Get right with God.
Movie reviewers decry the film 300 as “like a video game – all action and graphics, no plot.” In a sense, God of War 2 proves their point. It has oceans of blood, electrifying action, graphics that should be accompanied by opera (and usually are), with a plot that could be written on a match book. And it is a video game. But it also proves how different games are from movies, and how silly it is to hold either to the other’s standards.
Would I pay ten bucks to watch someone play God of War 2
on a big screen for ninety minutes? Oh hell no. Would I pay fifty bucks to play it anytime I wanted? Hell yes
. Because God of War II
isn’t just a video game, it’s a really, really good one. It’s also the offspring of the almighty God of War
, and as is usually the case with the brats of Gods, this one is mortal.
[image1]Now, I’m not going to break out a crucifix and nail Kratos to it, or anything that drastic. After all, he’d probably just find some exotic, ironic and gruesomely painful way to turn the tables on me, but the guy is due a few stigmata. And the first stab has to be the plot. After getting his bona-fide GoW business cards, Kratos shuns the other Gods as decadent and dull, and spends his time conquering Earth with his pet Spartan army.
The other gods, in their infinite wisdom, are like “Dude, Kratos is a jerk, he’s so fired.” So they trick him into depositing all of his Godly power into a sword. Sigh. Then Zeus grabs it and sticks Kratos with the pointy end. You and I might call this irony, but Kratos jumps on the short bus and blames fate, as in, he was fated to be a moron.
But there isn’t just one fate, there are three of them, and Kratos wants a second opinion on his diagnosed death by stupidity, plus a second chance to not give all his powers to Zeus. With his wish granted, he will do the unthinkable, he…will kill a God! Again. Fortunately, the fates are three sisters who live on an island, so Kratos can just beat them up and get the coveted Refund of Destiny.
The whole game is getting to that island, and like our crazed protagonist, it’s good, messy fun. It’s also really smart. You see, it’s broken up into easy fights, hard fights, puzzles, and boss fights, with a couple neat flying and platforming sequences thrown in to spice things up, not to mention the occasional ménage a trois. What a life, huh?
[image2]There’s also a lot of dying involved. You die and die and die and die, because the game is hard. And while it occasionally feels cheap in some of the harder battles (giant, puppy-spitting devil dogs Batman!), it’s simply the price of God of War II’s amazing menagerie of mind-bending puzzles. They will make you turn the game off out of frustration, they might even make you pull out hair, and not just from your head, but they will also make you think. Unlike Kratos, whose brawn makes up for brains in a world where fate feels pain, you will have to use your noggin. And if you’re reading this review, you should have no problem with that.
The fighting can be just as satisfying, especially once you acquire a piece of armor that allows you to reflect enemy attacks. With it, you can deftly parry most fireballs, petrifaction beams and hammer blows, all while your wicked chain-whip knives of fire do their evil duty. This God is good, especially when he’s being bad.
But it’s not all brutal decapitations and blood letting; some of the fights are harder than the puzzles, but for dumb reasons, not smart ones. Enemies constantly spawn in to fight, and sometimes you have to kill them in a certain order, or they’ll never stop coming. Why there is an endless supply of fire archers until I’ve killed all the Cyclops I’ll never know, but it sure is frustrating.
No matter how hard or cheap the battle, it’s always worth finishing, because you know it’s taking you a step closer to one of the game’s many boss encounters. In fact, God of War II begins with one of the best boss bashes, ever. Those that come after don’t quite have the same blasphemy factor (“Christ on a cross would you look at that!”), but they make up for it with frequency and grizzly death sequences. Even Jesus would enjoy killing these guys, gals, and assorted giant beasties. After saving his game, of course.
[image3]And the Madonna would weep tears of blood for the beautiful graphics. Sure, God of War II suffers last-gen rickets on an HDTV, but even in that ultra clear format, a couple scenes from the game could be framed and put above a fireplace. For example, you fight Medusa in a courtyard where columns form a semi-circle around a small glade. Rays of the sun slant down onto the grass, while Medusa slithers up and around one of the pillars, slightly concealed by darkness, and obscured by the motes floating in the light. It’s spellbinding. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen anything as good looking in a video game, and that’s high praise, because Medusa is hideous.
Such unlikely scenes of beauty, as well as less scenic overlooks, are accompanied by a symphonic score perfect for violent vengeance. If this music were playing in a restaurant, you’d probably break your wine glass and impale your steak with the shards. Then you’d eat it, glass and all. So, yes, the music gets the point across.
And hopefully, so have I. God of War II has its weaknesses, but its strengths are unparalleled. This is yet another bloody, tasty, tough piece of code made flesh from Sony, and we can’t wait for another helping. Don’t listen to Nietzsche, this God is alive and kicking ass.