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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 (168833)
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 highly entertaining action game with immaculately executed, cinematic gameplay presented against the backdrop of dark Greek mythology.

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 has a great flow, integrating brutal action with physical puzzles. The game keeps the suspense from the beginning to the end - there is hardly any backtracking or boring moments, 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 are all there to provide uncomplicated, adrenaline-raising fun. The gameplay has been enhanced with all sorts of cool gimmicks, including an ability to manipulate time that comes in handy solving some of the puzzles, or (about halfway through the game) wings that allow you to glide through air.

The locations of the game are beautifully designed, and some of them are quite fascinating. You'll 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 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. In general, production values here skyrocket, and I'm glad they used the budget for essential things such as tight, well-oiled controls.

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 that mythology. Those heroes have little to do with our concept of heroism, which is based on Biblical values. Their "heroism" is mostly evident in their stubborn determination to reach the goal no matter what. They are cunning, resourceful, strong, brave, ruthless, and ferocious - just like the hero of this series. All his vices and cruelty are shown to us without any reservations, without any hypocritical "softness" that would make him at least marginally acceptable.

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. 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 slightly 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 installment. 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 might be too similar to its predecessor, and I feel I've had more than my usual share of psychotic ancient Greek violence with those two titles. Nevertheless, it's still a high-class action title with even more variety and spectacular scenes than the first game, where expertly crafted gameplay goes hand in hand with a convincingly dark atmosphere.