By Sony , Sony Santa Monica Released: 27 Apr 07
There's only one thing better than a great game and that's a great cheap game. Thanks to budget releases we're often able to pick up some of the best games ever made at half their original price, and we're going to make sure you know when a bargain is available. Read on for our April 2007 review of the brilliant God of War 2, now available as part of Sony's PlayStation 2 Platinum range for £14.99.
The PlayStation 2 might be on its last legs but it's certainly not going to go down without a fight. God of War 2 is the latest hugely high-profile game to land on Sony's aging console, delivering the kind of pant-wetting excitement that the PlayStation 3 can only dream of at the moment. As a sequel to one of the system's defining titles it ticks every box and also serves to highlight just how much of a beast the PS2 really is. God of War 2 is one of the most epic, dramatic and action packed games you'll play this year.
God of War 2 begins with Athena betraying Kratos and relieving him of his god status, so he finds himself in Olympus pretty much as he was in the original game. Everything will feel extremely familiar to God of War fans, with the opening level feeling like a direct follow-on from the previous game. This makes the opening no less dramatic, with a huge statue being the biggest threat throughout a multi-stage battle of giant proportions. This incredible series of set-pieces sets up a game that is never lacking in bravado and never short on intense action.
You eventually lose your abilities, meaning you need to build them up as you did in the first game. Red orbs are once again key to 'buying' weapon and magic upgrades, while hidden items give Kratos increased health and magic. Before too long you'll have re-gained his key moves and magic attacks, and be pulling off huge combos as if you're a master gamer at work. In truth, God of War 2 is just as flashy as its predecessor, never offering the depth of titles such as Devil May Cry or Ninja Gaiden, but it's never anything but satisfying.
Timed button-press kill-moves return and are just as gory as before, but the big changes come from two new moves. The first is the ability to deflect enemy attacks, effectively using their attack on themselves. Especially useful against enemies with projectile magic attacks, Kratos can stand firm and use previously deadly attacks to his advantage. It adds a much needed skilful element to the game's predominantly button-mashing heavy move set.
Your other big move to call upon is the Rage of Titans. This builds up as you attack enemies (and certain chests carry special orbs) and allows you to increase Kratos' attacking abilities for a brief period. It looks cool and lets you dish out some brutal damage and extra special moves. Certain enemies succumb to this devastating barrage of attacks more easily than others though, so it's wise to pick and choose when to unleash it.
For the most part you'll find yourself sticking to your good old Blades of Chaos as they prove to be the most versatile of the bunch. Magic is equally hit and miss, with the long-range Typhon's Bane and close-quarters earthquake-like Atlas Quake being pretty much all I used unless absolutely required to use another - such as the time-slowing crystal that is always signposted if you need to use it.
Kratos' first adventure featured numerous tricky platforming sections and thankfully these have been toned down significantly in the sequel, meaning you won't have to tiptoe across spinning poles covered in spikes and continuously fall to your death. You gain some handy wings later on in the game which allow you to cross some 'instant death' pits, but these sections rarely cause too many problems. New to Kratos' move set is a grappling hook that is used at set points during the platform sections and this adds some variety to the gameplay. A few brief flying sections (on Pegasus no less) also spice things up, although they lack the intensity of the rest of the game.
Puzzles played a big part in the previous game and they return here with equal aplomb. They gradually pick up as you progress through the game and frequently cause more than a little head scratching, even if the solution is often painfully obvious in hindsight. In fact, soul destroying moments that littered the original game are almost completely absent, meaning the dreaded 'would you like to switch to easy mode' screen thankfully makes far fewer appearances. There is one particularly nasty section late on that seemingly varies in difficulty depending on the magic you have fully powered up, but it isn't enough to ruin your enjoyment.
God of War pushed the PS2 to breaking point on its release in 2005 and this sequel amazingly outdoes the original in every respect. Boss battles are more frequent and larger in scale, environments are more diverse and detailed, and the frame rate holds steady against all odds. There's a tad of screen tearing now and again, and the PAL release lacks a 60Hz mode and Progressive Scan support, but no other game on the PS2 can touch God of War 2 in terms of visuals.
Voice work is a tad hammy but it fits the tone of the game perfectly and the musical score is simply superb, never letting up on its epic feel. Cutscenes feature a mix of in-game models and impressive CGI and serve to inform you of what's going on around Kratos. Sure, the mythology of the Greek gods and titans is largely ripped up, but everything's told in such an impressive way that it doesn't matter. Numerous extras are also unlocked when you finish the main story, as was the case in the original, meaning there's plenty for hardcore fans to do while waiting for the next game in the series.
If Sony were to choose a game to see off the greatest console of the previous generation, God of War 2 would be it. It might simply build on the foundations laid down by its predecessor but that's by no means a bad place to start. There's nothing particularly new about what God of War 2 brings to video games but as a popcorn game nothing but its older brother comes close to being as epic and downright entertaining.
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