God of War 2 ReviewGreg Knoll
God of War was ground-breaking. Incredible fighting styles, brutal violence and huge environments were only some of the many good things Sony’s mega-hit had going for it. So when the sequel was announced, I didn’t put off buying this one for almost a year as I did its predecessor. I had it the day it came out. I was completely locked to my PlayStation, refusing to move so I could eat, sleep or even sometimes go to work until I had gotten my fill of it.
Two months later and three times through it I’m still trying to do that.
God of War II does almost everything right in my book. One of the most dominating and interesting aspects of the original was its huge, roving landscapes--islands that stretched forever, huge, intricate chapels and mammoth gods who could crush a village by merely stepping on it. This time around, everything seems bigger (yes, even bigger than that). Once you reach the island of the Fates, you realize how massive this game can be. Visually this game is a masterpiece, but it’s done so well it almost overwhelms you. At one point you find yourself controlling The Steeds of Time--Huge steel steeds with an entire island attached to their back. Once everything is in place, Kratos stands between them and whips them into a gallop. The game then cuts to an FMV that shows the massive horses tugging one island to the other, allowing you to finally cross. It really has to be seen to be believed.
Along with God of War being a visual splendor, it was also a mental one as well. Whether it was with easily killed guards, or huge interactive boss battles like “The Hydra”, God of War kept it entertaining. God of War II goes one better, by almost immediately thrusting you into an epic war between Kratos and the Colossus of Rhodes, a gigantic blue-eyed metal statue that was given life just to stop your onslaught. In the first round you can only swat at the hand of the huge Colossus to weaken him, climb upon his face and carve out one of his eyes--using the ever so entertaining button sequences that I found so enjoyable from the first part. You are then thrown to the other side of the city, where you must fight through city guards, climb up broken homes and swing across rivers to finish the fight.
This is only one of the many interactive, huge battles you can have. I appreciate the fact that Sony made the effort to take the story down and amp up the action. Even then, the story just didn’t captivate me like it did the first time. Kratos, in the original, struck me as a bad ass rebellious anti-hero. This time around he came across as a bitter, egotistical warlord just out for blood. Such a character is fine, just don’t expect to see many plot twists or character development.
That, however, is fine by me. Cut-scenes and monologues are minimal, but with a game like this, that is so crammed with action you won’t even notice.
Along with a brand new semi-story, Sony introduced new weapons and new ideas for the sequel, most of which worked, one of which didn’t. Aside from the Blades of Athena, you eventually have three weapons to choose from. One is The Barbarian Hammer, a weapon of such massive size that even the buff Kratos has a hard time wielding it, yet in using it you can send enemies flying off ledges or mash their faces right into the ground. Another is the Spear of Destiny, no not historically accurate but still very fun to use. It’s a lot faster than the hammer and has many more combo choices. One you can whirl the spear around your back, swinging it in a huge arc to obliterate everything around you. Another has you swing the spear upward to launch the enemy in the air then plunge the spear into them countless times before they even hit the ground. The final weapon, the Blade of Olympus, is more for creative purposes than anything. Sure, it has some cool combos and does some vicious damage, but the coolest thing about it is when you earn the Divine Sacrifice, you spin the blade around you in a circle creating a vacuum and robbing enemies of huge amounts of red orbs.
Aside from Weapons, God Of War has introduced some unique add-ons to make the gameplay a bit more challenging. The Golden Fleece--a unique piece of armor that, if timed right, can reflect any projectile thrown at Kratos--and The Wings of Icarus--the famed wax wings that allow Kratos to soar over landscapes he normally couldn’t handle on his own. The Golden Fleece was a great idea. Kratos would actually absorb the projectile then swing it back without ever having to aim; you can reverse a Medusa’s stone gaze, unleashing a blast that turns anyone within the vicinity to stone.
The Wings of Icarus were a thorn in my side. Too many levels ask you to make use of this annoying tool, and most of the time it is over burning lakes or huge pitfalls. More times than not I would tap the button to double jump to try and soar to safety, only to have the wings tuck into my back as I plummeted to my destruction. And you can only use them once, if you miss your chance you won’t have another without hitting “continue”. The controls were way too sloppy for something that demanded such precision.
And if I’m mentioning God of War II’s minimal complaints, this game is still deserving of a decent soundtrack. I know I often rave about metal music in my reviews and most of the time it may not fit (AKA Shining Tears) but Disarmonia Mundi would fit in perfectly with this type of game and the type of crowd that plays it. Voice-overs are outstanding, don’t get me wrong, but it wouldn’t hurt to have something in the background aside from the occasional grunt from Kratos.
That, unsurprisingly, is it. A dim soundtrack and a control glitch is certainly not enough to taint such a wonderful and entertaining game. Brilliant visuals, intense action and a few new additions make God of War II--dare I say--just as good as the first part. The developers even left the ending open, perhaps hinting at a third installment. Fine by me. Sony can make as many as they want, so long as they make them as good as this one. I’ll keep buying them. You should too.
Disclosure: We are provided copies of games from the game companies for some games that we review.
May I have the strength to lead with compassion. May I have a resolve strong enough to inspire it in others. May my heart be true, my motives virtuous, my spirit valiant. And whether I fail or succeed, may I at least be brave in the attempt.
About the Author: Greg Knoll
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