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Critical Reception: Sony's God of War II

This week's edition of Critical Reception examines online reaction to Sony's God of War II, sequel to one of the highest-selling and best-received titles in the PlayStation 2's software library - full reviews round-up for Sony's last major PS2 firs
This week's edition of the regular Critical Reception column examines online reaction to Sony's God of War II, sequel to one of the highest-selling and best-received titles in the PlayStation 2's software library. Few doubted that this highly anticipated sequel would fail to live up to the standards set by the original 2005 release, and thus far, Gamerankings.com has yet to receive a single God of War II review scored below 90%. Currently, the game averages a review score ratio of 95% among all sources cited. GameSpy's Gabe Graziani is confident that God of War II earns a perfect score of 5 out of 5 stars, even when considering the many strengths of its prequel. "How could God of War II possibly live up to the successes of its predecessor?" he asks. "The answer, my friends, is astonishing, because GoW II completely eclipses its forefather by adding even more of the stuff that we loved, namely: blood, puzzles, cinematic presentation and fifteen minute long combos." "I'd be remiss if I didn't mention God of War II's storyline as one of the major draws of the title," Graziani notes in particular. "Simply put, this game rivals Hollywood as far as production values and artistry are concerned. Each snippet of Kratos' infernal struggle is lovingly crafted and the mood of the game positively pours out of the television screen. It's just unbelievably gorgeous." Graziani's review isn't entirely positive, however. "Ultimately, the only real criticism that I have of God of War II is that it tends to get a little cheap in the final stages," he remarks. "When you have to pull a crank through several rotations in order to lift a platform, but these little imp creatures won't give you five seconds without hurling a firebolt that knocks you to the ground (and steals every bit of progress you've made on pulling that pesky crank), you'll know what I'm talking about." Regardless, Graziani gives the title his highest recommendation. "God of War II is an awesome experience full of all the things that made the original so mind-blowingly rad," he concludes. "In these last days of the PS2, you just couldn't do any better than God of War II." Alex Navarro at GameSpot agrees. "It's hard to imagine a better swan song for the PlayStation 2 than God of War II," he states in his review, scored at 9.2 out of 10. "Though it's not destined to be the very last game for the system, it doesn't seem likely that anything else will come along in the coming months to trump what God of War II achieves." These achievements are numerous, according to Navarro. "God of War II is a brilliantly paced, tightly crafted piece of work that's as intelligently designed as it is thrilling to play," he says. "In short, it's exactly what you would want from a sequel to God of War." Navarro's biggest complaint is that the sequel misses several opportunities to expand upon its combat system. "It's a bit disappointing that more wasn't done to the combat engine this time around," he critiques. "Kratos still looks extremely hardcore as he whips his dual blades around in every direction and murders everything in sight, but at its core, the combat feels pretty much identical to the last game, in that it's prone to button mashing and can be easygoing." "By the end of God of War II's 12 to 15 hour journey, you'll find yourself a mixture of exhausted, overjoyed, and a bit frustrated," Navarro summarizes. "You'll only be frustrated in the sense that the game doesn't wrap things up in an especially neat fashion and leaves you hanging for the inevitable next sequel." "That the quality of the adventure is so high makes up for this one indiscretion," he admits. "Simply put, it's easily one of the best action adventure games of the last console generation, and it even trumps much of what has been shown in the current generation. For fans of the first game, and fans of bloody, violent, exciting action in general, God of War II shouldn't be missed." At Yahoo! Games, reviewer Russ Fischer awards God of War II with another perfect score of 5 out of 5 stars. "It's both an ideal sequel to an amazing game and a perfect standalone achievement," he writes. "The Olympian sense of wonder starts within five minutes and never lets up until you've put the entire story to bed. If the inexorable pull of a new console generation has to force closure on the PlayStation 2 era, there's no better finale than this." "There's nothing in God of War II that feels arbitrary," he continues. "Every power and event is inexorably linked to the story. The puzzles are better integrated, and there are few tension-breaking cutscenes. Moments of exposition are integrated right into the action in a way that frustratingly few games manage." Smaller gameplay details have also gone through a number of tweaks. "Other mechanics have been refined as well," Fischer explains. "Wall climbing is easier and more accommodating to combat. And large battle set-pieces featuring face-button prompts have been given a slightly better sense of timing." "God of War II is the strongest game to hit the PS2 this year, and should be high on the list of best games on the system, period," Fischer concludes. "The days of the PlayStation 2 may be numbered, but it's rare that a console is able to go out on such a high note." Meeting with such an overwhelmingly positive reception from critics, God of War II should by almost all accounts duplicate the success of the original God of War, if not surpass it. The PlayStation 2 has hosted a number of quality titles since its release more than seven years ago, and God of War II appears to offer an appropriate send-off to Sony's venerable console.

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