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.
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