God of War II Review
Some are probably wondering right now why the sequel to what many consider the 2005 Game of the Year is being released on the PS2 rather than the just-released PS3. Those who have "moved on" to the PS3 might even just skip on God of War II because it's a "last-gen" game. I'll say it right now: don't skip it. The PS3 can play PS2 games perfectly (including this one), and while you won't get true HD graphics, this is still one of the best games released for any Sony platform in the last few years. This game will remind you that while high definition graphics are great, it takes a keen eye for what art really is to make a game look great.
God of War 2 picks up shortly after the first game let off. Spartan warrior Kratos has broken free from his role as a slave of the God of War, Ares, and has ascended Olympus to take Ares' old role himself. But that didn't solve his problems - not in the slightest. He still has nightmares about his brutal, violent past, and his two blades are still attached to him through the chains burned and fused into his wrists. The only thing he seems to be able to do to take his mind off his past is fight, so he leads an assault on the rest of the cities of Greece. Athena, who raised him to God of War status after Ares' fall, warns Kratos to stop or face the wrath of the rest of the gods of Olympus. Kratos, however, still harbors his original hatred for those same gods, and quickly he will find himself shrunk back down to human size and in the game's initial sequence, has to fight the Colossus - yes, one of the ancient wonders of the world, brought to life by Athena's own power - in order to keep his godly powers.
It's not long before Kratos is betrayed by Zeus and, well, that's about as far as I will go towards spoiling the game's story for you. That's not far into the game at all, but suffice it to say that while Kratos starts out with the immense fighting ability of a god, it gets stripped of him before long and he'll have to go on a desperate journey to change his fate. New characters come into play here, both allies and enemies, and you'll find that many elements of real Greek mythology have been brought into God of War II to flesh out the story.
Of course, there's also the very brutal and violent nature of this series which comes out not only in the combat and cutscenes, but in Kratos' own nature as well. He doesn't care at all for cowards or weaklings, but he still shows every once in a while that somehow, he still has a soul. It's been chewed up and spat out by the will of the gods of Olympus, but he still remembers his past and what he's done. He's full of hatred for the gods and in this new journey he still won't be making many friends on the way, either. And with the huge variety of new killing blows that show off some of Kratos' brutality, those who are violence junkies will find plenty to love here.
As far as the action goes, much of what you love about the original God of War is here in the sequel. At the beginning of the game you'll still have some of your godly powers, but when they get stripped away, you'll have to start over with your basic Athena's Blades. The number of combos you'll have at this point is abysmal, but by the end of the game you'll be even more powerful than before. And the new weapons and abilities you can switch to are a combination of some of the old stuff along with brand new magic. There's Typhon's Bow which replaces the Zeus' Bolts from the first game, and it's even more useful than the bolts were. You'll get a new gorgon head to turn enemies to stone with, along with a huge hammer with some sweet upgrade abilities and even a spear which can juggle enemies into the air with ease.
You're going to need these abilities with the wide range of enemies that you come across. From creatures like harpies and gorgons to the undead and famous characters from the Greek myths, there are a wide range of attacks that you'll need to dodge away from or get around. You'll have to punch holes in the defenses of those who block a lot, and the game's many boss battles (most of which involve some truly awesome killing sequences orchestrated by Kratos) are usually multi-staged and tough without being frustrating.
You're going to need these abilities with the wide range of enemies that you come across. From creatures like harpies and gorgons to the undead and famous characters from the Greek myths, there are a wide range of attacks that you'll need to dodge away from or get around. You'll have to punch holes in the defenses of those who block a lot, and the game's many boss battles (most of which involve some truly awesome killing sequences orchestrated by Kratos) are usually multi-staged and tough without being too frustrating.
New puzzles are everywhere in God of War II, and I found that for the most part the difficulty is a little more evened out than in the first game. Some of the hardest ones were near the beginning of the game the first time around, but now you'll find that they ramp up in toughness only a little bit as you progress through. There are also more secrets than before, with new super-secret items as well as plenty of Gorgon Eyes and Phoenix Feathers around to extend your health and magic bars.
At first glance, it might seem like God of War II is a rehash sequel that may not really be worth your time. But there is plenty of new stuff here, including a wonderful new explorable island that makes up the majority of the game (but there are a few trips elsewhere as well). It's actually a set of islands and they're massive, and the developers at Sony have really stretched the limits of the PS2 in showing it here. The environments in this game are breathtaking and very detailed, and really bring that classic Greek mythology in. Along with new flight sequences on a fiery-winged Pegasus, the game really does break new ground while staying familiar to those who loved the first game. I can only imagine what this team will be capable of when they start tapping the power of the PS3 for the inevitable God of War III.
There is a whole new set of extras available as well, but most of them this time around aren't quite as exciting as the first game. Still, it's a lot of stuff, and you don't have to spend an extra ten bucks on a Collector's Edition to get it either. But combine all this with an excellent dynamic soundtrack, wonderful action, great voice acting for a pretty big range of characters, and an epic scale that will dazzle any PS2 gamer (and even a few Xbox 360 and PS3 players as well), and it quickly becomes clear that God of War II is just as much of a contender for Game of the Year as the first one was.