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God of War II (PlayStation 2)

Mature
ESRB Rating
Genre
Perspective
Theme
93
MobyRank
100 point score based on reviews from various critics.
4.1
MobyScore
5 point score based on user ratings.
Written by  :  אולג 小奥 (164965)
Written on  :  May 31, 2008
Platform  :  PlayStation 2
Rating  :  4 Stars4 Stars4 Stars4 Stars4 Stars

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Summary

Challenge your fate with style

The Good

"God of War II" , just like its predecessor, is a great game that combines immaculately executed gameplay with some cool stylistic elements and a captivating story.

It has over-the-top, amazingly intense, cinematic action, that is periodically replaced by entertaining, elegant puzzle-solving sections. Just like the first game, "God of War II" finds the perfect balance between action and thinking. The puzzles are very physical and they never break the pace of the game; they are just difficult enough to challenge without being frustrating.

The gameplay never feels stale. "God of War II" is suspense from the beginning to the end. There is not even one boring or repetitive moment, virtually no back-tracking, no overly complex puzzles that feel out of place in this fast-paced action game. There is always plenty of variety in the action, even more than there was in the first game. There are many more boss battles, all of which are exciting. Good old-fashioned button-mashing, combos, quick-time events, jumping, climbing, breaking - this is action gaming at its best. The game kept me interested and entertained at any given moment.

But variety of gameplay is not the only thing that stands out in "God of War II". The locations of the game are beautifully designed, and some of them are simply fascinating. You remember those locations because most of them have something outstanding, something that you wouldn't see anywhere else, like the huge eyes of Atlas following you around or the time-slowing statues of fate. They are full of imagination and sublime dark beauty. I found myself re-loading and replaying parts of the game just because I wanted to visit again a location I could not access any more.

"God of War II" has fantastic graphics, some of the best I've seen on a Playstation 2. Even regardless of their artistic merits, the graphics in this game are a technical masterpiece. The music is appropriately over-the-top, a majestic orchestral soundtrack that reflects well the love this game has to all things gigantic. I haven't yet seen a video game that truly captures the spirit of Greek mythology. God of War games excel at just that. Like most Greek myths, they are dark and immoral to the point of being disturbing. "God of War II", just like its predecessor, is a very violent game, but the violent scenes make perfect sense in the context of a Greek myth. The game also faithfully follows the concept of a hero in Greek mythology. Greek mythological heroes have little to do with our concept of "heroism". They pursue their selfish goals and they don't care what stands on their way. Their "heroism" is mostly evident in their stubborn determination to reach the goal no matter what. Compassion and altruism have no place in the world of mythological Greek heroes. They are cunning, resourceful, strong, brave, ruthless, and brutal. Do they remind you of a certain character in God of War games?

Kratos is an outstanding character because he is a typical Greek hero, with all his vices and cruelty shown to us without any reservations, without any hypocritical "softness" that would make him at least marginally acceptable. At the same time, his ever-lasting torment evokes sympathy in us, and his unbelievable persistence and courage to face the mightiest beings in the whole universe almost make us admire him. "God of War II" continues telling the story of this fascinating character, this time taking the interesting themes of "man vs. god" and "man who wants to change his fate" to truly epic proportions, throwing in some major plot twists in the end, and always staying true to the spirit of the magically enchanting, yet cruel world it is set in.

The Bad

The truth is, I was trying hard to dislike this game. I generally don't like excessive usage of violence and gore; I have issues with protagonists who perform cruel, terrible deeds. But I don't want to be a hypocrite - I enjoyed this game immensely. So I won't talk about its appeal to masses and its lowly instincts and my "deeper" understanding of it. I did enjoy it mostly thanks to the unique setting, story and atmosphere, but I'd lie if I say that hacking minotaurs and brutally killing bosses with quick time events wasn't great fun.

The real problem with this game is that it doesn't really do anything new compared to its predecessor. It's just bigger and "badder", with more locations, more moves, more bosses, etc. But otherwise, it's pretty much the same game. While all those gimmicks (button-mashing, finishing moves, etc.) were fresh and cool when they appeared in the first God of War, they begin to feel artificial in the sequel. The game is more violent than ever, with truly brutal scenes, but they don't shock as much as they did in the first game. Basically, "God of War II" does what most sequels do, but perhaps doesn't try too hard to conceal it.

While the plot is very intense in the beginning and rises to dramatic heights near the end, the middle parts of the game don't develop the story at all. It would have been nice to add some more plot-related events instead of having Kratos fight more and more admittedly cool, but rather irrelevant bosses.

The Bottom Line

"God of War II" is great entertainment and an artistically appealing game, in which superbly crafted gameplay goes hand in hand with dark atmosphere and a story that, despite its simplicity, manages to be powerful and to fit perfectly the world of Greek mythology. It is basically the continuation of the story of its predecessor, so don't expect great innovations or different approach. For better and for worse, "God of War II" is a true successor to the first game. The strong similarity to the first game might sound disappointing, but in the end, who cares? "God of War" was great, and now we get more of it. The story is not yet over. Stay tuned for the final chapter, in which the destiny of gods and men will be finally decided...