PlayStation 2
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Published by: SCEA
Developed by: SCEA Santa Monica
For: PS2 2 Discs
ESRB Rating: M for Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Nudity, Sexual Themes, Strong Language

The first God of War, released in early 2005, was an immediate success. It was the first major action title from David Jaffe, the director of the famed PS2 car combat game Twisted Metal. Jaffe’s keen eye for detail and obsession with perfecting game mechanics lead to one of the most cinematic games on the PS2, if not of all time. It was also one of the most violent games released to date. Players assumed the role of Kratos, the so-called “Ghost of Sparta,” in a quest to kill the god of war, Ares. On the way, he dispatched countless enemies in perhaps the goriest manner possible. The sequel is no different in this regard. God of War 2 was released on March 13, 2007, almost two years to the day that the first title was released. The already epic scale of the first game was expanded upon in the new title, with slightly altered controls, bigger boss battles (including the Colossus of Rhodes, Jason, and Perseus, as well as some from the pantheon of Greek gods and other characters from Greek mythology), more expansive environments, and a cranked up difficulty from the original’s. On the whole, God of War 2 is a longer, more complete experience than the original.

Game Play 20/20

This game takes the action movie style approach to the opening, and kicks things off with a bang. Kratos is pretty much all-powerful at the beginning of the game, and he starts things by going ahead and killing a reanimated Colossus that wants to kill our incredibly brutal hero. The entire first level is a boss battle, and it sets the tone for the rest of the game with buckets of blood, majestic vistas dominated by smoke and fire (the burning of Rhodes, in other words), and lots and lots of Kratos cursing the heavens. I’m really trying hard not to ruin things by talking about the story, but it’s pretty hard since the story is woven so expertly into the game itself. Needless to say, one of the problems with the first game, besides its very short length, was the fact that there were only three or four locations in the game. And while the game was excellent, unfortunate balancing issues hit towards the end of the game, especially in an infuriating segment involving spinning blades on towers. So, God of War 2 takes the player all through the ancient world, incorporating different myths into the game itself. For example, the player will encounter Prometheus chained to a rock, where a bird is pecking at him until he regenerates (no joke). Pegasus is an integral part of the game, with some of the most devastating, violent kills attributed to the flying beast and his rider, Kratos. Through all of this, the player levels his weapons and powers up, ultimately evolving from the shell that he had become because of events early in the game into something much more powerful. With a bevy of unlockables, the game has tons of replay value, although there are not multiple endings. Different costumes, unlockable weapons, survival modes, and ultra hard difficulties are just some of the things that the player can expect. In addition, the game ships with a second disc full of developer interviews, cut levels (not playable), and making-of documentaries. Basically, God of War 2 is everything that fans of the first game expected it to be and more. While the game is still too short (it lasts about 12-15 hours the first time through), it also tells a compelling story, something that’s too rare with video games. This is one of those games that captivates the player, that causes them to keep playing until all hours of the night until they beat that one last level.

Graphics 9/10

This game, along with Final Fantasy XII, proves that the PS2 still has some horsepower under its aging hood. As mentioned above, the game succeeds in showing the sprawling vistas of ancient Greece, along with lifelike animations and beautiful particle effects. Cut scenes (or FMVs, if you prefer) are gorgeous. There is nary a load time in sight, and those that are there are insignificant at best. The team at Sony Santa Monica really outdid themselves with this game. Everything is spot on. All of the art design is amazing, and the environments, oh, the environments. From sprawling temples to towering mountains to menacing stone horses, everything is beyond what was expected or anticipated for an action game on any console. The texture work is a little blurry up close, but that’s only because this is a PS2 game, and it’s par for course. As in the first game, lip synch is spot on and reminds me of the work done in games like Resident Evil 4 (although all lip synching in that game was done by hand). None of this even speaks of how smooth the game runs. Combat is brutal, satisfying, and gruesome, and it all animates wonderfully. There is some graphical tearing, but that’s nothing new, and unfortunately results in the only technical demerit that this game has earned. I’ve said all of this glowing stuff about the graphics, and I haven’t even talked about the detail on the Titans, the scar that stays on Kratos the entire game, or the hordes of enemies that come at you without the frame rate stuttering.

Sound 10/10

The sound in God of War 2 just adds to the cinematic flair of the game. Composed primarily by Gerard K. Marino, but also featuring music by Ron Fish, Mike Reagan, and Cris Velasco, God of War 2’s music is epic and majestic, with a choir and brass. It all just flows together with the game so well, much like the Lord of the Rings music did for the movies. It feels like a major Hollywood production, which is definitely something. Most games don’t have music that stands out in your head like this; only Halo’s music comes to mind in that regard. In terms of voice acting, everything is professional and believable. Linda Hunt reprises her role as the narrator from the first game (who, in an odd twist of fate, turns out to be the Titan Gaia), and she is, as always, excellent. Also returning is TC Carson, playing Kratos. His voice, full of fury and disdain and contempt, keeps the mood going throughout the game, and provides the vocal outlet for one of the most intriguing characters in gaming. Harry Hamlin, of all people, shows up as Perseus, and Michael Clarke Duncan (of The Green Mile fame) plays the Titan Atlas. Sound design is equally impressive. Metal clangs and monsters scream, the sounds of battle abound, and the music is woven into all of this. It is all impeccable and the music is breathtaking and exciting.

Stability 4/5

No bugs or technical problems were found in the game, aside from the aforementioned tearing. That problem only occurred once or twice, and it didn’t affect play adversely.

Controls/Interface 5/5

The controls are much like they were in the first game, with the triangle button controlling strong attacks, square performing light attacks, the x-button jumps, and the circle button grabs. The only major difference between the first game and this one is the fact that the R2 button now controls opening boxes and doors instead of R1. Despite the difference, the game still maintains its pick up and play style. For veteran God of War gamers, the difference is a little hard to get used to, but they’ll get used to it within the first fifteen minutes, if that.

Appropriateness

Violence 0/10

Basically, this game is one of the most violent game that I’ve ever played. Although most of the game is played against fictional beings, with monsters such as Gorgons and minotaurs and gryphons, there are also sequences where humans are killed, usually in a particularly graphic fashion. Humans include such fictional characters as Theseus, Perseus, and Icarus, and all are killed without remorse or a second thought. The game in fact encourages the killing of at least two characters in order to solve puzzles, and one sequence requires the player to burn a man alive. That sequence is very close to the source myth in question, it should be noted, but it is also very excessive and disgusting. (People killing people in cold-blooded murder, -5 pts.) The game is also very bloody. When an enemy, or the hero, is hit, blood sprays in a very unrealistic, although extreme, fashion, splattering on everything in sight. The special kills that the player can perform at certain times by hitting the circle button are particularly bloody, often resulting in, I kid you not, geysers of blood, and also result in the majority of the decapitations in the game. (Blood sprays on the walls and everywhere else, -2.5 pts.) In terms of gore, God of War 2 beats out the original as well. In addition to limbs being lopped and sliced and otherwise diced off, the game adds a new, gruesome collectable into the fold: Cyclops eyes. Every time you get a special kill on a Cyclops, Kratos pulls out the Cyclops’s eye, and adds it to his collection. Other kills include slicing off a gryphon’ wings and stabbing minotaurs in the mouth. Which, once again, results in geysers of blood (there’s a trend here, isn’t there?). And, as mentioned above, there are decapitations, and one scene of a person burning alive, which actually grants the player a new ability. (Gruesome details, -2.5 pts.)

Language 5/10

God of War 2 itself contains no swearing, but the bonus disc does. The "Making-of" featurette has a lot of f-bombs, which is pretty off-putting. (Swear words found in an R-rated movie are used in the game, -5 pts.) (No sexual dialogue, -0 pts.)

Sexual Content/Nudity 3/10

There is a lot of nudity in this game, as in the first one. I’m not going into what is shown, but there is both partial frontal and partial rear. (Partial nudity, -4 pts.) The player is also given the option of participating in a sex minigame, which, although not graphic, is pretty explicit in its audio depiction. At the end of this, there is a bonus of red orbs, which can be used to power up the player after enough are collected. (Sex outside of marriage is shown as positive, -3 pts.)

Occult/Supernatural 3.5/10

Because of the game’s content, as well as the ancient setting, is it any surprise to anyone about the occult rating? Basically, much of the game takes place around pagan temples, and ultimately, involves interaction (and occasional destruction) of gods. (Game takes place in an environment with major occult references, -5 pts.) Now, despite there being magic usage in the game, none of it is aligned with any established religion, and while used for violent purposes, is more fairy tale type in nature. (Fairy-tale type magic is used by player, -1.5 pts.)

Cultural/Moral/Ethical 5.5/10

Okay, as in the first game, Kratos is out to kill a god and reverse his fate. His actions are an act of rebellion, and in direct response to his perceived betrayal. Everything he does in the game is on a quest for revenge. (Game requires rejecting authority figures or laws, -2 pts.) Kratos also makes a lot of bad decisions in the game, mostly killing or otherwise disposing anyone who stands in his way. (Game requires decision making that goes against traditional values, -2.5 pts.)

Final Ratings

Game Play: 20/20 Graphics: 9/10 Sound: 10/10 Control: 5/5 Stability: 4/5 Appropriateness: 29/50 -Violence: 0/10 -Language: 5/10 -Sexual Content/Nudity: 3/10 -Occult/Supernatural: 3.5/10 -Cultural/Moral/Ethical: 5.5/10

Overall: 65/100

The previous game in this franchise scored a 71%. The two games were reviewed by different people, and although the scores are different, keep in mind that the content in the game is much the same. This game is very violent, gory and bloody, and contains a lot of objectionable content. However, if you are looking for one of the top action games on the PS2, this really is a very well made game. Due to the extreme nature of the game, I cannot wholeheartedly recommend the game to anyone; however, if you played and enjoyed the first game, expect more of the same here.

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Christ Centered Gamer looks at video games from two view points. We analyze games on a secular level which will break down a game based on its graphics, sound, stability and overall gaming experience. If you’re concerned about the family friendliness of a game, we have a separate moral score which looks at violence, language, sexual content, occult references and other ethical issues.

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