Heavenly Swords

Believe the hype, kids. God of War II is everything a sequel should be; bigger, badder and, yes, better than the original.
Author: Sam Bishop
Published: March 15, 2007
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I call it the pee test. A book, a movie, a TV show, whatever it may be, has the innate ability to make you hold off on going to the bathroom until you're about ready to explode. God of War II can be paused at nearly any time, yet I found myself doing the pee pee dance for "just one more fight" or "just until I solve this one puzzle." Even when I was screaming at the TV in frustration, I still held it because "maybe I'll get past this stupid part next try."

It's the equivalent of the most gripping page-turner, due in large part to the way the pacing, combat and puzzles all work together to provide the perfect little tease of what's to come in the next few minutes, hours, or just in the same room you're in. It's nothing that the first game didn't do, but then the added experience that comes with having a good chunk of the development team working on the original clearly has paid dividends here.

But it's not like God of War II is a massive departure from the first game anyway. In fact, it picks up almost shot-for-shot from the final scene in the first game -- albeit augmented with the addition of a couple of comely lasses sitting at the foot of the new God of War and a new intro that explains Kratos has been enjoying his abilty to grow big and gre--err grey and smash the crap out of the enemies of Sparta.

Okay, so maybe enjoying isn't the right word. The dude just wanted to forget the fact that he was used as a tool by Ares to not only slaughter thousands, but his own family, and so even though he is technically a god, he's still all emo and pissy and filled with angst. God angst, which is approximately 60 billion times more filled with rage-filled one-liners and promises of vengeance.

All his dabbling in helping Sparta kick ass all up and down the Aegean coast has raised the ire of the rest of Mount Olympus and so as Kratos heads off to put the stomp on the city of Rhodes, Athena warns him that all this "RRAAAAARRRGH MOUNTAIN MAN!" stuff is pissing some folks off. K, being the eternal hothead and quite possibly the least sympathetic leading man in the history of game sequels, tells her to eat it and starts stompin'. Not surprisingly, he's quickly robbed of his powers and then a stone colossus is animated and the fun starts.

The first level of GOWII is essentially a tutorial wrapped around the biggest, longest boss fight in the game. And it's magnificent. Newcomers learn the controls, old farts with too many dead brain cells like me remember how it all works and by the end the feeling of "holy shit, this guy is bad ass" starts to sweep over you yet again -- despite the fact that you're stripped of nearly everything from the first game. Oh, and if you can find it, you can bust off a three-way with some topless girls just chilling in a pool in the middle of this crazy ass battle. Cause that's how they rolled back then.

In fact, that's indicative of the level of pervasiveness of the CE mini-games that have you pressing buttons and whipping the left analog stick around. It's more or less everywhere, and just as it was in the first game, it makes for some of the most visceral, engaging sequences you'll ever see in any game. Boss fights are now multi-tiered or carry out in extended portions of the level, there are more enemies to off by slamming on the Circle Button and nearly everything that has to be opened requires some hammering on the buttons (which were remapped, by the way, to make room for more spells, more secondary weapons like spears and battle maces, and to balance more of the powers).

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