God of War IIESRB:
Platform: PlayStation 2
Category: Action Games
Developer – Sony Computer Entertainment Santa Monica
Publisher - Sony Computer Entertainment
Memory Card 454KB
Analog control - Vibration function/Pressure Sensitive
THX/Dolby Pro Logic 2
Special Features Bonus Disc/DVD Rom
One of the last big name titles to come out for the PS2 is God Of War II, the follow up to Sony’s huge surprise hit. It comes with quite a fan following too as the original garnered so many positive accolades. Loosely based on Greek mythology, Kratos returns and fights for his godly status. Those who thought that God Of War was the last great title on the PS2 had better brush up on their fighting skills, as this title promises more bosses, more enemies and huge landscapes. After spending a little bit of time with God of War II I found myself hooked in the story, presentation and gameplay and I cold not stop playing.
For a PS2 game God of War II is absolutely stunning and you wouldn’t believe that the game is running on 7-year-old hardware if you didn’t know it. God of War II has the whole visual package which utilizes a tweaked up version of the same engine that powered the original and it all runs in 480p. The game actually feels and looks like a blockbuster movie with griping boss fights, huge locales and pretty impressive monsters and enemies alike.
The PS2 handles all of the above quite admirably but the hardware does stumble at times throughout the game. There are a few areas where clipping, jagged edges, and the occasional frame rate stutter occur during gameplay, especially during some graphic intensive situations. However most gamers will be too busy to really notice such trivial episodes as the game is so ingrossing, not just play wise but visual wise too. I played the title on my PS3 (god bless backwards compatibility) which I think may have helped in loading times, but there no graphical upgrades noticeable. Bottomline, if you play this on a PS2 or a PS3, the game looks the same on both, but it looks great.
The character models are smooth and well done and the whole game seems to animate with a fluidity I have not seen on the PS2 before. I would have to say that it flows almost movie like. Soldiers trying to fight Kratos may have flowing capes or be decked out in only armour; regardless the level of detail is somewhat surprising. The level design itself is equally well done, be it the besieged city of Rhodes with the giant Colossus raging in the background of every area or the gigantic Horses of Fate that are part of the myriad of guardians of the Sisters of Fate, each area is memorable and stylish. The horses themselves caused me to smile in amazement muttering "this is running a PS2 game?"
One element that frustrated me at times was the wonky fixed camera angles but for the most part the camera works quite well. Sure there were a few occasions when I needed it to move bit here and there as I couldn’t the right angle I wanted but this is definitely not a deal breaker. Overall the SCEA team in Santa Monica did right by sticking to hardware they knew as they definitely seemed to program it right down to the metal as they got every ounce of power from the system. I would have to say hats off to them as God of War II really manages to make the aging system’s abilities shine.
The musical score is nothing short of epic with a full live orchestra consisting of some of the best talent anywhere. After doing some preliminary research on what this game entailed I discovered that Sony's Santa Monica Studio went the extra mile as went out and hand picked people to play on the soundtrack, and the result is fantastic. The quality of the musicians is incredible once again reminding me of an epic blockbuster movie. The music also does a great job of setting the tone and progressing the story along, dramatic at the right times and soft quiet through the story driven times...excellent! I’ll definitely be looking to find the games soundtrack.
The sound effects used throughout the game also play a huge role in making some of the deaths as grotesque as they can possibly be. Hearing any minion or creature gag and squeal like a stuck pig as you shove your blades down its throat just makes the whole thing that much more satisfying. The clang of blades on shields, rattle of chains and crunch of bones are clearly heard with frightening detail.
Can this get any better? Well, yes it can as the voice acting is also very compelling. Several big names have lent their voice acting skills to the game. Among them are Linda Hunt, Christopher Lee, Michael Clarke Duncan, and TC Carson. All the other voice actors also turn in unbelievable performances; making this title one of best I have ever heard for voice acting.
If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Rather than retool the control scheme of the first title, Sony Santa Monica simply tweaked the foundation. For rookies of the series the in game tutorial is very easy to follow it allows for anyone to get a handle on most of the controls early. The left analog handles movement, while the right analog allows Kratos to dive in the direction pressed. L1 is your block movement with your current weapon, and L2 unleashes your selected magic. The D-Pad toggles between your different magic powers you can go left or right to pick them. X is jump, O is grab, square is light attack, and triangle is heavy attack. Easy to pick up initially, but it is sometimes tough to master all the combos that one can have and eventually unleash in battle. As you gain experience the combos can, and will, get more frequent. This was very evident as I chained together a colossal 34 hit combo about an hour in. Of course this elicited a huge “who-hoo!” as I began to really plaster some of my enemies.
Kratos can use some new weapons like a giant Barbarian Hammer as well as a long spear, changing the gameplay somewhat. Although gamers will now have to think about using the right combos with the right weapon, it isn’t a perquisite but I do recommend it. Button mashing is most fun as it can be somewhat successful too but practice will be required for one to really excel at this game. Most of the time you’ll be using the Blades of Athena that are at your arms, but it is most rewarding to be able to mix it up with the new weapons that are available. All of your weapons and powers can be upgraded too with the orbs you collect from slain enemies.
There were a couple of cool gameplay features that I really enjoyed. One was the ability to use your blades as an anchor. Being able to jump and attach to certain objects with your blades to get to other areas allow you open up new parts of the game. Obviously, this plays well into some hair-raising "barely got out of there" escapes. Another feature I enjoyed was riding around on Pegasus. Pegasus is the mythological flying horse that allows Kratos to seek out the Sisters of Fate later in the story. While riding around on Pegasus Kratos will be bothered by huge flying birds (Griffins) but your aim is good you can actually cut off their wings effectively killing them in true brutal fashion. It’s not an easy feat as Kratos is bothered by huge bolts of lighting that the birds dish out but the experience that this adds to the game is great.
The most difficult part of writing this part of the review is not to give too much away as I want everyone to really enjoy what lies in store for them. I tried to be somewhat brief here and I think that I will stop writing at this juncture. This will not only allow you to continue your gaming adventure in a way that doesn’t ruin the surprises that will come forth, but it also will allow me to get back and play this game again and again :-). God of War II really seems like Sony’s way of bidding adieu to the PS2 in grand fashion, and in my honest opinion it doesn’t get any better then this. I can only imagine what the PS3 holds in store for this franchise.
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