God of War II - PS2 - Preview 3
God of War II has the power to move mountains. All it took was a few minutes with the game for me to start contemplating that the creators have perfected what was already perfect. It sounds strange, but come early 2007, gamers across the globe will stop whatever it is they're doing to line up and purchase a game that'll make you feel like it's Christmas: God of War II.
Overflowing with every ounce of the original's goodness, God of War II is, as they say in the packaged food industry, "packed with more great taste!" The controls are untouchable - silky-smooth and without equal (except for the first God of War). New button call elements are being added, bringing to mind our 2005 Game of the Year, Resident Evil 4. You push the buttons as they appear on screen to make Kratos perform a pre-determined action. The action is based on the scenario and is entirely fitting to it.
Example: you need to lift a giant circular structure and push it into the water. Doing so will create a platform that lets you cross the poisonous reservoir. The first part of the puzzle has Kratos moving two heavy blocks. By moving them toward the end of the structure, it'll get loosened and start to wobble (the structure sits high above the water it needs to cover). Hmmmm. Did I just make a mistake that could have me falling off a cliff, or am I on the right trick? I searched around and eventually noticed the R1 symbol appear as I approached the part of the structure that's tilted upwards. I held down the button and tapped the circle button as indicated with another on-screen icon. Kratos lifted the structure as high as he could and pushed it into the water.
This was one of many puzzles introduced in the teaser, perpetuating more thought and creating more excitement than a any trailer for any upcoming film (hey movie industry: this is why video games have surpassed ticket sales!).
I'm not typically a fan of gameplay elements that require you to push a button at a specific time. God of War II shows that when it's done right, it can actually be pretty effective. During a fight with a three-headed creature I noticed that the circle icon appeared over the monster's head. It only appeared after I had dealt several hits. I pushed it, and the game took over. Kratos took his sword and jammed it into one of the three heads, then pulled back hard to rip it off.
I continued attacking and the icon appeared a second time. When I pushed the circle button now, Kratos sliced the head off like it was nothing. Finally the third time he ended the beast's life by ripping the third head off with his bare hands. He didn't even get the ball rolling with something sharp – he just reached for the head and started pulling. I haven't liked gore much since the days of the arcade Mortal Kombat games, but with vicious, visceral realism like that on display, I couldn't help but look at the screen and say, "Cool."
God of War II's visuals aren't a massive step above the first. However, the first game looked amazing. Consequently, so does the sequel. You'll see giant worlds, amazing camera angles, refined textures and graphic techniques that you'd expect to see only in the next-generation. Animations are consistent to every action. If Kratos picks up a dead body and the player decides to drop it at some random point, the game will not falter. Likewise, if he's fighting a bunch of enemies and gets kicked from behind, the animation will show him stumbling.
This is particularly noteworthy because of how difficult it is for developers to program characters that respond accurately to every situation. There aren't many games on the shelves today that have pulled it off. Some developers are creating new tools to help them along (LucasArts is doing it for Indiana Jones on the next-gen platforms, etc.). But this will never be an easy task. When I saw how well God of War II handled these animations, I was more than impressed. It just made the game so much more fluid and believable. It added to the sense that you aren't just playing a game – you've now become Kratos.
Coming early next year, God of War II is already a must-buy. You know it. You can't deny it. Pre-order yours immediately. Don't wait – this will be THE gaming event of winter 07.