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Videogames-To-Flix #34

05.11.2007

VIDEOGAMES-TO-FLIX is a JoBlo.com column showcasing reviews of videogame translations of Hollywood films (or games soon-to-become Hollywood movies). With both industries getting closer and closer, and videogames, in general, getting so much more popular, you knew it was just a matter of time before we hit that stuff!

GOD OF WAR II

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Developer: SCE Santa Monica
Publisher: SCEA
Systems: PlayStation 2

INTRODUCTION:

The GOD OF WAR franchise is incredibly important to Sony. GOD OF WAR I was a tremendous financial and critical success. In an era where most titles are available on multiple platforms, GOD OF WAR is the cornerstone, exclusive franchise for the Sony consoles. When Sony released GOD OF WAR II in March, the world took notice and bought the title en masse. GOD OF WAR II continues to be the best selling game of the year and an indicator that the PlayStation 2 is not dead.

GOD OF WAR II continues the story of Kratos, a Spartan warrior that kills Ares, the Greek God of War, and takes his place. GOD OF WAR II expunges Kratos' prequel powers and forces this once-again human to face off with Zeus. After initially losing to Zeus, Kratos battles with hundreds of nameless minions and a solid group of known mythological figures (like Icarus and Theseus). Overall, the story told in GOD OF WAR is fascinatingly classical in nature but also original to the format. While I may have issues with the structure of the game, the story never left me disinterested.

GAMEPLAY:

This game has been out for long enough that everyone and their mom has contributed a review of it. Most of the time, these reviews have top tier scores, like a 9 out of 10 or higher. I'd very likely be in the same camp if the gameplay wasn't a disappointment. GOD OF WAR II is visually 3D but functionally less so. While Kratos can run around the levels in three dimensions, the player has absolutely zero control over the camera. Puzzle solving in a fixed environment is frustrating and a technique that should have been left in the stone ages of game design.

Even worse are the limitations on the surroundings and excessive invisible walls. You see, your character Kratos is an all powerful bad ass whose game consists of climbing and jumping, but can't jump off a cliff to his death. Or merely climb a small pillar to work around a more complex problem. In this generation of design, the player should be able to do almost anything in a game that you can do in real life. If you are sick of a stupid puzzle or frustrating enemy, you should be able to kill yourself in a dramatic way.

Another annoying frustration of GOD OF WAR II is the endless barrage of turn-style switches. For a majority of puzzles, Kratos has to turn a switch clockwise in order to drop an object, unlock a door, or some other cliché game puzzle. Beyond the repetitive use of this device, actually getting Kratos to grab the switch and turn it in the correct direction is problematic. I don't mind figuring out puzzles, but when button presses aren't adequately integrated into the game, I'm going to get pissed off. The most important part of great gameplay is insuring that the controller acts like an extension of the player's mind. GOD OF WAR II could have used more polish in this realm.

On the positive side of things (and there are plenty more I'm not going to mention), the variety of attacks available are astounding and fun. Granted, you'll probably stick with your favorites more often than not, there's enough options that you'll tend to mix and match like you'd play TONY HAWK'S PRO SKATER. Overall, gameplay in GOD OF WAR II is the game's Achilles Heel. It has some elements that are way above average, but not enough to make up for the major screw ups in camera control and button integration.

Gameplay: 7.8/10

GRAPHICS:

Reviewing a game this late is usually an unenviable task because the pros have already decided how good a game really is. In this case, I benefited from my late review. Recently a button code was revealed that unlocks a HD mode of GOD OF WAR II. While the standard graphics of GOD OF WAR II are pretty good, the HD version is vastly superior. Although it is annoying to "unlock" this mode every time you play, it is worth the effort. Although the game still has jaggies here and there, GOD OF WAR II still presents a higher standard of graphics for the PS2.

Disregarding the resolution of the graphics, GOD OF WAR II has a great sense of scale. Solving puzzles on huge objects is presented effortlessly and adds plenty of reality to this bizarre mystical realm. In addition to the puzzles having a great sense of scale, the bosses also prove to be dauntingly large. Fighting the Colossus and Zeus are awe-inducing events only affected by the shrinking of Kratos. Its pretty cool to see the bosses on such a scale, but rendering on such a scale has to sacrifice the glory that is Kratos.

Finally, the cut scenes and in game vignettes are some of the best around (on the PS2). Seeing Kratos fully rendered in CGI is convincing and the perfect example of how video games can go toe-to-toe with modern cinema. The cut scenes in GOD OF WAR II are the perfect demo reel to pitch the cinematic version of this game.

Graphics: 8.8/10

SOUND:

Like the graphics, a lot of time was spent insuring that GOD OF WAR II sounded like a top tier game. The music for the game is grandiose when it needs to be and subtle where it should. Never did I find myself tilting my head to the side wondering why a certain tune was playing when it was.

The voice work in the cut scenes and actual gameplay were expectedly soap opera level work. T. C. Carson, the voice of Kratos, does a fantastic job performing loudly and with the right level of panache. His delivery is perfect for the character, but is hindered by the over-riding campiness of the story. It is kind of hard to imagine general moviegoers accepting some of the silly acting from this game if it makes it to the movies. While in the game world, hamwork like this is the norm, regular movie audiences might bristle at these over-the-top performances.

Sound: 8.9/10

FINAL VERDICT:

Expectations were incredibly high for GOD OF WAR II. While financially this game is a huge hit, I can't finish this review without saying I was left somewhat disappointed. GOD OF WAR II is still a phenomenal accomplishment on the graphics front and an incredible example of how a huge budget can generate an A-list title. However, the one memory I'll keep with me is the frustrating controls. A marquee title like this should have allowed full camera control, tighter button response, and believable surroundings. If you're going to go to the trouble to draw a ledge, make it functional. Don't tease me with multiple possible paths when there's only one asinine answer. Most importantly, if you're going to make 95% of the gameplay puzzle solving, vary the puzzle and the elements of those puzzles. Take a look at LARA CROFT: TOMB RAIDER LEGEND for a great action/puzzle game that uses a variety of devices to test your brain without annoying.

Final Verdict: 8.5/10

STATUS OF THE MOVIE:

During the promotion of GOD OF WAR II, series creator David Jaffe commented that he'd love to see a GOD OF WAR movie. Currently a script is written, but no news on who would be distributing. Jaffe was quoted as saying Djimon Hounsou would be the perfect choice to play Kratos.

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