When I first approached God of War in 2005, I found myself impressed by many aspects of the game. From its ability to throw a scant but emotionally-impacting story at the player without bogging him down, its epic battles, and its graphics that seemed to push the boundaries of what the PlayStation 2 was capable, to its cinematography and art design, camera-work, and likable but morally ambiguous protagonist Kratos, the game genuinely polished and improved on every element of the action genre. In a word: I was impressed by everything.
I was also left with a longing desire for more. Thankfully, God of War II delivers in every way, with a few features that are a little worse for wear and a few that have been improved on a bit. The game is, again, epic in both scope and narrative. The graphics manage to impress even in this current age of HD and next-generation consoles. Here, players get a real sense of size and scale. The game is, in many ways, Olympian. And rightly so. The only apparent drawback is that the camera is a lot less intuitive than it was the first time around, sometimes leaving the player to his own devices and making leaps of faith to platforms just off the screen.
If there was a shortcoming in God of War, it was its lack of boss battles. The game did have a number of minibosses and a couple of chapter bosses, but overall, it was sparse. Not anymore. Kratos fights everything from demon soldiers to gorgons to Cerberus to Theseus. The game is intent on throwing challenge after challenge at the player, and some of the boss battles are rather elaborate. In the game’s opening sequence, Kratos fights a rampaging statue of the colossus – perhaps the perfect way to get the player’s blood pumping and offer a sense of how impressive a warrior Kratos is.
God of War II is also quite violent, with Kratos unflinchingly decapitating, eviscerating, blinding, and crushing everything and everyone he comes across, cursing out Titans and Gods alike, and merely being a violent whirlwind racing through Olympia toward his goal.
Minigames feed into Kratos’ vices as well: there is, again, a sex minigame which will reward Kratos with an abundance of red orbs if his performance is up to snuff, and another will task Kratos with collecting twenty Cyclops eyes. Watching your character dig the eye out of a Cyclops with his blade is not really for the squeamish.
In the end, though, this is essentially the same game as God of War with more packed in: more carnage, more involved puzzles, new magic and weapons, new extremely beautiful areas, more collectables and unlockable minigames, a Titan Mode difficulty, unlockable costumes, and more bosses and enemies than before. Those who enjoyed the first game will feel right at home without feeling either bored or tricked out of a new experience. Those that haven’t will enjoy it, too. There are a few problems – as said, the camera can be a bit annoying at times, and there have been reports of serious glitches (so do yourself a favor and use multiple save slots), but ultimately none of the flaws are either too game-breaking or detracting to the overall experience which is, in a word, impressive.