One Of The Greatest Of All Time
God of War II picks up after the events of God of War. As Kratos, you defeated Ares in the original God of War to become, you guessed it, the God of War. However as shown in the opening cutscene of God of War II, Kratos comes down from Olympus to help his fellow Spartans. Athena disapproves of this, and causes Kratos to lose his God powers; something best explained by watching the opening cutscene yourself, since you’re already going to buy this game if you haven’t already – trust me it’s that awesome. So, right from the start of the game, players assume the role of Kratos in his mere mortal form once again. In terms of gameplay in general, not a whole lot has changed, but you know the old saying – if it’s not broke, don’t fix it. For me, as I’m sure many GoW fans would agree, the original was so well done, more of the same would be just fine. And, for the most part, Sony’s Santa Monica studies deliver the same goodness, but they add to it, too with new combo attacks, powers, and eventually the ability to slow down time to complete certain puzzles.
God of War II takes Kratos on a journey to retrieve his God of War status, but all the while he is also helping the Titans in a war against the Gods of Olympus, after being betrayed by Olympus himself – I’d love to say more but it would just take away from the great story the game tells throughout. Gaia, the voice from the first game, returns to narrate as well speak with Kratos and guide him along his way. You will encounter other Titans in the game too, and from them you will earn new Titan power moves (instead of the God moves from the last game). Everything about God of War II can be summed up with the word ‘epic’ – from the beginning battle sequence against the large statue to the awesome battle in the bog against the resurrected solider that Kratos first killed when he called out to Ares in the original game. Each battle is so well done and presented, complete with button matching puzzles and other nice twists that just left me awed from one sequence to the next.
The environments that Kratos visits this time around are even more impressive and engaging than the original. Snow covered mountains, outdoor environments with lots of vegetation, massive marble covered structures; heck you even spend a long sequence on four huge stone horses and another part of the game has you flying on the back of a mythical beast with wings. Wherever you are in the game, one thing remains true: it looks damn good. I haven’t played every PS2 game, not even a third, but I would be shocked to find visuals much better than these. Not only are the sheer technical aspects of the visuals great, but the art style and direction are just outstanding. Gorgeous animations, beautiful, rich textures and colors, excellent lighting – it’s a visual feast not before seen on the PS2. The framerate stays consistently smooth and I didn’t experience any graphical glitches at all; just a fantastic job here by animation and art folks.
The people behind the audio in God of War II deserve recognition as well. God of War featured one of the best soundtracks I had ever experienced playing through a game and God of War II continues that mark of excellence. The score presented here will remind you how important and profound the effect of a great score can be on a game; it elevates the whole experience to another level and creates some truly enthralling memories. Voiceovers and effects in God of War II are top notch as well; the original voice cast returns and the sound effects cover all the bases.
It’s really tough to find anything negative to say about this game that isn’t just something incredibly nit-picky or silly like “I just wish it were longer.” Playing through on Normal will probably take a dozen or so hours, which is essentially on par for third person action games, but when it’s over you wish it could go on somehow, just like the first game. Experiences like these remind me why I keep playing games, and you just don’t want to see them end. That said, God of War II does offer more incentive for going back than the original did. You can challenge yourself on Titan Mode, which is the equivalent of God Mode from the original. There are also a handful of other mini-games, including the return of the Challenge of the Gods mode, which now features the ability to save your progress as you go. Also, another unlockable mode lets you spawn in whatever creatures you want to face in an arena and take them on. Cool stuff, but I personally prefer to just play through the story mode a few more times.