God of War II Review

It’s only March, and we already have our first serious contender for Game of the Year. The sequel to the immensely popular God of War, God of War II brings Kratos back with a vengeance, as he continues his quest to tackle Olympus and topple the gods. The gameplay itself changes little, but why mess with a perfect formula? Instead, SCEA’s Santa Monica Studios opted to finely tune the God of War structure, creating a sequel that may seem the same at first, but is immensely superior to the original.

The game begins with Kratos in his new home, Olympus. After defeating Ares and taking over as the god of war, Kratos still hasn’t had enough to satisfy his thirst for revenge. His Spartans are on the rampage, toppling cities left and right, all with Kratos’s help. The other gods don’t appreciate Kratos’s meddling and attitude, so they decide to trick him, causing Kratos to lose his powers. Left for dead by Zeus (yes, we finally get to see Zeus!), Kratos is helped by the spirit of earth itself, and sent on a journey to find the Sisters of Fate. As you can imagine, the journey is epic.

For fans of Greek mythology, this story is infinitely more entertaining than the original’s. Throughout Kratos’s journey, you’ll come face to face with many prominent figures from Greek mythology, and even put an end to (or participate in) several tales, although the accuracy may be lacking slightly. While there’s no real need for character development given the nature of the first title, we’re still treated to flashbacks, a large majority of which are shown through Kratos’s eyes. These serve to give us visuals to the events we already know, and every now and then we’re even provided with some new history about the Ghost of Sparta. The backstory for other events and the titans is also well-written, providing some entertaining narrative.

Like the first title, God of War II places most of its emphasis on mass slaughter. It’s a rare occurrence that you fight a single enemy at a time; usually you’re facing at least two or three simultaneously, if not more. This creates a fast-paced game full of excitement, making it a hard game to stop playing for the night.

It’s a good thing the combat is so fast-paced and comically violent, because if it weren’t you’d notice how repetitive it is. While there are a few new maneuvers you can pull off, the combat system is nearly identical to the original. This is both a good and bad thing. It’s good, because the combat system does work in the environment, and the ease helps deal with the fast-paced multitude of enemies. At the same time, though, the simple combat makes most fights extremely easy, and unless you play on the highest difficulty, you’ll face no real challenge until you get to a special fight, be it boss or area progression.

One of my biggest complaints with God of War was the serious lack of boss fights. It’s not that there needed to be more — it was more that with how fun they were, there should have been more. With God of War II, that prayer is answered as boss fights are more plentiful, and at times much more involving. The first fight against the Colossus of Rhodes is a good fight to start off with, as fans of the original God of War were looking for a battle to top the hydra in terms of sheer awesomeness. While it’s not nearly as violent (it is a statue, after all) the battle is much longer than the first boss fight in the last game, and has a much more hectic ending.

As you most likely know, God of War II introduces several new weapons and spells. For the most part, they’re entertaining to use. When you get right down to it, though, most of them will be used only sparingly, because there are a few which just stand out superior to the rest. While you’ll get weapons which deal more damage and kill enemies easier than Kratos’s blades, you’ll find yourself often using the blades, because they’re just more efficient (for example, you can’t dodge while wielding the hammer).

The area where God of War II improves most is in the level design. The first level had wonderful visuals of varied locations, and made traveling to the next area a true adventure. In God of War II, though, the design is so much better that it almost makes the first look bad by comparison. Even the puzzles and transitions are placed perfectly, and you’ll rarely be faced with back-to-back puzzles to advance. Thankfully, there are no "whoops, what have we done!" moments like those damn rotating pillars from the first title. Of course, there are plenty of moments where the solution to a puzzle will be something so obvious you’ll look like a fool, but that’s what makes it fun.


Visually, the game is stunning, and easily one of the top games on the PS2 when it comes to graphical performance. Each area has a unique look, and there are some static scenes that will make you wish you could take a picture or video. For example, there’s one area where you have to run down an extremely long (and large) chain to reach four horse statues built by a titan. As you run away from the camera, the camera stays stationary, and Kratos gets smaller and smaller until you can barely see him — but the horses remain the same, and their immense size is put into perspective, as is Kratos’s mortality. Small scenes like this make the game a wonderful experience, and are almost enough to make you forget how annoying it can be when you can’t adjust the camera.

With how impressive the visuals were, I was surprised when I realized that the audio in the game was nearly as good. The music is incredibly well done (if you like instrumental and game music, pick up the CD), and for the most part the voiceover work is top-notch. There are a few celebrity voices in the game, but they fit the part they play, and are obviously not just cast so that Sony has a name to put in the advertisements. It’s refreshing to see a title put a lot of work into the voice acting portion of a game, and it really paid off, as the cutscenes are top-notch.

With the large and dedicated fan base it has, Sony made a smart move by including the bonus DVD. The bonus DVD itself may not be something to write home about, but for fans of the games it’s a nice little addition. The DVD features over two hours of content, including documentaries, interviews, music, behind-the-scenes voiceover work, deleted levels, and more. On its own, the bonus content probably wouldn’t be enough to warrant purchase. Packaged with the game in a two disc set, though, it’s a nice way to kill a couple of hours while you wait for your turn to play.

Like I mentioned earlier, God of War 2 doesn’t really bring a lot of new stuff to the table. While the grappling hook is a nice touch, the other new additions seem to be there more for the sake of existing rather than to further improve the gameplay. The ability to climb on roof-like surfaces is fun at first, but you soon realize that it does nothing more than give SCEA an excuse to increase the wall-scaling portions of gameplay, which can be one of the most frustrating and annoying elements. The flight sequences are a fun break from the action, but even with only two present they get repetitive. Where the normal combat has wonderful locations and enemies to keep your mind off of the at-times button mashing, in flight there isn’t a whole lot to do other than dodge attacks, dash, hit square or triangle and repeat.

The fact that so much of God of War II is similar to God of War makes it hard to give an accurate score. Should it be docked since it’s "same ol’ same ol’," or should it be praised for doing the same thing, but doing it so well that you don’t care? In the end, I’m going to have to lean more towards the latter. The first God of War was never about deep, involving combat — it was about solving puzzles, having an entertaining classical setting and hacking your way through hordes of enemies. God of War II continues the tradition, but improves in just about every area. Sure, the combat isn’t something to write home about, but the scenery, design, pacing, plot, characters and fun are. In my opinion, it’s the greatest action adventure game on the PS2. If you loved the first game or love insane, bloody and intense action in general, you need to pick up God of War II. There are a few promising PS2 titles down the road, but for all intents and purposes, God of War II is a fitting end to what may be the greatest console.


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Author: Brendon Lindsey View all posts by

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