God of War 2 (PS2) – Review

God of War 2 - CoverGod of War, developed and produced by SCEA, made a large impression on the gaming community when it came out 2 years ago (nearly to date), bringing life back into the stale genre of combat action games. With its success, a sequel was no surprise, but while the same developers could have stayed the course, they have instead started with a much more epic story and quest, and tweaked the gameplay just so in parts to make the sequel God of War 2 a much more impressive title, and maybe one of the top games for the PS2.

Story: A

The events of God of War 2 start some time after the end of God of War, with Kratos now sitting as the God of War. But because of his bloody rise to that title, the rest of Olympus despises him, and for his entertainment, he turns to his army of mortals to wage war across the rest of the Grecian landscape. Zeus becomes irate, and manages to take away Kratos’ power, forcing Kratos to fight and seek out his way to the Fates to find a way to change his destiny.

Gameplay: A+

Amazingly enough, for a game that changes very little of the core aspects of the gameplay, GoW2 is a much more amazing game, and as so many others have noted, it is quite “epic”. In the first game, there’s scenes of Kratos working though levels with giant creatures well off in the distance (though animated); in this game, they’re actually right up and in your face, and really give a much more impressive sense of scale in the game. It probably helps that you start the game in a boss battle with the Colussus (with the size difference being what it is), and it only gets larger from there. There’s also a deeper plot, with numerous more boss battles, that helps to make this an epic story, which definitely sets the mood to fit the size of this game.

God of War 2 - ScreenshotIf you haven’t played the first game, you really should stop reading now and get it. In any case, GoW2 is a action/platformer type game, where the action sections have elements of Street Fighter-type games: numerous attacks, impressive combos, and finishing moves that give off more bonuses. Kratos is generally equipped with Athena’s Blades, lethal swords on chains from his wrists that he can swing in numerous fashions for both short and medium range attacks. Adding to his arsenal as the game progresses includes subweapons that he can swap with his blades at any time for various attack powers, magic spells to unleash against the hordes that attack him, a Rage of the Titans mode that empowers Kratos for a short bit, and relics that allow Kratos to deflect directed energy attacks or to even slow down time for a bit. The Blades of Athena also help Kratos to scale walls and across ceilings, or to grapple-swing.

The foes that Kratos will face, expanding from GoW’s original mythological influences, include additional Grecian legands in addition to the strange legendary creatures. After taking enough damage, all foes will display a special icon indicating that a finishing move is possible, though you can continue to attack and defeat it for lesser reward. In many cases, to successfully complete the move, you’ll need to hit a button, twirl the analog stick, or perform some other sort of action, and possibly a series of these actions; if you fail to hit the right button in time, you’ll likely take some damage and have to try again. Get the move right, and you’ll get a good deal of experience, and life and magic restoration; in addition, while doing these, you become invulnerable for a short bit while the animation completes, so it’s definitely worth the effort to try these moves. While I felt bored with these by the end of the first game doing the same finishing moves over and over again, I never really felt that in GoW2: the larger field of foes helped to spread out the finishing moves so that you never really used one specific move over and over again, thus keeping this fresh. In addition, the larger number of bosses battles (up from a measly 3 to at least 10 in this game), all with their own required finishing move, making the mechanic much more interesting to play with. There’s also two sections where you fight on Pegasus’ back, changing the game over to a rail “shooter” though you are still using your weapons for close and midrange combat; this new form feels right at home with the rest of the traditional GoW gameplay and seamlessly fits right into play.

When not in combat, you are likely solving puzzles, all which pretty much are similar to those in the first game; nothing too complex along the lines of Myst, but also not as simple as just pressing a button to move on. When you enter an area with a puzzle or similar setup, the camera will usually pan to key features of the room that you should pay attention to, as these will help in solving the puzzle. Some of the new abilities that Kratos earns (particularly the ability to slow time) come in handy here. You can also use Kratos’ abilities to find secret areas as to gain more experience orbs to power up weapons with, or either gorgon eyes or phoenix feathers to improve your health and magic levels. There’s a few jumps over bottomless pits, the usual bane of every platformer, but the checkpoint system (see below) usually means you’ll start just a few feet away before you started those jumps instead of having to repeat too much.

The level design in terms of layout is wonderful despite being primarily linear. You’ll find a few points where a locked door or other barrier prevent you from going further, so you’ll need to take a detour, eventually traversing your way back to the barrier to be able to remove it. The game uses special sections to prevent any loading screens from ever appearing (save when you die or start up a game), so it’s one continuous flow of action from one area to the next; even pre-rendered cutscenes pop up instantaneously. There’s fixed saved points scattered throughout the game, but also numerous unstated checkpoints that you’ll come back to if you should die; the checkpoints feel appropriately placed so that you may only have to redo a couple minutes of the game should you die before the next one; this includes several checkpoints during the middle of boss battles as well, which is quite helpful. While the camera is fixed, there is absolutely no problem with the view it shows; it nearly is always pointed at the direction Kratos needs to go, but then expands out when in the field of battle to allow you to see the whole area.

God of War 2 - ScreenshotBesides the “epic” nature of this game between the scale of your foes and the plot, I think the largest improve of the game is that the difficulty (playing through at Normal) is mostly unchanged but subtly tweaked as to make the game still hard, but enjoyably and rewarding hard. I noted from my first GoW review that the problem with starting finishing moves in that if you aim wrong, you’ll just lunge forward and usually end up with a nice wound from someone attacking you. This still happened in this game, but recovering from such blows was much easier; it could be that the damage was tweaked a bit downward, that the number of foes you faced at one time may have just been a bit smaller, or the like, but regardless of why this happened this way, I felt it more rewarding to go for the lunge and attempt the special finish than to just whack away at foes. Also, with the use of both magic and subweapons, certain strategies against specific opponents became available, that even though I stuck to Athena’s Blades most of the time, I’d switch to the spear to deal with faster moving foes, and the hammer for slower moving ones. While the boss battles can be tough, there are much easier patterns to find, so while the last boss battle of the game is difficult if you’re not paying attention, it’s becomes rather easy as long as you keep alert to all the patterns that indicate an attack is due. There were still plenty of sections where I died several times until I figured out the best approach, and thus I wouldn’t call the combat any less difficult than the first game, it’s just more fluid and easier to work with.

Plus there’s no freakin’ spinning blades o’ death in the game.

Value/Replayability: A

The game took me just shy of 20 hrs at the normal difficulty, which may be the only drawback of the game – while it felt just about right, I really wanted more, once you start getting Kratos fully powered up. Fortunately, there’s plenty more after you finish that. You’ve got two higher difficulty levels to play through, as well as a special Challenge of the Titans to test your abilities. Hidden urns and special costumes can be unlocked that allow you to alter your powers and stats in the game, which can further change the difficulty as you go along. Even more, the game comes in a 2 disk set, the first disk being all game, while the 2nd could be considered the “special features”, including making-of videos and the like as you’d expect to find for DVD movies. There’s a lot of craftsmanship shown in the way this game was packaged.

Graphics: A

The graphics appear to be a touch better in details than the last game, which means that they’re really great. Furthermore, there’s a large expanse of areas that you’ll pass through, such that while the overall palette is still heavy on browns and grays, there’s a lot more splashes of colors, unique to each area, to give the visual element a lot more to look at. For those off the PS3, the game only goes to widescreen progressive 480p (unlike the rumored 720p), and there’s just a bit of tearing at times, but with the screen full of foes, the engine just keeps chugging along nicely. The pre-rendered cutscenes do stand out from the rest of the scripted scenes or action, but these look really well done as well. As a warning, there is a lot of simulated blood in the game as well as female nudity (but neither to the point of being gratuitous), so while it does carry an M rating, parents may want to be wary of this for their children.

Sound: A-

The sound is very impressive, from the effects used in battle, to the great dramatic music that’s pretty much throughout the game. There’s not as much immersiveness as other games as the music or sound effects easily outweigh the background noises, but this isn’t a huge disappointment here. The voice acting and choices are very good given that there’s more conversation and voiceovers with this larger plot, even down to getting Harry Hamlin from the “Clash of the Titans” movie to reprise his role as Perseus.

Overall: A+

God of War 2 is definitely a worthy successor of the first God of War, and while little itself with the core gameplay has changed, the overall packing of the levels, bosses, difficulty, extras, and the like is what makes this a much stronger game and maybe one of the best games for the PS2 of all time. There’s almost no reason not to own this game if you have a PS2 or PS3, except if you haven’t played through the first God of War (which you should really play first before you play GoW2), or if you’re just not a fan of action/platforming games. Between this and Okami, there’s still a lot of life left in the ol’ PS2, though unfortunately, God of War 3 does appear headed towards the PS3.

3 Responses

  1. This game was so awsome!

  2. You can certainly see your skills in the paintings you write. The world hopes for more passionate writers like you who aren’t afraid to mention how they believe. All the time go after your heart.

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