Yesterday I talked through my experiences with Zelda – having played the game from beginning to end I felt pretty qualified to comment on it. Things take a change of tone with a game that some of you might have heard me talk about before..
God of War 2
It goes without saying that I was keen as mustard to get my hands on the full version of this game. I’d played through the US demo a few weeks before release and it told me all I wanted to know. Everything I’d enjoyed so much in the original would return in abundance.
One of the most joyous things with God of War is that is eschews all this self masturbatory talk of ‘innovation’, ‘pushing the envelope’, ‘never before seen..’ stuff and just says “Fuck you. I ain’t pretending to be new I’m just the best at what I do”. In fact, this mentality is pretty much the tone for both games. Now, if they were false claims then you could mock but, frankly, GoW1 was the best at what it did until GoW2 came along.
Once again, let’s not bother to set the scene with the narrative. Greek mythology is a rich seam of ideas that can be exploited for videogames. But at the end of the day, you’re a bald, angry man with a mean set of cutlery. You run, you jump, you slice, you dice, your grunt an awful lot and the game glorifies everything you do every step of the way.
Everything in God of War is epic. The scale of Kratos’ challenge. The heat of his anger. The herculean struggle to open a treasure chest. It’s all gloriously over the top and communicated to the player in perfect effect. The sense of empowerment, the sheer bad-assness of the protagonist gives the game incredible momentum.
Another of GoWs skills is taking this momentum and doing all it can to keep it running. Loading time is almost non-existent. Saves and interface interruptions (such as spending your power-ups) are less intrusive than before. The game flows beautifully. There is no time where you feel “This is the end of level 4 and the start of level 5” – it’s all one flowing experience. This is easiest to spot in the sequel’s new modes of gameplay – the Pegasus (actually, Pegasus was the name of a winged horse, not an entire breed of horse.) Most games would have a clearly defined beginning and end transition between regular gameplay and the transition to this new mode. GoW handles it seamlessly and, before you really know what’s going on, the majestic camera has swooped around the scene and you’re up in the air. Likewise, the end of this gameplay mode literally throws you back onto your feet and the pace of the game continues without missing a beat. The constant pace of the game really enforces Kratos’ determination and unrelenting nature. It’s brilliantly executed and, in the best possible way, something most gamers simply won’t notice.
As we all know by now, technically, GoW2 appears to have little regard for the technical limitations of the aging PlayStation 2 and coaxes the silicon into doing things it simply shouldn’t be doing. A lot of this is present in the depth and detail of the environments. Some of these are mind-boggling inventions of pure fantasy. One particular point is when Kratos finds himself scaling a titan – we see him clinging to a rocky surface and, as the camera pulls away, further and further and further we can see that Kratos is actually clambering across the bridge of the nose of said titan and will continue to run around it’s face and other areas. Such over-the-top, huge-scale, impossible concepts are what videogames used to be all about. Doing the crazy, impossible, unheard of things that most of us couldn’t even imagine. Over the years we’ve done a lot of that and found solace in driving real cars or pretending we’re great skateboarders – but here’s a game where they’ve managed to think up some stuff that is so wild that, even with the best descriptions in the world, you simply have to play it to do it justice. Credit here goes as much to the imagination of designers just for the concept as much as the technical and artistic skill for realising it.
As I mentioned yesterday, a game that surprises by delivering something more or different from expectations is what makes me remember it. In that regard, even though GoW is a sequel and therefore has a huge degree of familiarity to it, there are countless times when I was just bowled over by things I simply did not expect to happen.
The game plays much like it’s prequel. The mix of lateral thinking puzzles and over-the-top combat is handled better than in the original and, no, there’s no rotating columns of spikes in this game. Having said that, those infamous spikes never game me much trouble in the original.
God of War 2 is for fans of the original. It does everything a sequel should do. If you’re not a fan of the first, this won’t convert you. Then again, it’s belligerently not trying to convert you. It knows what it is and if you don’t like that then it doesn’t give a damn.
As Penny Arcade said: Every other game is the joke. God of War 2 is the punchline.
I look forward to an equally confident and playable sequel.