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God of War 2 (PS2)

Rated: 18

Story: You are Kratos, an irritable and savage warrior of Sparta. After traveling ancient Greece in the first game, smashing lots of heads, re-writing mythology and battering Aries with a bridge, you've been newly promoted to God of War. Being a few hundred feet tall, you decide to wreak havoc on the world by stomping on cities and leading the Spartan army to domination.

That plan lasts until about the end of the first cutscene. Then you're back to normal size and must travel ancient Greece re-writing mythology again. Unsurprisingly, this involves smashing lots of heads.

Gameplay: God of War 2 is a third-person action game with block-and-lever puzzles, platforming and a heavy emphasis on fighting. It's just like the first game, in fact, with some extra weapons, even bigger bosses and almost as much frustrating, instant death. There are also a couple of into-the-screen flying sections but they're not that great.

On the plus side, you get to smack Perseus in the face a lot.

Save System: There are regular checkpoints that you return to when you die but progress can only be saved in certain locations that are often half an hour apart. Several times, I spent ten minutes hacking my way through a horde of enemies only to get stuck because I didn't see a lever or know where to go. I would have liked to come back another time (you know, when I wasn't already supposed to be in bed) but I had to keep going because I couldn't save. Grrr.

Comments: Yep, more of the same. I enjoyed the first game well enough but the endless minion mashing combat was wearing thin by the end. I was dubious about whether I could be bothered with the sequel but, with my 360 broken and PS2 releases fading away, I wasn't left with many other options. Fortunately, teeth-grindingly lethal platform sections and repetitive hack-a-thons aren't as frequent this time around. Less fortunately, the game is longer, so the actual numbers of these sections feels similar to before.

The puzzles vary wildly in quality. Some offer Tomb Raider levels of exploration and thought. Most, though, are more a question of laborious trial-and-error. Others have obvious solutions but incredibly tight time limits. They all feel a little old fashioned.

In a similar fashion, the bosses are very traditional - find the pattern, open up the weak-spot, hit it, repeat until dead. Some bosses also require a button matching sequence to finish them off. These are occasionally infuriating and the one at the end of the final battle drove me barmy.

The cutscenes are entertaining and keep interest going but the story suffers from second-part-of-a-trilogy syndrome. There are constant back references to the first game which I didn't entirely follow and then the thing ended without a conclusion.

Visually, the game is spectacular, with epic settings, huge draw distances, enormous enemies and plenty happening on screen at once. Much of the incentive to continue comes from wanting to see what's coming next. Some sections do drag, though. This was exacerbated for me because I'm no good at this kind of game - I can't remember button combos or time them right. (Devil May Cry told me I was rubbish pretty quickly and offered me a secret easy mode. Even then, I couldn't manage my way past the first boss). This meant I was doing a lot of manic button bashing for a large part of the game. Personally, I could have done with a little less head smashing and a few more decent puzzles.

Conclusion: It's a tough call. God of War 2 has plenty of great moments but they're padded out with tedium. If you've played the first one, you know exactly what to expect.

Graphics: Given the impressive level of detail and sense of scale, you could probably convince people this is a PS3 game (on a normal telly, at least). The graphics engine does struggle to keep up sometimes, however, resulting in occasional slow-down and quite a lot of tearing.

Length: Medium.

Rating: 3/5.

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