|By Chris Derosa||Tuesday, 20 Mar 2007|
Sony’s flagship franchise, God of War, certainly has had its fair share of critical success, and rightfully so. The original best seller offered a fresh new angle on the action adventure genre with top notch storytelling and fluid game play. With God of War 2, Sony Computer Entertainment of America manages to take a great concept and improve on it in almost every facet, to the point of near perfection. And as the Playstation 2 console reaches the end of its life cycle, it goes out with a certain bang that other past systems could only dream of.
For those not familiar with the series yet, God of War puts the focus on Kratos, a spartan warrior who had sacrificed his freedom in order to win a hopeless battle against a tribe of barbarians. In doing so, he had to serve the God of War Aries. Without spoiling much, Aries betrays Kratos and leaves him no choice but to go on a quest for vengence to slay Aries and eventually become the God of War himself. This bit of backstory isn’t too mandatory to understand if the sequel will be your first GoW game, but you may miss out on a lot of interesting plot points and cameos. For God of War 2′s story, all you need to know is that Kratos is fed up and tired of being a tool for the Gods, and receives aid from the Titans themselves to try and destroy Mt. Olympus itself.
God of War 2, like its predecessor, starts off with an incredible action packed sequence all leading up to a huge boss battle. This game series tends to pull out all of the stops every step of the way. The pacing is near perfect. Boss battles easily triple the first game’s amount, and the puzzles are ingenius as they are time consuming the first time through. You will still fight a lot of minions, but each battle feels like a new challenge that you could possibly lose. You won’t find yourself bored with the game at all, but you may find some sections to be incredibly difficult and taxing on patience. Like any great game, however, God of War 2 tends to reward you each time you make it through.
So it’s fortunate that gameplay is even better this time around. It controls like a dream at some points when you want to pull off specific combos. Also like the first game, you sometimes get a chance to do timed button sequences to make amazing choreographed finishing moves appear on the screen. These are never too surprising and actually blend in really well with the regular in game fighting. And it is an incredibly graphic game. You will tear some limbs and heads off, blood will fly around, and other amazingly violent things will happen. Yet it’s all incredibly well done, and never to the point of being violent just for the sake of being violent.
You collect red orbs in this game as a currency for powering up your items. There’s a pretty well implemented amount in the game, with hidden amounts in each area, but not enough that would let you be able to max out every weapon and spell. And as far as magic and weapons go, you do get a small variety of melee items, but you honestly could go with the default blades the entire game with little to no problems. You get 4 magic spells/attacks in the game as well that can be used as long as you have some magic left in your meter, but like the weapons you’ll likely find a personal favorite to use and then stick with it the rest of the game. All in all, the fighting system is as deep as you want it to be, and such a good amount of customization makes the game more than a simple button masher.
Some may be worried that since it is on the PS2, the graphics would not be able to compete with the big games of the next generation of gaming. Admittingly, the visuals will not give off a wow factor, but the whole style is still designed incredibly well. The backgrounds are epic as can be and always busy with activity and lush scenery, and the monster designs are pretty well done when they’re original and not borrowing from the first game. So you could still be amazed with the art direction for the most part. Loading times are kept to a minimum, but you will still notice when the game has to load. And the cinemas transition to and from the computer generated movie segments blend together incredibly well. So those looking for a next gen experience can still find plenty to talk about with this game.
Sound wise, the music score is an epic orchestral/choir compilation that fits the whole theme of the game well. Effects are booming and always fit the action, and the voicework is stellar for pretty much every character, as well. The music can sometimes drown out the voices, however, but fortunately that can be fixed in the options.
There is a great amount of replay in the game, to boot. Multiple costumes, 4 difficulties (with the hardest mode being downright vicious), and an extra challenge arena to accomplish more tasks. Unfortunately the main game cinemas cannot be skipped, even on multiple playthroughs. They tend to not take too long before letting you back in on the action, but you still might want to hurry on if you’ve seen it all before. As an interesting sidenote, you can go through all of the cinemas in the unlockables, like a theater mode, and they let you skip cinemas in there.
Edit: I recently checked again and apparently cinemas can be skipped whenever you’re in Bonus Play, you just can’t do it if you start a new game without bonus play.
As what could quite possibly be the last big name PS2 title, God of War 2 nails down the action adventure genre on all fronts and proves why it deserves to be one of the system’s proudest acheivements. As a bonus, the game comes with a second “making of” disk with tons of extras. These are all pretty interesting and certainly worth a look if just for the feature on the amazing voice talent present in the game. The whole package together makes this game well worth full price, and I can heartily recommend it to anyone looking for a new and satisfying masterpiece to dive into.