God of War II
The first God of War was exciting and ambitious, but flawed. Its sequel doesn't fix all of its problems, but it is still an improvement on the formula and in most ways the better game. A lot of people will always like the original more because it was new, it was fresh, and all that. But I appreciate it when a sequel builds on the predecessor, refining what makes it great and dropping what didn't work, while making sure to keep it interesting and maybe taking it to the next level. They certainly do that with the scale and brutality in this game. At times it seems almost too epic, like when you leap from the back of a Pegasus onto a Griffin while flying thousands of feet in the air, slice off its wings and spike it to the earth below. The massive temple environments are extremely impressive, and the scale of your journey is just so much larger. A quest of vengeance against Ares seems pedestrian next to the goal of changing the course of time to defeat Zeus himself. The end sets up a third game to end the story arc brilliantly, and the sequel on PS3 has the potential to be amazing.
They added a lot more boss fights this time around, although a lot of them aren't as impressive as the ones in the first game. Fighting gigantic statues and sea creatures is awesome, but a lot are against people more your size and less interesting mechanically. None of them are bad though, and it's interesting how the game depicts you as killing off various famous Greek heroes and icons like the Colossus of Rhodes brought to life. Oh, so an angry dude took it down, not an earthquake. The combat was refined a little, and it was nice to see the inclusion of some new weapons, although none of them handled as well or as enjoyably as the classic chain blades. They added some new context sensitive maneuvers and platforming elements which mostly integrated well into the gameplay. I still think the inclusion of puzzle and adventure elements is what really makes God of War more enjoyable than the average button-mashing action game, and it's still a lot of fun. Unfortunately, they haven't run out of truly annoying ideas that make you want to grab the designer by the throat and ask him what the hell he was thinking. Combat is fun, but not when you have to do it to give yourself time to rotate a lever or something, and failing to do so quickly enough results in your death. It's not more exciting, it's just irritating, frustrating garbage. At least that stuff is limited to a much smaller role than in the first game. What they were able to still do with the PS2 hardware is incredible, and it's a terrific finale for the console.