Kratos is one pissed off dude. Just one look at this killing machine and you'll be convinced that this is one angry hombre. Not that he doesn't have every right to be, but of all the really angry video game characters you've played as over the past twenty years, Kratos is the meanest one of all. After murdering his family, taking out thousands of soldiers and fighting his way to the top, Kratos has become the God of War and oversees the world he once was a part of. You would think that life was pretty darn good, even for an angry guy like Kratos.
But life as a God is not all it's cracked up to be, apparently there's some in-fighting and not everybody is happy that the big ash-colored guy with the two deadly blades on chains is a God. Zeus, the supreme ruler of the Gods, decides that it's about time for somebody to deal with Kratos and turns him into a mere mortal. As you can imagine this turns and already angry Kratos into the single most pissed off action hero you'll ever seen, not the kind of guy you want to run into in a dark alley, abandoned castle, or really anywhere else.
This is how God of War II starts; you go from being a giant God that towers over cities and mountains to a small insignificant human who is the same size as everybody else. And on top of that you're stuck battling a gigantic colossus that should have no problem kicking your butt. Needless to say this isn't the best day, but at least it gives Kratos (and the person controlling him) a chance to enjoy everything that made the original God of War so much fun.
Like any good sequel, God of War II retains everything that was fun about the original game and improves on all the stuff that was bad. The good news is that there wasn't a lot of bad in the 2005 God of War. The game play remains the same and there's not a major shift in the way the game looks or feels, but what you do get is a great adventure full of fantastic bosses, tons of mythological cameos, and combat that never gets boring. God of War II is everything you could hope for in a PlayStation 2 action game, and for a few hours it actually got me to not care about the newest game consoles.
Once again you have the chance to become Kratos as he journeys far and wide in search of the Sisters of Fate. The plan is that if Kratos can find these Sisters of Fate he will be able to turn back time and go to the moment when Zeus changed him from a God to a normal human being. Of course, finding the Sisters of Fat e is not going to be an easy task, you're going to have to deal with large creatures, numerous puzzles and a whole bunch of characters you've probably heard of. Everything that was great about the original God of War is here in full force, and in a lot of ways this game is even better.
From beginning to end God of War II feels like a roller coaster ride through Greek mythology, it grabs you from the very first fight and doesn't let go until you've completed your task and witnessed the exciting (and somewhat anticlimactic) ending cinema. Considering that this will likely be the last major first party title released for the PlayStation 2, God of War II Is a fitting ending to a system that brought us so many games and so many good times. If there was any doubt that this action series had legs and could sustain multiple sequels I think those worries have been put to rest, it's hard to imagine an action game being more exciting and more enthralling than this.
There are so many things that stand out about God of War II, from the amazing graphics to the fitting voice acting to the spectacular boss battles. But the thing I'm the most impressed with has to be the variety of areas to fight in and the fantastic level designs. While the original game was certainly a great game in its own right, there were times when I felt like we were getting bogged down in too many similar looking environments. But the pacing is completely different in this sequel, about the time you start to get sick and tired of your surroundings the entire level will change and you'll be thrown into something completely new and exciting. The fact that you never really know where you're going to go next works to the game's advantage, it definitely kept me glued to the screen working my way through the crazy world full of Gods and monsters.
The first hour or two alone should be enough to keep that wired PlayStation 2 control stuck to your hands. First you fight a giant colossus, then you escape from the underworld, after that you ride on your flying horse (Pegasus) while battling countless enemies, only to get caught in an elaborate cave area with a giant creature made entire out of rocks. And that's just in the first couple hours of the game, if you keep at it you'll be fighting through the forest, clearing out castles, diving underwater and over mountains. And while all of those parts of the game are cool and worth experiencing, I haven't even addressed the coolest locations in fear of spoiling the entire experience. Needless to say, God of War II delivers a fully realized world full of tiny details, regardless of how dark and dreary this world is there's a certain beauty to it all, something that you have to see for yourself to fully appreciate.
For the most part Kratos controls exactly as he did in the previous installment, you still have a couple of different attack buttons, a block button, magic and throw button (which can also be used to finish off your enemies in the most gruesome way possible). God of War II does bring a few new moves to the table, but their use proves to be somewhat limited. Probably the most noteworthy addition is the ability to use your chain blades to hook objects up high and swing over pits. This is a cool new addition, but you won't be using it very often and it doesn't really impact the game play as much as you might think. The ability to fly on the back of Pegasus while attacking other flying objects is new and impressive, but it's over far too soon and never revisited.
While it's not the flashiest part of the game, the biggest addition to your combat repertoire has to be the different weapons and magic. Obviously the concept of having different weapons and magic is nothing new, the original God of War offered these different options. What's great about this game is that these different items actually feel worthwhile; the magic is especially cool (and makes sense in the context of the storyline). As you progress through the game you will earn new weapons (a giant hammer, a spear, etc.) and magic (arrows, an earthquake and so on) that you can use against your enemies and upgrade as you feel the need. When it comes right down to it your magic is the most important part of the game, it's hard to comprehend beating this game without using your magic once or twice. The weapons are also cool and they do a great job adding some diversity to the game, but they aren't as much fun to use as your chain blades and don't alter the overall combat enough to warrant using them very much.
Like the first game, so much of the enjoyment of God of War II comes from how powerful you feel. On the standard difficulty you can take out almost any soldier without too much concern, your weapons are so powerful and your combos are almost too effective for their own good. But there's more to it than that, there's just something satisfying about linking combos together and keeping it going without a break in the action, even when you're battling easy characters you can't help but want to outdo your top combo. And even if you're not into the number of hits you get before breaking the combo, there's something hypnotic about watching those blades fly around the screen taking out anything that gets in their way. If it weren't for the blood, death and destruction that they leave in their wake I might actually go as far as to say that they are beautiful.
There's more to the combat than just killing people at a distance with your powerful blades, you can also get up close and finish off your enemies with a series of well timed button presses. As you wear down your opponent a giant "O" tag will pop up over their head, if you get there in time you can push the "O" button and go into a small mini-game where a button (or analog stick movement) will flash on the screen and if you push it in time you will do something truly heinous. Early on it's nothing more than impaling your enemies with their own swords, but by the time you've finished the game you will have seen some unbelievably gross (yet satisfying) deaths. These mini-games also play a major role in the boss fights, so it's vital that you have the PlayStation 2 control button lay outs memorized before you journey too deep into this game.
Speaking of bosses, one of the biggest complaints with the original God of War was that there weren't enough bosses to fight. Because the bosses that you did fight were so amazing a lot of people were let down when they only encountered two or three real boss battles. God of War II addresses this concern by offering many, many more boss creatures, including several that are even larger and more impressive than what we saw in the first game. But don't expect every boss to be several stories tall, most of these characters are only slightly taller than Kratos himself, but that doesn't mean they're going to be easy to take out. Some of the best boss battles involve you in a small enclosed location fighting a personal battle against another mythological character, often without you knowing which way the battle is going to end up. If there's any complaints that could be leveled against the bosses in God of War II it might be that there are simply too many of them, I have to wonder if Sony has anybody left for the inevitable God of War III and PSP spin-off.
When God of War was first shown off a lot of people couldn't believe that it was a PlayStation 2 game. At first glance the game's attention to detail and beautiful cinemas looked like they must have come from a much more powerful unit, yet these graphics were being produced using the aging PlayStation 2 architecture. Here we are a couple years later and the PlayStation 2 hasn't gotten any young, yet you wouldn't know that by playing this amazing sequel. While you won't confuse the graphics for Gears of War or some of the other second and third generation Xbox 360 games, it's almost impossible to believe that these visuals are coming from a console that is now seven years old.
Simply put, God of War II is the best looking game to ever be released on the PlayStation 2. And given Sony's emphasis on their PlayStation 3, I can't imagine anything coming out on the now outdated console that looks better than this does. Every inch of this game looks amazing, from the masterfully crafted level designs to the enormous monsters, it all just looks spectacular. Even Kratos has been given a slight make-over, now his muscles are more defined and you can actually make out his facial expressions. The fact that God of War II still manages to hold up graphically against the onslaught of new game systems speaks volumes about the experience the developers bring to the table.
The graphics aren't the only thing God of War II excels at, the sound and voice acting is also stellar. The music feels like it's ripped straight out of a big budget epic movie and they don't spare any expense when it comes to voice acting. Terrence Carson returns as Kratos and delivers another convincing performance, and best of all, he's nearly overshadowed by some even better voices. In fact, in one of the most inspired casting decisions known to man, Harry Hamlin reprises his role as Perseus. Although he's not in the game for more than a few minutes (long enough to fight Kratos), Harry Hamlin is the perfect person to play Perseus, if only because he already played that role in the 1981 movie Clash of the Titans. The entire acting cast puts forth a stunning effort that feels authentic, even if everything in this game is complete fiction.
This sequel is a bit longer than the original game, but only by a few hours. Depending on your skills the game should take between 12 and 15 hours, which is a respectable amount of time for a modern action game. Even if that doesn't sound as long as you would hope for, by the time you've reached the end of your adventure you'll really feel like you've accomplished something big. The game offers a lot of different puzzles to solve, several of which aren't as obvious as the ones in the original God of War. If you have the kind of brain that is good as problem solving then you may just whip right through this adventure, but I wouldn't be surprised to see almost everybody caught by a couple of the different puzzles features in the game. And even if you are the type that can just rush right through this game, you're still going to be treated to one great story and a lot of amazing boss fights.
And that's not all, when you're sick of fighting guards and giant boss creatures you can jump on over to the bonus DVD that comes with God of War II. That's right; you get a second disc full of interviews, behind the scenes documentaries and other bonus material. There are a lot of cool little tidbits of information to be gleaned from watching this material, as well as some hints at what could be next for Kratos. The game would have still been amazing without the additional material, but the fact that it's there makes this game an even better deal.
God of War II is one of the best games I've had the good fortune of playing this year, it's easy to recommend to everybody who loved the original or just enjoys a good action game. It may just be a PlayStation 2 game, but it's a damn good one that demands your attention. In every way possible God of War II is a better game than the already amazing prequel, and I can't wait to see what Sony is able to do on the PSP and PlayStation 3. Some may complain that the ending is somewhat anticlimactic, but it does wrap up this story while still offering enough threads to see where the sequels will go. Even if you're not in the market for a brand new action game, God of War II should be your next purchase … that is, if you haven't picked it up already. He may be angry, but I would hang out with Kratos any day of the week.