After experiencing the original God of War way after everyone else, and for the most part enjoying it, despite some of its issues, it was almost a no-brainer that I would get around to the sequel at some point. And now after having recently finished it, I am ready to give you my thoughts on it. Is it better? Is it worse? Keep reading to find out. Oh, and there will be spoilers for the first game, because this game’s plot kinda relies on it. So don’t say you haven’t been warned.
After having killed Ares at the end of the previous game, Kratos is the new God of War, ruling with an iron fist. But he is soon betrayed by Zeus himself, and left for dead. But after crawling out of hell (for the second time in his life, I might add), Kratos now seeks to find the sisters of fate to undo what just happened, allowing him to potentially get his revenge against the King of the Gods. The narrative here covers a much bigger scale than the first God of War, which is kinda neat if you’re a fan of both Greek mythology and big blockbuster action (like yours truly). However, this also sacrifices the emotional core of the first game, which was about Kratos getting revenge for his dead family. In this it’s more like “I was stabbed by a big, bearded bastard, and had my powers taken away, so now I just want to kick the shit out of him“. Sure, Kratos has clear motivation (good), but it’s not quite as powerful and nuanced as what was going on in the first game’s plot. That doesn’t mean the plot is bad, because it’s still enjoyable, and even has some cool moments throughout. Just that it doesn’t quite have the same impact as the first one.
In terms of gameplay, God of War 2 is essentially the same as God of War, with the main difference being a few new toys to play around with, plus a few bits where you ride on a flying creature. You hack, you slash, you hop, you bash skulls, you climb, you tear people in half, you solve puzzles, you brutalize… yeah, there’s a lot of murder going on in this game, with some platforming and puzzles thrown in at a few points for variety. Again, it’s the same basic system as in God of War, but a bit more smoothed out to make it a somewhat more pleasant experience. For example: Button mashing sequences no longer require you to have the dexterity of Hercules, you’ll be able to do the mashing without making your thumbs catch fire this time around. Combat feels a bit more smooth to execute too, while still having that visceral punch that made the first game’s combat system to satisfying and fun. Of course there are moments of frustration throughout, with some minor things that annoy in terms of certain enemy attacks/effects. But overall it’s still the same solid system as the first title, with enough tweaks to make it a little more fun.
Another quick thing I want to mention in the gameplay department are the boss fights. The first game only had four of them, one cool, one really good, and two not great. Well, in true sequel fashion, the team over at Sony Santa Monica increased that number significantly, and most of them are pretty creative in either how you battle them or in the arena you fight them in. Some are of course better than others, but generally they all bring some amount of fun. To giant monsters to some well known names within Greek mythology, to one or two characters created specifically for this game.
In terms of the technical departments, God of War 2 absolutely shines. It was released in 2007, late in the PS2’s lifespan, so it shouldn’t be much of a surprised that it pushed the hardware to its absolute limit. There are huge, detailed environments here, and you get to explore them as you jump around and cut your enemies into little wet chunks. It’s especially impressive in some of the sections where there’s a lot of stuff going on in the background, such as the opening battle in Rhodes, or the bit where you traverse around the titan known as Atlas. And the character models, both disposable bad guys, and named characters alike, all have plenty of detail to them, making them some of the most graphically impressive things on the PS2 (that aren’t made by Square Enix). Even the pre-rendered cutscenes that show up every now and then, something that looked very dated in the first God of War, now look great. And the music, which was co-composed by Gerard Marino, Ron Fish, Mike Reagan, and Cris Velasco, is absolutely phenomenal. It is large in scale, tons of huge brass and epic strings, but it doesn’t just feel like noise, creating a score that makes you feel like a badass, while still also having a surprising amount of real emotion behind it.
And I wanna take a quick second to mention the voice cast, because my god, they knocked it out of the pantheon. T.C. Carson of course returns as Kratos, just as shouty and angry as ever, which is good. The wonderful Linda Hunt gets an expanded role here, not just providing narration, but also voicing a character, which is neat. Corey Burton brings a real sense of weight to Zeus, thanks to his deep and booming voice. Michael Clarke Duncan (may he rest in peace) is also in this game, voicing the aforementioned Atlas, which is simply awesome. And whoever came up with the idea of getting Harry Hamlin, star of Clash of the Titans, to play Perseus (a character he played in that movie)… that person deserves a raise. Really, the entire cast is phenomenal.
Fun fact: This was the first game in the franchsie to be led/directed by Cory Barlog, who famously went on to be the head of the 2018 God of War. Of course David Jaffe was still heavily involved with the story here, but Barlog is the one credited as director on this one. So that’s kinda neat.
While God of War 2 still has some minor frustrations here and there, it is generally a step up from its predecessor, thanks to smoothed out gameplay and better presentation across the board. I’d recommend playing it, whether you find a cheap, used PS2 copy or you get the PS3 collection on the Playstation Store. ’tis a good game that’s worth playing.
Have a good one.