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God of War II

Developer: SCE Santa Monica | Publisher: SCEA
Players: 1 Player Game | Release Date: 03/13/07 | Genre: Action

GoW2_logo.jpgAfter over 6 years on the market, it’s amazing to think that the PlayStation 2 still has a lot of life left in it. Despite 2006 being the year of the ‘next-gen’ console, the current-gen PS2 saw a lot of life from games like Okami, Bully, Final Fantasy XII, and many more. Now, in 2007, the console is still fighting strong with the release of arguably the greatest PlayStation 2 game in its 6 year life span. Yes, God of War II has arrived.

Following the life of Kratos, an original character set in Greek mythology, God of War II picks up exactly where the first game left off. Without spoiling any of the story, the gods have a few more tricks up their sleeves and with your blades and magic you are left to battle your way through the game’s various settings, battles, puzzles, and platforming sequences that await you. Don’t be fooled, this is not a straight up action game. In fact, the game also features a nice helping of puzzles with a little bit of platforming and exploration sprinkled in. But with that said, you will still encounter a lot of fighting, and with the help of four different main weapons and 4 different magic abilities, you will look like a badass doing so.

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For those who played the first game, you will feel right at home with the controls in its sequel. The majority of action is mapped to the face buttons--with a couple shoulder buttons being used as modifiers and ways to pull off magic. It’s designed to be approachable so that anyone can pick up the controller and feel like a god slayer, but there is definitely some depth there for the hardcore players who feel like they can tackle Titan mode. But this is definitely not in the same vein as Devil May Cry 3 and Ninja Gaiden, and it’s not supposed to be.

Changing up the action a bit is the inclusion of context-sensitive moments, where you are prompted to press the button shown on screen in a sequence. Just like the first game, these moments arrive during fights with particular enemies (such as ripping off the head of a Medusa) or in various other situations including boss fights.

Speaking of boss fights, a major complaint from the first game was that there weren’t enough of them. Gamers loved the boss fights in the first title because they were so spectacular. It was obvious that the team heard that feedback because this game is loaded with more bosses than you could imagine. Even though they are not all massive fights like in the first game, God of War II does a great job of including fights with beasts and mortals. Much like the kind of boss fight’s you’ll find in a Zelda game, there is usually some sort of puzzle to figure out within the battle that will allow you to defeat them. This is a godsend (no pun intended) compared to the monotonous kinds of boss fights you find in many action games.

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Not to be outdone though, the puzzles found in God of War II are among the most clever you’ll ever experience in a videogame to date. While the game starts off with a very basic ‘pull the box onto the button’ kind of puzzle, you will be pleasantly surprised by how many interesting, multi-layered, and just plain enjoyable puzzle solving is found. Like Pandora’s Temple from the first game, there are many puzzles which revolve around the setting and intertwine within the massive set pieces that you are playing through. Don’t be surprised to not understand the full extent of a puzzle until hours later when it all comes together and you feel that ‘Ah ha!’ moment. God of War II is packed with them.

A welcome addition to the series is the new grappling move, which allows you to swing from your blades like a rope. It’s another mechanic that adds to the enjoyment of platforming, exploration, and just moving around the environment. As flawless and fun as it is, it would have been nice to see this be used in conjunction with the fighting system, such as swinging from your blades as you are delivering the death blow to an enemy. I imagine that this is already in the heads of the team for the next game.

Visually, this is the absolute pinnacle of the PlayStation 2. Though not a jump from the first game, the amount of absolute massive set pieces, detailed environments, amount of action on screen, impressive effects, art direction, clean visuals, and support for progressive-scan and 16:9 widesceen support makes this game so striking that it can compete with some of the next-gen games out there that are playing with 10 times the power. It’s quite an amazing feat. Going back and remembering the old days of the PS2, who ever would have thought that we’d see a game on the console look this good? It’s scary to think what God of War 3 on PS3 will look like.

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Much like the first game, the music in God of War II is phenomenal. Worthy of any big budget film, the orchestrated scores can be touching and frantic, keeping pace with the action and beautiful vistas on screen. The voice cast also does an exceptional job, with TC Carson reprising his role as Kratos and Linda Hunt making her return as the narrator as well as another role. There are also a few other surprises in there that you’ll recognize once you come across them. Sony dug deep into their pockets for the presentation, and it absolutely shows. Incredible stuff.

It’s also worth noting that every copy of the game comes packed in with a 2nd DVD bonus disc full of video content for the regular price of the game. In addition to the bonuses that already come packed on the regular disc (including the ability to play through the game a second time with all your upgraded weapons and magic, as well as an extra survival type mode) you can watch over 2 hours of extra video content (including Making Of, Voice Overs, Art direction, Music, etc). It was impressive how well each video feature is done, and the ‘Making of God of War II’ is an absolute must see for all fans of the franchise or just to see the process of making a game in general and the effect it can have on the people involved.

What else is there to say but WOW. Six years in the life of one of the greatest game consoles ever has lead to this point as God of War II is most likely the last big game we are ever going to see from a Sony first-party and quite possibly the greatest game in the console’s life. This is the absolute best that game development has to offer. Incredibly high production values, killer action, ingenious puzzle design, visuals that make you question why we’ve jumped to next-gen so quickly, and just plain epic. If you’re ready to put last-gen in the rearview, make sure you play God of War II before you put an amazing six years to rest.

By David Doel - 03/25/07
ESRB Details: Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Nudity, Sexual Themes, Strong Language
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Screenshots for God of War II

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