God of War II is an amazing follow up to an amazing game. It does, however, fall into some of the major pitfalls that sequels face. While it offers some amazing new features, at times it feels like it is rehashing old territory. While the story is new and fresh it commits what I consider to be one of the gravest sins in story writing. And while the game is technically superior to the first, it left me feeling unsatisfied and craving more.
God of War II starts with Kratos watching from Olympus as the Spartans put the soldiers of Rhodes to the sword. Told that his bloodthirsty habits will no longer be tolerated by the other gods, Athena animates the Colossus of Rhodes and sets it against the Spartans. When Kratos takes part in the ensuing fight he is stripped of his powers, betrayed and murdered by Zeus, and cast into Hades. Reanimated by the Titans to help them get revenge on the gods that cast them down, Kratos sets off to find the Sisters of Fate, change his past, and kill the king of the gods.
The controls are identical to the first game. You are given two different attacks, a block, and magic selection and use. The circle button returns with all its grisly promise. There are also some new moves you gain as you continue through the game. One of these is the ability to glide. While I felt it was a theatrical addition, it frustrated me a lot as sometimes the glide would kick in when I wanted to make a regular jump or vice versa, leading to a lot of unnecessary deaths.
The variety of weapons has also increased. In addition to the Blades of Athena, Kratos’s signature weapons, you also pick up various new weapons in your travels. Each new weapon has a distinct feel to it. The Barbarian’s Hammer is a huge, brutish weapon while the Spear of Destiny is used to make rapid hits on enemies. These make for some nice bonuses, but I still found myself using the Blades of Athena the majority of the time. Once the novelty of having a new weapon wore off I went back to my old standby. Magic makes a reappearance as well, with a nice selection of new and old spells. Both the weapons and the magic are fully upgradeable using the red experience orbs you collect throughout the game.
Many times I find that after completing a game like this there isn’t really much else to do. There are some small unlockable bonuses, but for the most part there isn’t really any reason to play through again. God of War II takes great strides to improve this situation. Unlike the first God of War, you won’t earn enough experience the first time through in order to upgrade everything. Fortunately, you keep the upgrades you’ve achieved and continue to build up your strengths in bonus play. In addition, various urns are hidden throughout the game. On bonus play these urns grant you unique abilities like extra experience, unlimited magic, or the ability to turn enemies to stone with weapon strikes. These additions make replaying a much more interesting prospect and are a great addition.
God of War II contains some of the coolest and most intense sequences I have ever seen in a game. The fight with the Colossus is amazing, and is an incredible way to start. The bridge crossing scene is fantastic. In a button press mini game Kratos leaps from pillar to pillar as a massive bridge collapses around him. These sequences are awesome, and should be experienced by every gamer.
The circle button makes its triumphant return as well. Once an enemy is weakened pressing the circle button allows Kratos to vent his rage by dismembering his opponent. This was one of the highpoints of the original God of War and is what my friends and I still talk about whenever the game is mentioned. The circle button moves in God of War II are good, and they are certainly vicious, but somehow they seem to lack the visceral impact they had in the original. I simply wasn’t as amazed by them as I used to be.
The boss battles, on the other hand, ratchet the violence up to new levels. If Kratos is holding back on the rank and file, he’s letting it all out on the ones in charge. Each boss battle is like a freight train barreling towards a more and more violent conclusion. I was appalled at the things that Kratos did, and yet I couldn’t turn away. I willed him on to greater and greater feats as he sought his revenge on Zeus. The climactic battle at the end of the game is everything you could possibly hope for.
It is at this point that God of War II makes a horrible mistake. As I came closer to the end my suspicions as to what was going to happen got stronger and stronger. I held out hope, but my suspicions were eventually confirmed. God of War II has no ending. After all the time and energy put into playing the game you are rewarded only with the promise of another sequel. I can’t stand that. I don’t like it in movies, and I hate it in video games. It cheapens the entire experience, and robs you of the feeling of accomplishment you get when completing a game.
God of War II is a great game, and it is definitely technically superior to the first. There are many new and welcome additions, and the gameplay and battles are amazing. But it lacks the overwhelming “wow” I got when I played the first one. It feels very much like a sequel, and not a stand alone work of its own and it left me wanting more. If you’ve never played the original, definitely start with that. If you have then you know have to play God of War II also.
But be warned, it will leave you an empty broken shell constantly seeking that which is just out of reach. Kind of like Kratos himself.
I like a wide variety of games. I’m great at action and rpg games. I tend to be too much of a perfectionist with first person shooters and stealth games. I’ll spend 20 minutes in a level, only to reset it the first time a guard sees me. Platformers aren’t really my thing, I think the technology has better things to offer than that now. And I don’t do sports games.
I love games with a good story. I’ll play for hours just trying to get to the next plot twist. In a perfect world, I’d be writing my own video games someday