Also available on PlayStation 2 and PlayStation Vita
After my fairly lukewarm reception to the first God of War game, I was unsure how I’d feel about this one considering that it was from the same console generation and therefore likely to be very similar although I remained hopeful that it would improve on some of my complaints from the first game. While it’s true that it is indeed extremely similar to the first game, there are some key changes that make this not only a very competent sequel but a much more enjoyable experience overall compared to the first game.
Some of my complaints about God of War still carried over into God of War II. Chief among those is the fixed camera. The platforming sections in this game didn’t suffer from it quite as much as they did in the previous game in my opinion, but it was still a definite annoyance for me. There’s one boss fight in particular in the Temple of the Fates that was made needlessly frustrating due to the lack of camera controls because of how hard it was to see if I’m close enough to and angled sufficiently towards the boss to grab her during the Circle prompt. Another element that gave me a ton of frustration during the final boss and one I think was present in the first game but didn’t annoy me enough to stand out in my mind is the quick time event prompt locations. If it’s a single button press QTE, the prompt is big in the middle of the screen; if it’s a QTE where you have to hammer a button repeatedly, it’s much smaller and in the bottom left of the screen. The final boss combines these in a single QTE chain which I found to be needlessly infuriating.
With all that said, though, I enjoyed God of War II much more than the first game. The storytelling still wasn’t great, but it felt a lot more intentional and satisfying than the first game. That’s pretty much how this game went; it had the same flaws as the first game, but they’re better. It still used annoying timer-based puzzles, but they weren’t as annoying, and the inclusion of a time-slowing mechanic gave them an added layer of depth that I appreciated. The level designs definitely had the most time and attention put into them here as they are far superior to what the first game offered. The game was a bit more robust in terms of length, too. It still wasn’t too long, clearly, since I managed to beat it start to finish in a day, but it definitely had a bit more meat to it than the first game even if only a little.
Like the first God of War, I played the PS3 HD remaster of this, and it was about the same as the first in terms of that HD treatment. The game itself looked fantastic although it was a little more noticeable here that some of the boss and world textures had less energy put into them than others. The cut scenes still look jarringly bad compared to the gameplay, but it didn’t seem to be as stark a difference here as it was the first game. I’d say that the cut scenes here looked like a train wreck rather than a mid-air jetliner collision. Unfortunately, the sound design suffers from the same balance problems as the first game. Numerous cut scenes had music and background sounds at the same volume if not seemingly a bit louder than the dialogue, and for a game that doesn’t allow for subtitles, that’s just not acceptable. Fortunately, however, the number of scenes in which this is a major problem seemed fewer than the first game. It’s always a problem, but it’s more often a minor problem this time around.
All things considered, I still don’t think God of War II is an amazing game, but it’s definitely a good game, and I’d call it a must-play for PlayStation 2 owners. A friend of mine described the gameplay in the first few God of War games as “a western crack at devil may cry that doesn’t really reach [its] heights,” and I’ve got to agree. Solid hack and slash gameplay that falls short in the narrative and technical execution departments. To be compared to the original DMC games, though, puts you in good company. This is a true sequel even if not a revolutionary one; it doesn’t change anything major from the first game, but it polishes everything that the first game did right and somewhat mitigates most of what the first game did wrong. It certainly didn’t blow me away, but it was a good time.