Friday, April 06, 2007

VG review: God of War II


“GOD OF WAR II”
Sony, for PlayStation 2
rated M for Mature (blood and gore, in­tense violence, nudity, sexual themes, strong language), $49.99.


The first “God of War” was a gloriously epic, incredibly ultraviolent game that set the standard for every fast-paced action game since. Which begs the question, what can you possibly do to top yourself for the inevitable sequel?

Well, how about this: You’re engaged in a battle in the city of Rhodes when the 200-plus-foot statue that guards the city — the Colossus of Rhodes — comes to life and starts chasing you around the city.

As you try to avoid the massive fists and feet of the murderous statue, you climb up the massive monstrosity, cut his eyes out, then climb inside his body. From there you climb upward, slowly draining it of its mystical energy with a magic sword that you got from Zeus.

That’s not the final boss battle of the game. That’s the first.

It just gets better from there. “God of War II” pulls off what must be the most impressive hat trick of 2007. It’s more epic, more over-the-top and more bloody than the previous game without ever coming off as crass or hackneyed.

The plot follows closely on the heels of its predecessor. Having defeated the war god Ares in the first game, the pasty, perpetually ticked off warrior Kratos is now an official member of the Greek pantheon. Of course, Zeus and the rest of the gods aren’t too happy about having a pretender to the throne on board, and quickly boot him out of Olympus.

After literally climbing out of Hell, Kratos teams up with Earth mother Gaia and the Titans to get his revenge on Zeus.


Along the way, he’ll have to battle legends like Theseus and Perseus, slay dangerous monsters like Minotaurs and the Medusa, and solve tricky puzzles by moving around large blocks of stone.

There’s little that’s actually new about “God of War II.” So the game feels more at times like “God of War 1.5” than “God of War II.”

But if the basic hack and slash, button-mashing gameplay hasn’t been altered much, the sense of scale and drama has. Whether riding a flaming winged Pegasus, battling ice giants or running across giant chains in order to awaken a team of horses the size of Manhattan, Kratos is the ultimate stoner metal hero. Didn’t Ronnie James Dio write a song about this guy?

There also is an extraordinarily high level of violence in this game. Blood seems to spew from just about every orifice, and special, button-timed sequences seem designed to focus on creating as gruesome a kill as possible.

I didn’t really mind the gore, because it’s pretty clear that you’re attacking fantastical monsters and not, you know, real people. Still, consider yourself warned.

In fact, it seems silly to criticize the game on those merits because one of its goals is obviously to be as grandiose, as bombastic as possible, even in its violence. It works. Rather than seem ridiculous or gross, it’s a glorious invocation to the wonders of gaming.

While other games see fit to play things safe and stick to well-worn paths, “God of War II” goes for broke and succeeds beyond expectations. It makes you wonder what they’ll dream up for the next sequel.


Copyright The Patriot-News, 2007

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