Reviewing God of War II is a formality, akin to meeting your significant other’s family before getting married. Not matter what they say, you’ll still walk down that isle. So go ahead — walk down that store isle and pick up a copy of God of War II. There’s absolutely no doubt that this sequel offers gameplay that matches or very well exceeds the original in terms of quality. It shouldn’t be surprising then that God of War II is one of the finest games to not just grace PlayStation 2, but any system in past year.
Kratos’ continued epic sees him deposed as the god of war, his powers taken away by the deities in Olympus angered by his arrogance. His attempt to exact revenge upon Athena for draining some of his godly powers is aided by Zeus. Granted the Blade of Olympus, Kratos instills all of his power into the sword only to discover that it is a trick by Zeus to kill him. Cast into the underworld as a fallen god, Kratos vows to overrun Olympus and kill Zeus.
Immediately, you’ll appreciate how well the narrative flows forward from the first game. Rather than feeling tacked on as if it were an unexpected extension, God of War II evolves in a way that is both interesting and reasonable. Much liberty has been taken to weave in figures from mythology, both common and obscure; in fact, more effort has been made to tie Kratos to the Greek mythos. Aside from the Olympic pantheon, there are references to numerous demigods, heroes, and lesser-known mythological creatures. This does well in shaping the world in which Kratos fights, in addition to provide impressive set pieces and intriguing characters.
How God of War II seamlessly integrates elements of action and puzzle-solving into these sets is truly remarkable. The level design feels organic rather than forced or laid on top of pretty environments. Certainly some of the puzzles are placed only as a means of breaking up the intense action, but for the most part they flow well with the game.
No matter how interesting puzzles may seem to be, it’s the furious action Kratos dishes out to his enemies that makes God of War II enjoyable. The game deviates little from the previous title, simply adding new weapons and magical powers. Access to new abilities does make combat a little more exciting, but really the experience is identical to that of the original. More enemies require context-sensitive actions, which makes finishing off foes a bit more challenging. As you progress further into the game, more of these action sequences are required, some of them quite demanding.
God of War II isn’t particularly hard on the default level of difficulty, but you will experience hard fights in later boss encounters. In these battles, mashing buttons won’t get the job done; instead, you must combine evasive maneuvers, magic, and secondary weapons with spur-of-the-moment tactics to survive. Nothing is impossible to beat, so even casual players have the chance to actually enjoy the game.
The hardest part about playing God of War II is finding a way of connecting with its protagonist, Kratos. Consumed with his quest for vengeance, Kratos exudes anger, insolence, and bitterness. Rarely are you shown emotions that differ from these rather negative sentiments; as a result, it’s hard to like Kratos. Sure, his bad attitude makes him appealing in a rebellious sort of way, but when he scoffs at characters that help him in the adventure, you can’t help but hate him. With that in mind, it becomes difficult to believe that at one point this man loved a wife and child.
Speaking of children, keep them away from the screen while you’re playing this gorgeous game. All of the blood and guts from enemies slain by Kratos’ blades is shown in vivid detail. Somehow the visual quality has improved over the last game, offering jaw-dropping scenes depicting the Titans, massive temples, crumbling altars, and brutal beasts. As for the sound, the voice acting and music are fantastic, essentially following in suit from the original. There’s no question that God of War II is the best looking and sounding game for PlayStation 2.
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- Overall: 9.5
- You shouldn’t have wasted time reading this review; instead, you ought to have been playing what is easily one of the best games of the last few years. God of War II does nearly everything right: beautiful visuals and sound, intense action gameplay, impressive design. Forget the next-generation; God of War II proves PlayStation 2 still has plenty of game.
— Tracy Erickson