God of War II - PS2 - Review
Who says Hell doesn’t exist? In a world where evil is everywhere and the only sign of humanity is being slaughtered (or eaten alive), you don’t have to question Hell’s existence anymore – you’re already living there.
Though it is typically thought of as a nightmarish place no one would ever want to see, the hellacious worlds created for God of War II are some of the greatest lands you will ever visit. Rich, organic, and detailed on a level that is typically reserved for the next generation, God of War II comes to life in a very unique way.
However, this review isn’t about graphics or the insane amount of work that went into making this one of the console’s best-looking sequels. To me, this review should have no purpose other than to convince you – or reinforce your decision – to play this game.
Taking place during Kratos’s darkest days, God of War II is a direct continuation of the first. I won’t spoil the original for those who have yet to play it, but let’s just say that Kratos was in a much better situation than he is now. His deadly powers are downgraded at the start of this game. I didn’t appreciate the loss, but it was done very cleverly. While most sequels reset the main character’s status without any explanation, God of War II weaves a relevant reason into the story. Like it or not, it’s a necessary evil. In the long run, the fight to regain old powers (and acquire new ones) is more exciting and challenging than a battle without any acquisitions.
Those big things in the background are giant horses. That little speck is Kratos,
and you've got to solve a simple puzzle to make them come to life.
Do so and the horses will charge ahead, bringing you closer to an unexplored land.
If you come into God of War II after playing the plethora of cakewalks our industry has been throwing into the market, you're in for the most pleasant jolt in the history of rude awakenings. These enemies are not here to play; they've come to slaughter the God of War. They carry weapons and they know how to use 'em. When you think you've found a better way to win, they'll change their strategy and strike even harder. Enemies that you've defeated a dozen times can turn difficult when your health is low and your magic is empty.
Like Mortal Kombat on overdrive, God of War II is big on finishing moves. But while MK applies two finishing moves to each character, Kratos has the luxury of executing every boss uniquely and grotesquely. Slice off the wings of a fowl adversary, drive both swords through the mouth of a walking beast, bash an enemy’s head in with his own hammer – fatalities are brutal, a little hard to watch at times, and will have you cringing with satisfaction. The choices are only limited to the dozens of monsters you’ll encounter.
In addition to the bosses, most regular enemies are vulnerable to finishing moves as well. In some cases you will have to weaken them before they can be finished off. You’ll know when they’re ready because a circle button icon will appear over their heads.
Bird Slaughtering For Dummies: To prevent beasts from flying, cut off their wings.
Cinematic implementation is one of the biggest challenges a game developer faces. To get us to pay attention to a movie sequence, the game must have an interesting story. It must have a great, well-acted script. And since this is a video game, there should be at least a little bit of action (save the romantic comedies for theaters, please!).
God of War II accomplishes all of the above. It even goes the extra mile by providing a hint of the only kind of romance guys want from the big screen: sex. (You know, just in case the brutal killings didn’t guarantee an “M” rating.) I was more than surprised by the story – it made me care about the characters, which is saying a lot considering this isn’t an RPG from Nippon Ichi or Square Enix.
What’s most impressive, however, is how the player interacts with each boss. Bosses require the successful execution of a few specific attacks. These attacks are usually a part of, or a predecessor to, the finishing move. When the circle button appears over an enemy, press it to start the attack sequence. An attack sequence is essentially a real-time movie. Kratos will perform dozens of cool and unlikely moves that prove his status as the God of War. While he takes action, the player must as well. But since you can’t actually jump onto an enemy’s head and cut through his neck, the game simplifies this action with on-screen commands.
This is done very effectively – better than I could have ever imagined. It’s not like the timed button sequences of Resident Evil 4, where you’re too busy watching buttons to enjoy the show. In God of War II, these actions are purely cinematic. There are a couple of tricky areas, but it’s nothing that can’t be overcome in a couple of minutes. You’ll be amazed at how Kratos deals with each situation, and long for the day when he will enter movie theaters all over the world.
Note: There has yet to be a God of War movie confirmation. But as the series gets more cinematic, it’s going to be increasingly difficult for Sony Pictures – who was just confirmed as the studio working with Konami on Metal Gear Solid – to resist bringing Kratos to the big screen.
Don’t Get Bossy
But do get offensive. God of War II features the most comprehensive boss collection of any video game from any genre. From mini to full-size, from spontaneous to completely obvious, the bosses that you face will test more than your basic gaming skills – they’ll test your endurance. Bosses are repeatedly startling, and are almost always a challenge. Every enemy has a different tactic, regardless of their significance to the level and to the game as a whole. You could be fighting a pre-mid boss (that is, a boss before the mid-level boss that precedes the ending level boss) and die! Check points are frequent but do not appear often enough to make the many unavoidable deaths less painful.
Strict concentration is a must. As I faced off against Medusa, I felt like I was back in an arcade during the Mortal Kombat era. My palms were sweaty, my eyes barely blinked, and my mind was focused on the battle I was desperately trying to win. The difference now is that I’m not facing another player – just a computer-controlled monster who’s capable of dealing an immense amount of damage. She will lunge toward Kratos and slam her body against him until he’s no longer able to pick himself up. She does this without any health chests (to revive Kratos) in the room. Your only salvation is your success. There are three or four opportunities to gain health from most bosses. The hardest part is staying alive long enough to inflict enough damage to make that happen.
One of the reasons why gamers are eager for the next generation is because they know that’s when they’ll get the best from the current-gen consoles. God of War II is the result of years of developer experience and gameplay experimentation. It’s the result of a team that is not only talented and dedicated, but also very familiar with the PS2 architecture. Go back six years – PS2 didn’t launch with a game like this. No console has, and I don’t know if it’s possible that one ever will.
Love it, savor it, and don’t wait a second to play it upon the game’s March 13th release. When you think of next-gen gaming, don’t just look ahead – remember that it starts here on the current generation with grand finales like God of War II.
Review Scoring Details for God of War II
Remarkable. Spellbinding. Impossible to forget. God of War II is an extraordinary masterpiece that leaves no room for disappointment. The ruthless acts Kratos performs are intensely gratifying. It’s not really a “guilty” pleasure, but more of an evil desire that needs to be satisfied, and is satisfied several times over.
You’ll be taken through several forms of gameplay, only stopping for a second to let you save your progress. As you leap from Pegasus flyer to Pegasus savior – to winding waterways and colossal bosses – to amazing worlds and puzzles – and to the most gruesome kills ever seen, you’ll discover that God of War II is PS2’s best action game. Not one of the best. The best.
Rivaling Final Fantasy XII, Metal Gear Solid 2, and Shadow of the Colossus as PlayStation 2's most breathtaking game, God of War II is unbelievably gorgeous. But there is one catch – clipping. This game delivers it by the truckload.
Presented like a big-budget movie. The voice acting is believable to the point where you forget it's a video game you're watching – you just kick back and enjoy the awesome real-time and computer-generated cinemas.
God of War II's immense (and lengthy!) bosses serve as climactic finales to an incredible string of encounters. The vicious and vigorous battles are hard to overcome, relentlessly dealing as much damage as possible without making it impossible to win.
Consistently exciting, God of War II is a powerfully written and exceptionally designed game with a deep and enduring conglomerate of combat, boss battles, puzzles, and interactive boss sequences.
It doesn’t need to be said, but I’m going to say it anyway: if you could only have one PlayStation 2 game this year, there is no title more deserving of your time than God of War II. This is the perfect example of what serious teamwork can achieve. It’s not just one element that turned the game into a masterpiece, it’s every element – the controls (perfection), world design (unbelievably creative), combat (exciting and challenging), and enemy selection (unreal) are just a few of the reasons why this is PS2’s best first-party release.