God of War is bigger, badder and bloodier in this sequel.
Fighting, platforming and puzzles are the order of Kratos' journey, following a balanced rhythm that combines the finest elements into a mix of bloody battles that not only require fast reflexes, but quick wits as well. The button combinations that come when enemies suffer are certain amount of damage are back from the original game, with random actions that need to be inputted in order to finish off Kratos' victim in diverse, and mostly gruesome ways. New in God of War II is the presence of collectible cyclops eyes that unlock bonus content if these combos are executed correctly when facing one of these tough enemies. In a way, the combat is even more brutal in this sequel, while retaining the original's appeal that made it an incredibly fun and rewarding game to master. In terms of weapons, throughout the game, a hammer and a lance will become available. Although not as out of the way as the Artemis' sword from the original game, these still work more like sub-weapons to the pair of Athenas' chain blades, Kratos' main armament. The same can be said about the new magic introduced in God of War II. While some of the magic gained becomes increasingly more useful as you plain, like the earthquake magic and the medusa gaze, while others, namely the electric discharge, is left aside as you level up and gain more additions to your magic catalog.
Some of Kratos' sensitive actions got tweaked, making the game more streamlined, switching in the controlled the buttons needed to open doors and chests, or use magic. Gone are the sometimes awkward R1 and L2 combinations, or the cumbersome magic switching. Now, the R2 button acts as the main context sensitive control, with the occasional need to use circle. Magic is activated with L2, and Rage of the Titans, God of War II's version of the old Rage of the Gods becomes active while simultaneously pressing R3 and L3. Among the new game play options comes the flying section early on in the game, that heavily uses these 'quick time events', while Kratos rides the skies from one point to the other. While not being the most creative addition ever, this flying section is just as intense as the rest of the game, even more on higher difficulty levels.
Just like God of War, this sequel presents variable difficulty options, with an extreme option available after the game is finished for the first time. The main draw to tackling these are the game's bonuses that can be unlocked, mainly optional costumes for Kratos. Not only that, scattered throughout God of War II's levels are jars that grant various 'cheat' options to the game, like infinite magic. These jars, however, can only be used while playing in the same difficulty setting that was used to unlock them.
Graphically, God of War II shows how much the PlayStation 2 got pushed during its life cycle. Character models are very detailed, with some top notch texture work all around. Even low polygon count structure models look stunning due to the great care that was obviously taken to the detailing of textures. Kratos himself is as tough as ever, and animates just as fluidly as the bloody massacres he causes during fights. Enemies in pain and dying struggle believably, and transitions between moves, even parried strikes, occur without lock-ups, in a natural way. The locales themselves are just gorgeous looking that look immense, even if most of the scenery can't be reached directly. The fixed camera perspective provides a huge scope, and leaves the action unhindered. It always thrusts Kratos to his new objective, clearing showing objectives, with quick close ups, for an example, to a switch that needs to be activated in order to proceed. The only noticeable problem is the occasional presence of vertical synchronization, which causes screen tear when moving too quickly and the camera tries to catch up to Kratos.
Like a big Hollywood blockbuster, as the original God of War, the sound work is incredible. TC Carson and Linda Hunt reprise the roles of Kratos and the narrator, respectively, in all their over the top glory. Some notable additions make their presence heard, literally, like Michael Clark Duncan, who plays the titan Atlas, and Harry Hamlin, reprising his cult classic Perseus role from Clash of the Titans. The music is just as epic as the original's, with heavy orchestral scores and chorals, that the sound and visual experience with intense tunes playing during tough spots in the action, relaxing as Kratos gets a breather.
While the story tilts and tumbles around, leaving a huge cliffhanger for an obvious sequel. Along with God of War II's game disc, there is a separate bonus DVD presents 'making of' and developer interview videos, with some insight into the game's development cycle, like deleted levels, concept art ideas and beta testing towards the actual game release. Just like God of War's bonus video content that featured the charismatic Dave Jaffe, God of War II's Corey Burton carries the torch in enjoyable and interesting footage.
God of War II neither tries to invent the wheel nor ride it without worries - it continues the excellent legacy of the original, in a brutal, bloody and incredibly satisfying way. With more boss battles, grander scale and challenges, it proves that a sequel can in fact improve on the quality of its original game, raising the bar even higher.