Tons of games are released every year on every platform, but there are few who reach iconic status and even fewer who end up defining genres. Take GTA III for example; there were tons of free roaming games before Rockstar’s crime simulator hit stands but they perfected the formula to such an extent, that nearly every game released thereafter was instantly compared to this ground breaking game. Same is the case with God of War; the PS2 was flooded with tons of action/platformers long before Sony’s behemoth hit stands in 2005 but Sony’s Santa Monica studio nailed every aspect of the game down perfectly and every game belonging to the similar genre was instantly compared to it (and most fell horribly short). When I heard of a sequel to Kratos' bloody adventures, I admit I was a bit skeptical at first since more often than not, sequels have a habit of fudging up the franchise, but in this case I can boldly claim that God of War 2 (GoW2) not only outdoes it’s predecessor in every way but it is the best game to grace the PS2... ever! And don’t worry, I got more than enough proof to back my claims up so read on to find out why this game will end up owning your soul.
For starters, I’m going to give you a basic introduction of the plot, since discussing it in detail may spoil you. God of War 2 picks up immediately after the events of GoW and Kratos, the ghost of Sparta now sits at Ares’ throne after brutally slaying him in the first game. Being true to his name he commands his army to ravage Greece like there’s no tomorrow and this pisses off the other Gods to no extent since they don’t take too kindly to wanton acts of violence. To teach Kratos a lesson, they rob him of all his powers and leave him for dead (real bad move people) but Kratos is destined for a fate other than death and he makes his way to seek out the Sisters of Fate to rectify matters. Mutilating, maiming and decapitating every aspect of Greek mythology ensues.
As usual, GoW2 handles the plot in such an awesome and cinematic way, it’s like a movie of epic proportions unfolding in front of your very own eyes; add to that some of the most well-made and brutal cut scenes you’ve seen to date and you have something you can’t tear yourself away from. I’m not a big fan of stories in games (I love mindless action) but I got suckered in to this one so badly I couldn’t wait to see what happened next. For example a couple of levels down, you come across a dude called Prometheus and he pissed off Zeus (the God of all Gods) to such a extent, Zeus banished him to a life of torture which basically meant that every single day his entire body is ravaged by a bird, only to be healed by nightfall; as soon as it’s day again, the bird starts snacking on his innards once again and for the first time, I actually felt moved by a character’s plight in a video game and I really wanted to help this bloke out; unfortunately Kratos isn’t the most helpful man on the planet and well, let’s just say he does help him out in a pretty unpleasant way.
Complementing this highly riveting plot is the most brutal gameplay this side of Athens; we get beheading, amputation, dismemberment, head smashing, eye-gouging, evisceration and lots lots more and there is a certain amount of nudity in the game as well so you way wanna make sure you are above 18 or play this game when mummy or papa aren’t watching.
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out Kratos was one badass mofo but after playing this game I have new found respect for the man. His bad ass quotient has been quadrupled and throughout the game we get ample proof that this man has no mercy (how many video game protagonists do you know who stab women in the breasts huh?), no remorse and no soul; he’s a killing machine who will do whatever it takes to reach his goal and I respect that.
Before I dwell into some of the new elements this game has to offer, here’s a slight history lesson, in case, you haven’t played the first game; GoW is essentially a hack and slash game so throughout most of the game you will be button mashing a lot but it isn’t as brainless as it seems initially and the more time you spend mastering the combos the more you realize how deep the combat system actually is.
To take down each level’s boss, you’ll have to keep draining their health after which you enter a rhythmic mini game of sorts that has you pushing random buttons as they appear on screen; match the combination perfectly and you’ll take him/her/it down in ultra brutal ways but if you screw up, say goodbye to a small chunk of health and keep in mind that the larger bosses can only be taken out by successfully completing the above mentioned mini games.
Before you start playing GoW2 I suggest you brush up your reflexes since this game packs in even more boss fights than its elder brother. Don’t worry though; I’m not much of a boss fight fan but I thoroughly enjoyed each and every one this game threw at me.
Besides boss fights, you’ll come across tons of minions from different aspects of Greek mythology and slaughtering the crap out of them will bestow Kratos with red orbs that can be used to upgrade his weapons and magic, making him a force to reckon with. But even a god finds himself losing health and at times like that all you need to do, is locate the nearest box of green orbs to regenerate your health while procuring blue orbs to replenish your magic. Since GoW2 starts off with you as a God, your weapons will be fully pimped out but once you find yourself robbed of all your godly powers, you’ll have to start from scratch. Throughout the game you’ll come across various weapons from fallen foes like hammers, spears etc but I personally prefer the Blades of Chaos since you can pull off some wicked combos once you get a hang of things.
Now all this above mentioned stuff like ultra brutal combat, killer boss fights and tons of context sensitive actions were present in the first game as well and since there really isn’t any need to fix what isn’t broken, Sony’s left all of it as it; what they have done however is added in a couple of new mechanics like the ability to swing using your blades, climb walls (makes you wonder why it wasn’t included in the GoW in the first place) and the ability to fly atop a Pegasus, which is by far the most fun I’ve ever had flying in a video game.
Twice in the game you will need to traverse great distances for which you’ll call upon the services of this humble bird (or horse) and during these sequences you’ll have a certain amount of control over the bird (or horse) so you’ll be able to steer it in all four directions and there’s a slight boost than can be availed of to propel your steed forward. Now this is a God of War game so don’t expect a peaceful picturesque little ride above the clouds; you will be attacked by other creatures whom you’ll slash at with your blades and as and when their health has sufficiently depleted you can jump from your bird (or horse) onto them, cut their wings off and jump back to your ride (context sensitive madness) without even breaking a sweat; it looks incredibly brutal but at the same time it’s probably the most beautiful thing I’ve seen in a long time.
To provide a certain respite from all the violence, this game throws in tons of puzzles at you and just like everything else, this game handles the platforming elements so well you never feel like it’s chore like in the Tomb Raider games. All (or at least 95%) of the game’s puzzles are challenging but they do not cross over to "Argh I’m gonna break my controller over this f******g puzzle territory"... and if that’s not enough, this game has probably the sweetest save game systems I’ve encountered till date so if for some reason you do screw up and die, you won’t have to backtrack through half the level to reach that point.
Visually this game is marvelous; it runs flawlessly on an aged console like the PS2; in fact it is one of the best looking games I’ve ever seen on the PS2 and this sort of visual awesomeness towards the tail end of the console’s life cycle is an impressive feat. Props to the entire art department as well since the game is absolutely stunning from an aesthetic point of view as well; well I could give you a couple of examples here but you have to see the game in motion to believe it. Voice acting as usual is top notch and T.C. Carson (Saint’s Row, Final Destination 2) thankfully reprises his role as Kratos while the ever enchanting Linda Hunt (is it just me or does she sound a lot like Judi Dench) narrates the entire story in a most beautiful and enthralling manner. Most of the game’s orchestral score has been carried forward from the previous game and this isn’t a bad thing at all since it was pretty badass to begin with.
Now if you’re a lazy SoB who hasn’t read a word of what I’ve said, since the past couple of pages, let me sum it up for you; GoW2 rocks! The game does no wrong; it’s got a stellar story, epic score, awesome voice acting, brilliant platforming, mind blowing boss fights, and not to mention hyper-brutal combat so if you’re one of those stupid folk who gave their PS2 away to a friend or a cousin thinking the console’s outlived it’s existence get it back NOW or buy a new PS2 if you have to, being a gamer you owe it to yourself to play this highly polished AAA game.
I really can’t think of anything bad to say about this game but if I really had to, it would be that the game doesn’t have any sort of multiplayer so it does cut down its replay value to a certain extent but even then, it’s got tons of modes to keep you going on for days.
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