God of War 2 Reader Review
When Sony announced the launched dates for the PS3 you could be forgiven for thinking that developers everywhere would be transferring all their weight behind next generation projects. Considering the installed user base of the PS2 some have (rather shrewdly) continued to develop for the machine and as a result it is in for a great send off.
Which brings me onto God of War 2 (GOW2) a game with an excellent pedigree which has arrived along with a series of glowing reviews. As somebody who had not played it's predecessor I was keen to see if this game lived up to the hype and to answer this question it does, and then it doesn't. You see GOW2 is epic in scale and displays visuals that you might not think possible on the PS2 and that at times would not look out of place on the PS3, for those lucky enough to own a PS3 and HDTV the game looks even better upscaled and I am happy to report that it also runs flawlessly.
For those uninitiated in the GOW universe the game is set in ancient Greece and you play the part of Kratos who is the God of War, however our anti-hero has got a little big for his boots and it is not far into the game where you find yourself a mortal once again and it is from here that the game starts in earnest. The gameplay is mostly very simple, the combat is fast and frantic except for the QTE moments that requite precise button presses at key moments to progress. The weapons are split between normal physical weapons and magical abilities, for the former you start with the blades of Athena and despite the others you will collect en-route these are sufficient to complete the game and in my opinion are the most fun to use. The magic abilities are linked to your magic health points so you cannot use them indiscriminately they are however crucial to the game and you will need to get familiar with them. You also have the option in normal combat to press the O button when it appears above any enemy to "finish them off". Things do become more complicated however with the puzzles which are at times reminiscent of the early Tomb Raider games and some will cause some serious head scratching to solve!
Can't I have a look around?
Those that have not played the predecessor may also be thrown by the controls and in particular the camera and I have to confess that I was, you see unlike almost every other 3rd person game I have played the camera is controlled totally by the game and you have no control at all. For the first hour or so I kept getting the urge to look around or even just centre the camera behind Kratos but could not, so is this a problem? not at all as the camera is excellent and you will soon forget about it. It is actually clever programming as the game maintains the illusion of a massive scale whilst only showing you small parts at any one time, this no doubt reduces the strain on the PS2 and allows the previously un-matched graphics. Graphical smoke and mirrors? maybe but when it looks this good who cares? As an aside the camera system makes this a game well suited for a PSP version.
Into the Game
So far so good then and you will race through the first few hours in shock and awe wondering what is coming next and itching to find out, one of the early set pieces involves you battling a Titan from outside and then from inside, it is one of the early standout moments and will blow you away. At this stage all the reviews calling it the best game ever on PS2 make sense and you go to work raving to your friends about how great it all is. Then ever so slowly the novelty starts to wear off, you realise that gameplay is a tad repetitive and button pushing moments start to irritate you just a little, however the story is still engrossing and overall experience good enough that you will still rave about it at work just not quite so much, then as you pass the 10-12 hour mark the novelty wears off some more and in the closing hours you'll become focussed on just finishing the game rather than relishing the experience, you will still enjoy it and you will still tell people what a very good game GOW2 is but when you finally complete the game you will be relieved and rather proud of yourself.
Not all Perfect
So what are the problems that turn the best thing since since sliced bread into something that is just very good? Firstly the game can degenerate into a "button basher" at times and whilst there are different combinations they are quite simple to learn, the puzzles are mostly very good but at times I did draw a blank where the solution just did not seem to exist and others where trial and error was the only way, I have to confess that a walkthrough was called upon on a few occasions. In some ways the elements of the game do trip you up as much of the game does not tax the brain too much so when a puzzle does appear you are just not ready for it. Secondly the QTE button pressing parts are the most unforgiving I have seen in a game, to say that split second timing is required is an understatement and it sometimes feel like you have to press the correct button before the prompt even appears, having to repeat these over and over is frustrating and not fun, the battle at the end of the game is very tricky and not since General Ram in Gears of War have I been so frustrated with a game, luckily there are not too many of these moments. Lastly I was not a fan of the save points and your views on this may vary, they are spread throughout the game and there is often a long time between them, not always a bad thing however it is frustrating when you have something else to do like eat dinner or go to bed and is something you need to bear in mind if as I do you like your gaming in short bursts.
Despite all of this however GOW2 really is a brilliant game and I would agree that it is the best game I have played on the PS2, you really do sometimes have to rub your eyes to believe how good it looks and how smoothly it plays. You will overlook the annoyances in favour of what is an epic experience one of the best games I have played for a long time. So in closing yes this is the perfect send off for the PS2 and is also in my opinion the best game currently available on the PS3, quite an achievement and I can't wait to see what they can do with GOW3 on the PS3.
8 / 10