As for the combat, the same applies. In a broad sense, they haven't messed with what was already as slick a hackandslash control set-up as there has ever been. So rather than break it with pointlessly complex combos, what you get is broadly the same abilities to swish Athena's Blades around (with the good old L1 plus triangle or square serving you well for much of the game), as well as a few secondary weapons that you can whip out with L2 if you feel like trying something different. In truth, having a bloody great Barbarian Hammer or the Spear of Destiny is quite cool, but the amount of 'orbs' required to power them up means that you tend to focus on continuing to upgrade the main default weaponry, and some of your magic attacks.
Talking of which, we seemed to find the magic attacks a little more useful this time, especially the Atlas Quake attack which pounds anyone in range into submission with a barrage of falling rocks, while being able to whip out a bow and fire off a volley of arrows from Typhon's
Bane always comes in handy for those attacking from distance or high up in the air. But in the right context, using the Head of Euryale (essentially Medusa's Gaze by another name) and turning everyone to stone can be a real godsend, while the lightning-spitting Cronos Rage does a good job of frying everyone stupid enough to get in your way. All round, you're given a decent amount of strategies to choose from, and working out how to spend the orbs you earn from your killing rampage helps shape that. But the fact that there's no 'right' way to upgrade your abilities only adds to its charm.
Expanded jumping/platforming elements play their part throughout the game, too, and once you've earned some wings the overall level design starts to demand a little more from you than previously. For example, with grapple points and air vents dotted around, you'll find yourself guiding Kratos in all manner of impressive new ways, from the usual rock climbs, jumps, shimmies, and ceiling-climbing, to the new ability to haul yourself up to previously inaccessible grapple points, or gently glide down to a distant platform. And just like the rest of the game, it feels hugely intuitive - thanks, in part, to one of the best uses of a dynamic camera we've seen. Far from being a hindrance, not having to tweak the camera leaves your right thumb to get on with the business of fighting off all manner of despicable enemies. It's still by no means perfect, but it really didn't cause any of the problems you would normally associate with fixed/dynamic cameras, with your enemies always visible, and jumps always manageable. The game rarely tries anything too ambitious in terms of switching the camera angle unless it knows you're safe from harm. Panning back and swooping around is left either to the more explorational sections, or platforming when it's not a problem, so we'll happily salute Sony for that.
A different planet
And as we've already mentioned several times, on a technical level the game is simply sublime in every area - a benchmark for third-person action games. In particular, playing it on a PS3 sharpens up the visuals no end (it's revelation if you've got a massive screen), plus you have the added benefit of being able to play it with a wireless pad. From the opening section to the climactic battles, the game is simply a joy to behold. It's blessed with the sort of attention to detail that you'd expect to see in lavish cut-scenes, not in everyday run of the mill locations, and at no stage did we ever see even a hint of frame-rate drop or v-syncing glitches or any of that nonsense. As you'd expect, the animation is superb, and the character models (particularly of the bosses) are among the most lavish we've seen - better even than those in Shadow of the Colossus. Even the soundtrack and voice acting is top notch. If you can find a flaw in God of War II, it'll be down to personal taste. For those that love these brooding action adventures that drip with atmosphere, this is as good as it gets.
So why isn't it a 10? Perhaps in purely PS2 terms it deserves that sort of hysterical mark, but we can't rate games in a vacuum, so it's a 9, but a 9 that stands up to any other game regardless of the platform. Maybe the one notable down-side of this incredible sequel is that it is 'just' the second part of a game we all loved two years ago, and even die-hards like myself have to acknowledge that. As such, as refined and honed as the gameplay is as a whole, you can never quite replicate the wow factor of the original - even if it ends up being a better game. Lack of innovation or not, the important thing to stress is that God of War II boasts some notable improvements in every area, and is therefore a game that any fan of action-adventures should rush out and buy immediately. Satisfaction guaranteed.
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