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God of War II Review

Brandon Erickson's picture

God of War II Art 

When God of War was released on the aging PS2 back in 2005, it was immediately hailed as one of the best action games of all time, going on to win numerous accolades and game-of-the-year awards. But the videogaming landscape has changed significantly in the past two years. The big three (Nintendo, Sony, and Microsoft) have released their "next-generation" consoles, and player expectations have risen accordingly. So how could God of War II, designed on the now-ancient PS2 hardware, possibly live up to the expectations of its fans? The answer is that while it fails to make any significant leaps forward, it mostly succeeds simply by being at least as good—if not slightly better—than the original.

The action starts during the Siege of Rhodes, where Kratos—now looking suitably gigantic as the new God of War—has descended upon the beleaguered city to help deliver the final blow. In the midst of his rampage, a large eagle swoops down, drains out most of his godly power, and injects it into the Colossus of Rhodes. As Kratos writhes in fury, his power-depleted body shrinking back down to its original human size, the enormous colossus stirs to life and starts its angry advance. So begins the story, and so too begins a nearly two-hour-long opening battle that comprises one of the best first acts of any game I've played. After that, however, the game settles down to a more moderate pace and the plot becomes increasingly convoluted.

God of War II's story lacks the clear focus and emotional punch of its predecessor. Whereas the original told of Kratos' tragic origins via carefully constructed reverse flashbacks, the sequel, which centers on Kratos' quest to find the Sisters of Fate and return to the moment when he was stripped of his powers, feels like a big mess by comparison. The mixture of gods, titans, the Sisters of Fate and (believe it or not) time travel doesn't exactly make for the tightest narrative, and after beating the game, I had a hard time remembering exactly what had happened. Fortunately, the story is only secondary to what the game is really about.

Like its predecessor, the heart and soul of God of War II is its ferocious combat, and luckily, it is even more bloody and brutal than ever before. Using the Blades of Athena, a pair of swords attached to long chains that are permanently seared into his arms, all of Kratos's attacks feel equal parts fluid and brutal, like a dancer fueled by pure rage. The action is further intensified by an array of beautifully choreographed finishing moves—e.g., neck snapping, eyeball yanking, wing severing, eviscerating, and decapitating. The sense of raw aggression and brutality conveyed through God of War II's combat is truly unparalleled.

God of War II  Screenshot

Interspersed with the action is a mixture of platforming, puzzle solving, and even a few flying sequences. Getting around sometimes calls for precise jumping, climbing, or using the Blades of Athena as grappling hooks—mostly fun, and not too tricky. The puzzles, which include such tasks as displacing a massive stone floor to create a bridge and activating four gigantic horse statues to drag an entire island via massive roadway-sized chains, serve as an enjoyable breather. Flying on Pegasus makes for a nice diversion initially, and it is fun to watch Kratos chop the wings off gryphons, but the flying ultimately feels too constrained and dissimilar from the rest of the game.

God of War II's visuals and sound are some of the best to be found on the PS2. Whether ascending the inner structure of a colossus, soaring through snowy caves atop Pegasus, or scaling the walls of Hades, the visual design never fails to impress. I must admit, however, that I kept wishing the game had been designed on a more powerful system. As it stands, the graphics sometimes seem more than the system can handle, as evidenced by instances of slowdown and other visual artifacts that pop up during camera pans. On the audio side, the heroic and militaristic soundtrack does a great job of heightening the excitement, and credit must be given to the game's composer for creating music that consistently elevates and enhances the action.

Yet even with everything that God of War II has going for it, I can't deny a certain twinge of disappointment. I wanted so much to experience the same sense of exhilaration that the original had given me, but that feeling never arrived. There were moments that came tantalizingly close, such as the opening battle with the Colossus of Rhodes, but it never got all the way there. Make no mistake, God of War II is a great game. But I was already here two years ago. Two years is a long time in the videogame world, and with “next-generation” gaming in full swing, God of War II can't help but feel a bit dated. Rating: 7.5 out of 10.

According to ESRB, this game contains: Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Nudity, Sexual Themes, Strong Language

Parents would be well advised to keep this game away from their kids. This is one of the most violent and bloody games on the market. Exampes include a bird eating out a man's stomach as he screams in pain, ripping the arm off an enemy and shoving it down its throat, and repeatedly smashing a man's face into a pedestal until he is dead. In addition to the violence, players can also engage Kratos in a three-way sex mini-game, which occurs off-screen but includes full audio.

Fans of the original God of War will enjoy playing the sequel insofar as it represents more of what they loved about the original. It is best, however, to think of this more as an expansion than a sequel. The core gameplay and overall quality is comparable to the original. The story is new, the settings are new, and some of the enemies are new, but it is essentially the same game.

Deaf and Hard of Hearing gamers will have difficulty following the story since none of the dialogue is subtitled; however, the combat does not rely on any audio cues.

Category Tags
Platform(s): PS2  
Developer(s): Sony Santa Monica  
Key Creator(s): David Jaffe  
Publisher: Sony  
Series: God of War  
Genre(s): Super Powers  
ESRB Rating: Mature (17+)  
Articles: Game Reviews  

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Wow. Normally Gamecritics

Wow. Normally Gamecritics reviews are excellent - even if I don't agree with em, they say why they did/n't like something succinctly enough that I can get an impression of whether or not I would like it.
This was more like a series of spoilers that I wanna try to forget before I actually play the game...

I'm also a little bothered

I'm also a little bothered by how dismissive the review is. I can understand faulting it to a degree because it is essentially more of the same. But I would've appreciated a more thorough explanation of WHY the first game's mechanics have not aged so well, other than simply stating that it was two years ago and that it was released on a last-gen system.

If the rage expressed in this game remains "truly unparalleled," then how is it that this game feels dated when it has no peers when it comes to cathartic action games? Why do you think the "same sense of exhiliaration" never returned to you?

Thank you for the feedback.

Thank you for the feedback. In regards to the comment about spoilers, it didn't really occur to me that anything I mentioned in the review constituted a significant spoiler. There are certainly some really big twists in the story, and I made sure not to mention any of them. One always has to walk a fine line between not saying enough to convey an adequate impression of the game and saying so much as to spoil the experience. If any of the details I revealed detract from one's sense of discovery, then I apologize, and I will try my best to better anticipate those sorts of concerns in the future. That being said, it's not possible to review a game while also concealing everything significant about the game.

Regarding Gene's comments, I would say the following. It's not that the game's mechanics haven't aged well per se. It's that the game doesn't bring a whole lot of new stuff to the table. The first game got points because it came first; and the second would need to go quite a bit further to earn the same score. Personally, I felt like the sequel didn't differentiate itself enough given the two years of development time.

My particular point about the gameplay remaining essentially the same is a separate point from the one about the game appearing on a last-gen system. The latter point concerns the fact that we have a game that looks about graphically comparable to its predecessor (released in 2005), only now those graphics have to hold up to what we're seeing on the new systems. The simple fact is that, relatively speaking, God of War II doesn't look as good in the current gaming landscape as the original God of War looked in the gaming landscape of 2005.

So again, it's not that I'm saying the gameplay itself has aged poorly. What I was trying to say is that the graphics in a game like God of War II are not as impressive as they were two years ago, and the essential sameness of the gameplay (particularly the combat) unavoidably reduces the wow factor of the sequel. On top of that, I also made the point that the story was much weaker this time around.

Yes, I would say that the sense of anger and rage expressed through the combat in God of War and God of War II is still unparalleled, but that doesn't mean the game can't therefore feel dated in terms of graphics and in terms of a sense of having done it all before. Also, I didn't say that the game is the best "cathartic" action game. Gears of War actually felt more cathartic to me than God of War II, partly because the action in the former is more relentless and realistic, while the combat in the latter is broken up more by puzzle solving and platforming.

I think it's basically for all of the above reasons that I didn't get the same level of exhilaration as I did with the original.

In all fairness to the game,

In all fairness to the game, saying its graphics are not up to par with the 360 or PS3 seems to be odd. Yes, perhaps they are weaker, but how is that relevant? Is that really what we care about, does it really even matter that much? If the graphics perform their function within the game then I am happy with it and I would assume this is the case. I should hope that if someone reviews FFVI for the GBA they don't complain about its graphics not reaching that of FFXII.


Brandon, I agree with you absolutely 100%. The game starts off with a bang and fizzles out. It's an aged, unfocused production. One thing that made me mad while playing is just how often the game zooms out on large, supposedly impressive landscapes. All it does is highlight the PS2's weak capabilities to properly present this title as the framerate stutters and seaming occurs.

Basically, while most critics have eaten this game up, it's in my opinion that God of War 2 is almost the equivalent of The Matrix Reloaded in video games. It still retains a lot of the pieces that I liked about the first one, but never approaches the heights of excitement or storytelling that really made God of War so special. It's a nice effort, but misdirected.

God of War was a story about

God of War was a story about revenge and a man's defiance against the gods, fueled by intensely brutal and fairly challenging combat. It was like Clash of the Titans meets Fight Club.

God of War II was a story about a god with an ego problem, driven by awkward platforming and still brutal but ultimately dumbed-down combat (play both games back to back and compare). At the best of times it felt like a marathon of the Hercules TV series.

The sequel is still a really awesome game, but it's no surprise that so many people are disappointed by it.

jeu combat

je veut recevoir des jeux videos par email ou en cd de ps2

Did you play the same game?

Wow. Is it possible you fell and hit your head before doing this review? GOW II is one of the best games of all time, let alone just the PS2. At some times during gameplay, I found myself checking to make sure I wasn't playing my PS3. The graphics are that astounding. Maybe you're just trying to stir the pot, but try it on a game that deserves it, like Resistance:Fall of Man.

the sequel doesnt have to be

the sequel doesnt have to be exactly like the first game without changing somethings..otherwise it would be boring and predictable....and we already know kratos' past why'd we need a FB?! in my opinion GoW2 is great that it also tell the story of titans and zeus as well as kratos...not quite what any1 expected which Rocks

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