The PS2 is on the way out, there’s no denying that. A new day has dawned in the gaming world, but that doesn’t necessarily mean Sony has completely abandoned their previous platform. Microsoft and Nintendo immediately dismissed the Xbox and GameCube, respectively, but the PS2 has found the likes of Okami and Final Fantasy XII at the end of its lifespan. Perhaps best of all, SCE and lead developer David Jaffe have one final big production number scheduled for March, and some new information has recently come to light. And of course, that demo is supposed to be just around the corner, even though we’re not yet sure how Sony will distribute it...God of War II is almost here!
The original was one of the finest-crafted titles in recent memory, and quickly secured a huge amount of acclaim and respect. We expect nothing less from this sequel, although some questioned whether or not Sony should’ve waited to create the newest installment for the PS3. But then again, they’ve already announced there would be a God of War III for that platform; we just have to wait. For now, let’s take a closer look at what could very well be a Game of the Year nominee, despite being up against the stiff competition of next-gen software. What can the PS2 actually produce in its last gasp?
Remember how we had to defeat Ares, the God of War, in the original? And how we utilized the awesome power of Kratos to bring Ares down and ultimately ascend to the throne? Well, we’ll be picking up right where we left off, and this time, the complete role-reversal is in effect. Most of us recall the awe-inspiring scene of Ares laying waste to a city (in real-time, no less; it was gorgeous), and apparently, one of the first scenes in God of War II portrays Kratos doing something very similar... Unfortunately, this isn’t something the other Gods appreciate, and although we’re not quite clear on the details, Kratos is stripped of his position and relegated to walking once again amongst mortals. Damn. We kinda liked the idea of playing as a God, even if it did mean brutally overpowering all opponents.
That’s where the game officially begins for the player, and we have learned we’ll experience the story in much the same way we did in the first installment- through a series of flashbacks. This is fine, although after seemingly dozens of scenes of Kratos tearing the snot out of innocents, we did get somewhat tired of that repetitiveness. The story really was solid, though, especially for an action game, so we still expect great things from the plot in this sequel. And there is one particular aspect of the original that wowed just about everyone, and that’s the visuals, which somehow managed to give the gamer an excellent sense of distance and size. The sequel will once again take this wholly positive element and run like hell with it.
The first stage of the game will have Kratos attempting to escape – and perhaps do battle with – a massive colossus that attempts to destroy our favorite anti-hero with sweeping arm slashes and crushing stomps. This intense introduction should give us a tremendous look at the size and environment perspectives, which is exactly what this game needs. In the first, you were adopting a different role; in the sequel, you’ve lost ultimate power and are forced to understand what it’s like to be a lowly human once again. Eventually, you’ll take down that colossus, which chases you throughout the entire first level, but it will take some serious skill and ingenuity. You’re fighting something hundreds of times your size that tosses corpses at you as if they were confetti. If that isn’t a humbling and intimidating experience, nothing is...which makes the satisfaction of victory all the more sweet in the end.
Magic will make a return as well, so it’s not like you’re completely "human," per se. We know about Rage of Poseidon so far, but we’ll assume more of Kratos’ magical abilities from the original will also come back. And of course, SCE has worked to include plenty of new stuff, and that includes extra skills and magic, both of which may be immediately accessible right off the bat. One of them is a form of electrical magic that will allow you to "tie" enemies down while you beat them senseless. And while this is most likely an ability you’ll have to acquire through the course of your adventure, it sounds like there may be more strategy involved in this sequel’s combat. Carefully setting electrical traps for enemies, if that’s an accurate description, gives us the idea that you might be able to utilize some craftiness...
And of course, the Blades of Althena are back, which is good news no matter how you slice it. Those things offered the player a huge amount of options in the original, and we can only imagine how many more options they might afford in the sequel. And while the first game only featured one extra weapon (the Artemis Blade), the second will boast several to choose from. You’ll earn their power as you defeat powerful foes; the Barbarian King’s hammer is an example of one, which you’ll receive by walloping the – you guessed it – Barbarian King. That hammer will let you summon undead warriors to assist you with multiple enemies, which actually sounds a lot like one of the magic skills in the original. And finally, we’ve learned we’ll be able to switch between weapons on the fly, much like Devil May Cry 3: Dante’s Awakening, which will add a great deal to the depth and appeal of the battle engine.
The Challenge of the Gods has also made its return, perhaps to the chagrin of many fans. It was quite difficult, in stark contrast to much of the game itself, but at least the rewards were worth the effort. Other mini-games are arriving for the sequel, too, like the new Battle Mode that lets you square off against whichever foes you choose. But what’s super cool is that you can partake of these extra gameplay options, save any red orbs or other unlockables, and you’ll have them when you load up your progress in the story mode. Ah-HA! A way to upgrade and train your character outside the main quest; now that’s a sweet addition! It almost seems role-playing-ish in its design, doesn’t it? Take on a side-quest to gather up some EXP and cool equipment?
Still, we can expect the Challenge of the Gods to be crazy tough, just as it was in the original. They’ve also overhauled the format to some extent, as there is some sort of ranking system for each level now. You’ll pass with the lowest ranking, but you won’t be able to unlock the biggest and best items until you can complete the mission with the utmost speed and effectiveness. And we are also very happy to learn the developers have dealt with a major issue regarding the Challenge: you could never save throughout the 10 Challenge stages in God of War, but for the sequel, we will be able to save. Well, that’s some seriously good news, especially if we’re talking about a ranking system, which basically means the top ranking will be wicked hard to obtain.
Upon completing the Challenge, you’ll earn urns – say that three times fast – that grant you added power. Feel free to select your favorite upgrades; mix and match style, because unlike the original’s costume unlockables, you’ll actually be able to customize your new power with this one. Finally, as one final gift from the developers, anything you collect in the Challenge will be accessible during the main quest, and that’s a definite bonus. If you include the fact that the Challenge took almost as much time as the primary adventure itself for many gamers (we're being sarcastic here, of course), all of this is good news. Just remember not to "power-level" your way to an easy victory, ya bunch of cheaters!
The game will likely be the prettiest ever on the PS2, we won’t reveal any spoilers concerning the story (we don’t have many specifics, anyway) but it should be great, the combat is clearly getting a healthy boost in terms of depth, and the environmental interaction should be as stunning as ever. Taking a look at the most recent screenshots and hearing everything we've heard about this sequel, we have to believe we’re looking at another spectacular game. Keep it here for more info, and make sure to check out our review when we get our hands on this bad boy!
1/15/2007 Ben Dutka