Voice Module








In Memory
Sean Pettibone


God of War II (Sony for Playstation 2)

The legendary Spartan warrior Kratos returns for another round of battle in Sony's God of War II. Kratos picks up where he left off, with a similar look and feel to the action consisting of multi-chain combos, cinematic battles and puzzles. Players familiar with the first game should feel right at home and with consistent controls, a similar structure to the action and familiar pacing. God of War's themes of violence, revenge and mythology are present again as well with a cinematic feel and presentation that pushes the PS2 to its limits. God of War II doesn't diverge from the successful formula, but it's a solid title that should thrill fans of the series.

Beginning where the last title left off, Kratos once again finds himself betrayed by the Gods of Mount Olympus who have rescinded their offer of God status and reduced him back to his mortal state. As the opening cinema suggests, the theme this time around is reclaiming what has been taken from him and regaining his status as the God of War. There's plenty of intrigue and plot twists to go around, which unfold throughout your adventure. An impressive opening level where you battle a huge Colossus statue brought to life is indicative of the type of epic adventure to come. God of War II's structure and layout are consistent with the first game, as players mix smaller battles with mortal foes with a larger confrontation with a large boss character. As you begin the game, you'll find an enormous amount of power in your hands, with massive hit combos and swords immediately at your disposal. While the moves are complex and showy, the game's interface isn't hard to master. This is an immediately accessible title that should allow players of all abilities to jump right in. You don't need to put a lot of effort into the game and since a few simple button commands allow you to perform complex moves such as throwing enemies around and launching them into the air with little effort. There's a lot of blood shed in the game and its level of violence is quite intense. God of War II further earns its M rating with several very adult cut scenes where Kratos entertains maidens - these are carried over from the first game and add to the main character's sense of invincibility and omnipotence, despite his return to human form.

This approach to the controls has the effect of underlining Kratos' powers, making his movements feel effortless. Since you don't need to perform elaborate button combinations to perform cool moves, it makes for a smoother flowing game. Some of this is diminished by the sometimes too obvious tutorials and hints that interrupt GOW II's flow, but these hints can be turned off on the options menu. This is both a good and bad thing, since it does take the edge off the challenge in certain areas, making it feel less satisfying than it could, especially at the easier difficulty levels. As you journey deeper into God of War II, you'll find and unlock additional weapons and items that can be used to enhance Kratos' powers. You begin with a powerful arsenal and can also call from the heavens to inflict massive attacks. Since most of God of War II unfolds using a fixed camera angle, you can focus on the action without having to worry about camera movements. You can definitely sense the balance and design that's gone into the gameplay, and this gives the game a distinct feel that allows the player to use their instincts and reflexes when appropriate while never compromising its sense of scale or cinematic quality. As you play through the game, the story and plot develop in interesting ways and these dramatic breaks feel like they've been integrated more seamlessly this time. The gameplay effectively builds on the elements that made God of War such a success, but doesn't stray too far from the original conventions.

Kratos first adventure definitely set a high-water mark in terms of pacing, production values and sheer challenge. With its intimidating screen filling enemies and involving quest, it definitely brought a new level of polish to the genre. If anything, the sequel's overall pacing and structure are even more unrelenting and offer very few breaks in the action. Each level offers an intense series of sub-quests with enemies and bosses attacking you from all directions. While it might be problematic in other titles, God of War II's approach should appeal to those looking for pure action and thrills. While most of the enemy soldiers you face offer little resistance, harder foes come to the fore later on as you confront mythical beasts and stronger foes. As in the first game, there's a good mix between easier to defeat enemies and harder opponents. God of War II's earlier stages are fairly simple, but things become more difficult as you move along. This learning curve is relatively modest and the game does an excellent job in building up your skills before throwing more difficult obstacles in your path.

This doesn't mean that the game is a cakewalk, and in God of War II, the action never lets up at any stage of the game. There are several puzzles that require at least a little bit of thought to complete but they're fairly simple and shouldn't impede your progression. One of the signature elements from the first game that makes a return appearance this time around are the QTE battles where you need to push buttons in rapid succession in order to attack a boss character. While it makes the game easy to play on one level, it also disconnects you from the action and makes the experience feel a bit more distant. The game's controls could have been refined in these areas, but it feels kind of cheap in the end. However, the majority of the game allows you to have complete control over Kratos and these battles make up for their slightly distant interaction with a far more cinematic feel than the rest of the game. This approach works fairly well and makes what could have been a fairly mindless hack and slash title into something that feels genuinely epic and involving. It also helps to have a somewhat identifiable hero as well. While Kratos is a violent man, you can understand and relate to his motivations, making the carnage feel appropriate to God of War II's evocative atmosphere.

From a visual standpoint, God of War II is an impressive achievement that brings gamers into its world quite brilliantly and marks a significant improvement over the first. The level of detail and animation has been noticeably improved, giving the game a smoother and richer appearance. As in the first game, players find a mix of interactive and non-interactive elements tied together into a cohesive package. Using cinematic techniques such as close-ups and sweeping camera angles gives God of War II an incredible sense of place and style. You definitely feel like you've been transported to an ancient world. The game's elaborate boss battles are inventive and deliver some of the most intense action sequences seen on the PS2 to date. The game's fluid animation and character movements make every element of Kratos' world come to life, as you battle menacing enemies and foes that feel quite authentic. An epic, orchestral soundtrack compliments your quest, adding drama and meaning to each thrust of your sword. Excellent voice acting and characterizations further immerse you into the action, making God of War II feel more like a movie than a game at certain points. However, you never lose sight that you're playing a game and its relentless pacing, brilliant storyline and fluid controls make this one of the most playable titles on the console to date. While the game is a bit more linear than you'd expect it to be, and feels a bit on-rails during certain points, it's definitely one of the more thrilling experiences to be found in any recent release. God of War II is a fantastic sequel that offers another solid installment of the thrilling combat, engaging storyline and invigorating gameplay that made the first title so appealing. 

-Michael Palisano


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