Monday, April 14, 2008

Review: God of War II

God of War II (2007)
Developer: SCEA Studios Santa Monica
Platform: PlayStation 2
Purchase Date: 2007

I only completed around 20% of this game when I first played it last year. I recently picked up the new Chains of Olympus for PSP and that inspired me to jump back on the game. GoWII begins where the first game ended: Kratos is now the new God of War. Just like Ares before him, Kratos' existence becomes nothing more than an infinity of bloodlust as he continues the ravages of destruction set forth by his predecessor. History repeats itself and the other Gods grew angry of Kratos' "sacrilege" but since they do not have any reliable human puppet to go after the insane god, Zeus took matters into his own hands. Athena, who has been on Kratos' side before has decided to betray him as well.

The prelude to an epic tale of madness and revenge.

The game starts off with what can easily be declared the most exciting, climactic first stage in gaming history. As Rome nears its total destruction, Kratos enters the fray of battle only to be chased down by a gigantic gold status throughout the whole level. This of course is a double-edged sword. The rush is like nothing you have experience before but you may be discouraged by the game's more labored, slow-paced design right after this encounter. That was what made me stop playing before. Still, if you persist through the more mundane second act, you will be rewarded by an utterly gripping later half of the game. Unlike the first GoW, this one is filled with a lot more boss battles that will ensure to shock and entertain with their brutal over-the-top cinematic finishers worthy of the hydra boss death scene from original.

You get to know more about the Titans this time around.

GoWII, at its core, is an adventure game with heavy combat elements. The fighting mechanics are beautifully implemented with great combos you can chain attacks with. Kratos gains new weapons throughout the game but as varied as they are, not all of them are more effective than your default chained-swords that have both speed and distance advantages. As you collect red orbs in the game, you can freely choose the weapon or magic you want to level up. There are obvious filler combat moments in the game that really impact its overall polish: You will find yourself stuck in a room with a large amount of the previous tough enemies thrown at you in waves. They need to understand that unique, tough encounters = awesome and forced mix-and-match battles = frustration. The environmental puzzle elements are definitely the main highlights of the game. Though they are not difficult to figure out, they are epic in their scopes and usually involve the manipulations or destructions of large portions of the landscapes.

The in-game camera always showcases the best possible view.

Graphically, this is one of the best on the PlayStation 2, complete with a widescreen presentation and progressive scan to boot. Even a year old now, it still looks quite next-gen even with some low-res textures that pop up every now and then. The art design is magnificent, just wait until you see the game's interpretation of the Three Sisters of Fate. The grandiose soundtracks serve their purpose with rousing tempos that never let up between some of the more serene moments. Except for one less-than-a-second instance (I couldn't believe it when it happened), there is no loading time in the game and with the large environments that always surround your character, this is definitely an impressive feat. The game lasts around 13-14 hours and it encourages repeat play by allowing you to retart the adventure with all of your leveled-up weapons and magical abilities. You also get unlock-able costumes but since some of the game cut-scenes use FMVs of the in-game models, there are jarring transitions when your character suddenly wears something different in front of you. This is why it is important for games to stop using FMVs all together though I suspect the reason why they are being utilized here is to help hide some of the loading time.

One of the coolest moments in gaming.

I love this game and the developer really did listen to the complaints about the previous game by adding a slightly longer adventure and a lot more brilliant boss encounters. The filler moments I mentioned earlier do have an impact on the consistency of the game since they are, in all honesty, not that fun. The game also has a terrible cliff-hanger of an ending and cannot be viewed as a full product. The trick about making episodic games is to allow each to feel like a complete game on its own as evident in the Kingdom Hearts, Xenosaga, and Jak & Daxter series. Thus, I have to say with a heavy heart that the game is a bit short from being a masterpiece but it is a definite must play for every mature gamer out there.

RATING: 4 out of 5

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