God of War II: Divine Retribution review
God Of War II - The PS2 Swansong

The good:

- Excellent storyline following on well from the first game
- Epic settings
- At least twice the length of the first game
- New weapons and magic which all come in useful
- Best graphics on PS2 (rivalling next-gen)
- Superb musical score
- Plenty of replayability
- More boss fights
- Blades Of Athena are even better than before

The bad:

- Punishing difficulty level
- Occasionally frustrating camera angles
- Large number of puzzles may not appeal to everyone


God Of War II had a lot to live up to. The first game came virtually out of nowhere, and blew everybody away with it's flawless combat, incredible graphics and engaging storyline. Unbelievably, God Of War II manages to live up to the giddy heights of the first game, and indeed betters many aspects of it.

The storyline is as epic as always. Kratos, despite being the new God Of War, doesn't exactly see eye-to-eye with his peers, causing constant grief and indeed being a bigger war-monger than Ares ever was. When he is tricked by Zeus in order to defeat the games first boss, The Collossus of Rhodes, Kratos once again finds himself in a familiar place - the pits of Hades. However, with the help of the Titans, Kratos makes the decision to seek out the Sisters Of Fate, change his destiny, and return to when Zeus betrayed him to take his revenge. It unravels in many ways throughout the game, with Kratos learning more and more about his past-life, the Gods and the Titans. Whether or not it has the simplistic perfection of the first games storyline is up for debate; however, it as epic and as grand as we've come to expect from the game.

Speaking of epic, the typical God Of War set-pieces are all here, and here by the bucketload. The Palace Of The Fates, the innards of the Collossus and the Steeds Of Time are all likely to have you gasping at how incredible and detailed it all looks. The set-pieces easily have that wow factor, that match the first time you set eyes on Pandora's Temple in the first game, and when the head of the Hydra first appeared above the ship. It is incredible that this is displaying on a PS2 - these graphics are quite literally unparallelled this generation.

The game is also substancially longer than the first, meaning more enemies, more settings and more story twists and turns than ever before. Inevitably, this gives the game designers the scope in which to add more enemies and boss fights, and thus deal with one of the main complaints raised about the first game. The boss fights are all suitably difficult, and let's be clear here - you will die in this game many, many, many more times than you did in the first. It's likely to frustrate, yet despite this, every boss seems overcomeable. That 'one-more-try' factor is here by the bucketload, and believe me, when you nail those final, killer blows on that boss that has been annoying you for days, it's massively satisfying.

However, as is somewhat similar to the first game, the most frustrating segments often prove not to be the boss fights. The increased number of puzzles is likely to frustrate a certain number of avid fans from the first game. However, before you bang your fists in fury, keep in mind that in most of the puzzles it is relatively easy to figure out the basic principle. This reviewer only came across two puzzles in which a walkthrough had to be consulted, out of the vast number in the game. One of these puzzles suffered from the games very occasional enemy - the camera angle. A statue that required to be moved was obscured from the view of not just a camera angle, but every camera angle in the area. Although this is a very minor complaint as most of the time the camera is perfect, there are occasions when you find yourself wondering what to do because of an obscure camera angle. Prince Of Persia: The Two Thrones, dealt with this matter by offering the player a chance to move the camera slightly when it might be problematic. Considering the epic scale of many of God Of War II's areas, it is slightly puzzling why the game designers did not implement this.

Also proving frustrating can be the seemingly insurmountable number of enemies that Kratos has to face during this game. One particular segment near the end of the game involved fighting your way through up to five separate groups of enemies, with only one health chest. These ranged from standard grunts, all the way up to Minotaurs, Satyrs, Cyclops and Medusas. Occasionally the game also combines enemies with puzzles, a combination which often angers gamers, especially in the face of overwhelming odds. One particular sequence involves a roof of spikes descending very quickly upon Kratos, during which he has to quickly shift a chain in order to stop the two floors colliding. However, when a seemingly neverending number of skeletons are attacking Kratos during this, it goes from difficult to infruriating. Nevertheless, as with all segments of God Of War II, you will eventually overcome these odds. This reviewer played through in normal mode, and completed the game in around 16 hours. Should the combat get on-top of you, the designers have thankfully added the option of switching down to easy mode, which no doubt you'll be tempted to do many times.

However, despite this punishing difficulty level, the game makes up for it. New weapons, magic and indeed new powers all help to make combat more strategic than the first game. In particular, the Golden Fleece is used to parry enemies attacks and send them back at them if desired. Learning how to use this is instrumental to completing the game, as is proper timing of the Rage Of The Titans and making the most of your magic. Kratos also now has the ability to swing using his blades, which results in some very cool set-pieces. The swing mechanics can be occasionally frustrating and therefore will need some tweaking for future God Of War games, but nonetheless, it's a welcome addition. Icarus Wings also make an appearance in the games later stages, providing some excellent platforming segments. The Blades Of Athena are as vicious as always, with some superb new moves at Kratos disposal. The games musical score oozes style, and you could very easily supplement it into an equally epic film. Whether or not it is as epic as God Of War's original soaring score or not is up for debate, although also largely irrelevant - the grandeur of God Of War's music has been replaced by louder, more fierce and often more eerie orchestral scores, reflecting the change in Kratos and his relationships with the characters. You're likely to become very familiar with it as well, as the game has even more replayability value than it's predecessor. This reviewer played through the original game at least five times, something which only the PS1's Spiderman has ever bettered or equalled. This game is likely to break that record, with extra costumes, weapons, difficulty levels and artifects to collect on subsequent plays through.

Despite it's intense and occasionally frustrating nature, God Of War II should be viewed as a benchmark in action gaming. Unparalleled storylines, flawless combat and incredible graphics all serve to make this the single best game on PS2, and indeed the best action game ever made. Absolutely essential.

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