God of War II: Divine Retribution review
More mediocrity in a great game's clothing


The first God Of War wasn't bad, but honestly, it felt unfinished in some aspects, like bosses, locations, weapons and all that other shit that makes other games good. It had its fun moments, but then it had its frustrating parts and boring segments, not to mention, even though it looked great, you were just in one dungeon for most of the game. Ah well, we got ourselves a sequel, and surely, it'll improve on everything, right? Yes... and no.

Kratos is the new God Of War. Ohh man this is going to be sick! So what adventures are we going on? Trouble brewing in Rhodes? On my way! Oh wait, what's this, Zeus is taking away my powers? Yes folks, Kratos is back to being human, and even worse, Zeus kills him – and no, this isn't some mid game twist I'm spoiling just to be a dick; this is in the first level! However, he's saved by the Titan, Gaia, and now has to seek the Sisters Of Fate so that he can change his fate to not get killed by Zeus.

Throughout the game, Kratos will mostly be trying to get to the Sisters Of Fate, so if you're one for wanting little subplots, don't bother. However, each scene helps move the story along, and... well, that's about it. I mean, you don't exactly play God Of War for its story, and that's a good thing, because once again, Kratos just drags it down. There's always something that keeps him from being the badass that the writers want him to be... like how he now has like no character or no hook, except smashing peoples' faces against hard books. Wow, what a badass!

Let's just start by saying that most of the mechanics from the first game are still there. The platforming is still pretty non descript as you don't do much with it other than simple shit. At least it's not impeded by poor camera angles – indeed, they're better this time around, always letting you see where you're going. But yeah, platforming is there just to be there. As for puzzles, they're even more annoying! Why? Because all you're doing is pushing blocks around... sometimes, you have to be quick, but.. I'm sorry, I can't get over this... block pushing... because they're SOO fun, am I right? Couldn't think of much else? Zzzzz

Don't worry, combat hasn't suffered. It's about the same, as you mash the square button and sometimes triangle to form what could loosely be called combos. As you progress, you can use red orbs that you collect to upgrade your blades so you can perform a few more abilities by holding the guard button and pressing circle or square, as well as do a bit more damage.

You can acquire additional weapons, but they don't quite have the x-factor that the Blades Of Athena (previously the Blades Of Chaos). The hammer and spear just don't seem AS strong or useful (although that's mostly because you've been using the blades for a majority of the first game and for quite a while before getting the hammer in this game), although the spear does have some neat features... just not qute as useful as the Blades Of Athena, that's all.

If there is one positive change, it's that ALL of the spells are useful. From firing lightning arrows, to proximity electric balls, to stoning your enemies, and then to smashing the ground and using debris to hit enemies, the spells can really turn the tide of battle when in a tight jam. You could set an electric ball and wail on them with the blades, or stone them. Good thing too, because the enemies seem to be a bit more block heavy, but thankfully, they can't block spells, though you should reserve them because places where you can refill your magic meter are few and far between... like save points, actually.

Yep, this is harder than the first game. The enemies seem to be a bit smarter. At the same time though, they still have that degree of unfairness the first game's enemies did, and that's the fact that while you're easily staggered, they aren't. Well, okay, the small ones can be staggered, but the big ones, even after a few hits, they can still come back at you. I don't expect them to stagger after one hit, but after a few hits would make some sense. It doesn't seem like a big deal, but it just makes it unfair, which sucks, because they're actually smarter too, and that alone makes for a fair challenge.

There are more bosses this time around. As opposed to the three from the last game, we have eleven! Aww yeah, nearly four times as many! Unfortunately... most of them are pretty bland. I mean, I wouldn't expect bosses on par with the Minotaur from the first game, especially since this was released two years after the first game and you'd have to be some miracle worker or just badass *bleep*ing boss designer for that to happen, but goddamn man, most of them just felt like regular enemies with more HP and slightly more complex movements – bad boss design 101 right there. A few bosses here and there, particularly the Kraken and the last boss (anonymous because I'm not one to spoil big surprises), but the rest? If it weren't for the cutscenes that preceded them, I could've mistook them for enemies. No fooling.

Ah well. The graphics are still top notch by PS2 standards. The textures are still detailed, the monster designs are still convincing (though there are a few rehashes, but at least they're enemies and not bosses so no big deal there) and the cutscenes are still crispy clean. One thing that bothered me with the first game was the lack of variety for most of the game... sure, you had glimpses here and there, but that's it. Not a problem here, because even though you still spend most of your time in a dungeon, you get a variety of colors (within reason) and environments, so honestly, there's no issues here.

As far as sound design goes, it's probably better than the first game's! The soundtrack is still *bleep*en epic, managing to give each and every encounter a lot of bite, a lot of... penetration. Voice acting is still good. Kratos is still pissed off (and this time around, he's a bit growly), Athena's still calm... there's just a good amount of authenticity in the mix, which makes it sound good.

Gameplay: 2
Once again, combat delivers what counts for the most part, which is brutaity and satisfaction. Well, except for most of the bosses, they just felt uneventful. Once again, platforming is mediocre and the puzzles are LAME.

Controls: 4
Once again, most of the controls are tight, but the lack of camera control is disheatening. To be fair, most of the angles are more favorable, but still, you know...

Story: 2.5
Once again, the content is fine – the problem is Kratos. Again, he's portrayed as a badass, and yet, he just comes across as a dick.

Graphics: 5
Finally, I don't start with “once again”. Anyway, much better. The environments are more varied and everything looks fantastic.

Sound: 5
Aww *bleep*... Once again, top notch soundtrack and the voice acting is pretty good.

Lastability: 3.5
Looks like they took the “length” criticism to heart the most – a good 15 hours will pass by when you'll see the final scene. Then there's just a set of challenges ahead of you as well as a new game+ of sorts, and then BAM, you're done.

Funfactor: 2.5
Combat is consistently fun this time around, although the bosses are never exciting... except a couple, maybe. Once again, most of the “challenge” feels cheap, and once again, platforming and puzzles are there because half assed variety > fine tuning the main show.

Bottom line:
God Of War 2 is both better and worse than the first game. It's better because there's more to look at than some dusty old dungeon, it's longer, and the enemies don't seem quite as cheap as the first game's lot. It's worse, though, because even though there are many more bosses, only a few of them are any good, and the puzzles and platforming aren't even remotely better than the first game's. Like the first game, God Of War 2 is an above average game in a great game's clothing.


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