God of War II Second Opinion

God of War II  Screenshot

God of War II is a fine game, and definitely one of the most polished, playable titles available for the PS2. However, it suffers from the same significant (and possibly unavoidable) problem as its predecessor—an unlikable hero.

Technically speaking, the game is nearly beyond reproach. Besides an occasional awkward camera angle or the way the graphics suffered from minor "tearing" in certain areas, there's nothing to improve. As Brandon said in his review, it seems as though God of War II squeezes every bit of juice that the PS2 has to offer, and then squeezes a little more. I may be wrong, but I feel confident in saying that Sony's Santa Monica studios have maxed out the hardware and I'd be surprised if another house could make it do more.

From an artistic perspective, it's superb. Quite breathtaking at times, the adventure is stuffed with stunning vistas and fantastic imagery like the seething lava found boiling near a Gorgon's temple, the horrific Sister of Fate spinning life-threads, and the stony battlefield nestled among the clouds in the game's final confrontation. It's clear that these people have done their homework and have a love for what they're doing...the sense of scale and larger-than-life feeling that permeates every aspect of God of War II feels like a genuine fit for the mythology surrounding Zeus and the entire Olympian pantheon.

However, despite being so accomplished both technically and artistically, my feelings for Kratos the first time around still hold true. To be perfectly blunt, he's not a very sympathetic character, nor a hero that I feel any significant connection to. Constant anger and snarling every line of dialogue aren't elements that strike a chord with me. Although I can understand his motivation and the events that led him to each of his adventures thus far, Kratos doesn't even manage to feel like he's fighting for justice or righting a wrong—he comes off like a bloodthirsty villain, and although he may be a lesser evil compared to what he's up against, I find it hard to root for his victory beyond the context of achieving my immediate goals as a player. I was more motivated to solve the next puzzle or see the next monster than I was to help Kratos win the day.

God of War II is as solid as solid can be and will undoubtedly provide a weekend of thrills with the kind of cyclops-gouging, Pegasus-riding, and god-killing that most developers could only dream of producing. But, I see such an unsavory main character as a real barrier towards pushing the game into the upper echelons of super-stardom. Kratos may be able to dispatch any foe gruesomely and with extreme prejudice, but it takes more than raw brutality to capture my imagination and inspire loyalty. Instead of a glowing sword or a golden key, what this Spartan needs is a shred of warmth and humanity. Rating: 7.5 out of 10