosí soul now belonged to the vile deity. This set the scene for the events that occurred in the first God of War. "

Kratos. He was once a legendary Spartan warrior who fought in many great wars, and he conquered all of them. However, there was one battle he could not win. On the verge of a grisly defeat, he implored for the assistance of the God of War, Ares, to come down and smite his foes. In exchange for the godly intervention, Kratosí soul now belonged to the vile deity. This set the scene for the events that occurred in the first God of War.

Long story short, Kratos decided that he no longer fancied the idea of being Aresí bitch. With the help of the good goddess, Athena, he gained enough power to topple the mighty God of War and then some. Now, Kratos is the head honcho in charge of chaos and destruction. However, the nobility over at Mount Olympus still donít swing the same way, and they are extremely critical of all the senseless acts of violence that the new God of War is instilling in mere mortals. As Kratosí wrath escalates to enormous proportions in Rhodes, with his Spartan warriors ravaging what sanctity remains of the great city, a ploy is set in motion to relinquish him of his recently acquired powers. Just like with a certain female bounty hunter, Kratos suddenly finds himself stripped of all his mojo, and left with a sour taste in his mouth and a rekindled thirst for vengeance, he now embarks on his greatest journey yet: to kill the almighty king of gods, Zeus.

What follows is nothing short of epic.

The only way to defeat Zeus is to attack him when he left his guard down - that is, when he came down to earth to deceitfully deliver Kratosí near-fatal blow. Oops! Looks like our anti-hero missed the boat on that one. But where thereís a will, thereís a way, and in Greek mythology there happens to be these Sisters of Fate who control time you see. And so Kratos heads in their direction, hoping to have amassed enough strength and magic by the time he reaches there in order to kick butt, take names, and perhaps rip off a few heads while heís at it.

Itís yet another hard slog through clammy caverns, rustic ruins, lava lands and thorny temples. Along the way, Kratos will also have to contend with all manner of mythological monsters, from ogling ogres to mesmerising medusas, all wanting a piece of his hunky flesh. Although Kratos is no longer a god, he is still one hell of a fighter, and with his signature extendable blades he can demolish any screen of all life within a few seconds. Simple are the commands for his many combos, but always brutal are the results. He can continuously pummel an opponent with wave after wave of merciless swipes, launch them into the air to follow up with an aerial assault, grab them and torment them with a multitude of sadistic strikes, or unleash all sorts of magical mumbo jumbo to zap, trap and smack them in all directions. The combat is fast and fluidly furious, always a joy to partake in and just like a good Snickers bar, it always satisfies. And to say that the finishing moves are impressive is a huge understatement here, with such reprimandable acts, like ripping off a beastís weapon-holding arm and slamming the dismembered limbís sword right back into the monsterís forehead, bringing all your carnage to a suitably gory conclusion.

If you arenít into bucket-loads of blood in viciously violent videogames, itís clearly obvious that this isnít for you. But thereís more to God of War II than beating everything you come across into a bleeding pulp.

Just when you start to feel like gutting that minotaur or tearing that soldier in half is becoming tiresome (hard to imagine I know), you will be met with some scenarios that require more dexterity with both brains and/or acrobatic ability. There will be times when Kratos will come across a huge gate that his sheer strength cannot open, or an impassable crevice that his timid double jump will prove inadequate. It is here when heíll have to put the madness on hold and don his Spartan thinking cap. The puzzle-solving aspects are fairly light, so as not to intrude on the relatively swift pace of the game. They tend to be based around the environment around him, making for solutions that require some tricky common sense to unearth. For example, if Kratos canít seem to find a direct way to cross an enveloping swamp, heíll have to make one himself. As he stands atop the balcony of some towering ruins, jutting out somewhat precariously over the putrid marsh, it begins to rock under his weight. By dragging a heavy stone pillar onto it, he can tilt it forwards only slightly, but enough so that he can stand at one end, lever the whole floor off and hurl it down into the thick bog below. Just like that, he now has a bridge to cross the troubled waters and is able to make his way to the next lot of enemies that want their blood spilled. Other situations require a similar train of thought, and while you may be stumped for some time with a few of them, once you discover the answer, you will marvel at how well the entire conundrum was conceived.

However, the same cannot be said for the story. Basically, itís all about Kratosí defiance against the gods. The adventure is an approximately 10+ hour ride, definitely longer than the first, but it seems that the tale was woven purely as an excuse to bring in a plethora of Greek mythological figures into the fray: Perseus, Icarus, Athena, the Kraken and even Medusaís obese sister, Euryale. The best thing about having so many of these icons present here is that most of them are featured boss fights. In a colossal step-up from the previous instalment, God of War II is a boss battle haven; I can guarantee that you wonít ever go more than 2 hours without being interrupted by someone important or something huge that wants to make mince meat out of you. However, the majority of the duels are against foes of your size and stature, although there are of course a couple of growth-hormone abusing beasts out there too. While the fights are on the whole, more technical than that seen in the first game, along the lines of what weíd expect from the Devil May Cry series, itís a shame that the grandiose ones are still as reliant on straightforward button-input sequences to carry them through. In other words, the best clashes occur when all thatís required of you is to sit and watch for the most part. But, boy will you be impressed with the selection on offer.

In fact, just like in the first God of War, this second chapter never ceases to amaze. There are brand-new flight sequences that see Kratos riding the back of the noble steed, Pegasus, swooping past a despicable array of airborne creatures, and bringing the hurt to them just like he does on the ground. And in a nod to the Prince of Persia trilogy, there is a time-manipulating mechanic mixed into the already sound puzzle design. However, underneath all the gloss and shine of the incredible next-gen-ish graphics engine, God of War II doesnít shake up many new ideas. As a result, the familiarity lingering on from its prequel lessens the overall impact of everything you see here. While the opening sequence is no doubt an extraordinarily visceral experience, we already saw something similar to it with the original gameís now-legendary Hydra battle. Before, button-input sections allowed us to watch the on-screen mayhem with our undivided attention, but now itís old hat and it comes across as rather lazy design, especially since these bits are quite overdone now as well.

The combat has more depth to it, with a growing number of vicious strings and the ability to easily switch weapons out on-the-fly, but Kratos still ainít no devil, and he can still just abuse a handful of moves for consistent success. Although the magical powers look new, they work in nearly the exact same way as before - how do thrown lightning bolts differ from a mystical bow & arrow set? They donít really. You are now afforded some mobility when using these enchanted arms, no longer having to remain stationary while you harness their powers, but it doesnít change the way you play the game.

And regardless of whatever game youíre playing, an elegantly presented block-pushing puzzle is still a block-pushing puzzle.

God of War II attempts to bring in more of what we liked about the first game (nearly everything) to the table, and in this respect it succeeds on all accounts. But have you ever heard of the law of diminishing returns? This is in full effect here. If we hadnít been exposed to all of this before, this would have been the definitive action-adventure. Leaping through the sky, landing on a griffinís back, ripping both its wings off and flinging it to god knows where Ė stuff like this is awesome, but then so is baked beans and eggs on toast. Unfortunately, the more often you have it, the less fulfilling it becomes. But itís still like dope.

Just like how I canít say no to my baked beans and eggs on toast, you canít deny that this is a sequel that at least equals its prequel. Despite his warpath being steeped in Deja Vu, Kratosí latest bash is well worth the price of admission, so long as it isnít a dismembered finger (you need those remember?) He may no longer be the God of War, but his PS2 swansong is definitely still a God of Wow, and if you had a blast with part one, thereís no doubt that youíll enjoy a similar legume-stimulated combustion with this follow-up. Itís going to be a blood-bath tonight...

arkrex's avatar
Community review by arkrex (August 04, 2007)

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