God of War II
(Sony Computer Entertainment; PlayStation 2)
GAMER The sequel to the best game of 2005 may not be the best game of 2007, but that's only because Shadow of the Colossus ruined all games for all time by boiling adventuring nerdery down to an unheard-of, almost new-age minimalism. That game ruled. There is nothing minimal about God of War II: it's actually gorier, with even more expansive cut scenes than before, seamless game play, and volcanic brutality.
Your guy, Kratos, decides to go after Zeus and along the way encounters such old pals as Gorgons, minotaurs, and Cyclopes, with some new creeps thrown in, such as a hammer-wielding berserker who is really fun to decapitate. You also meet up with and kill Perseus, free the Phoenix, and rip off Icarus's wings. Practically every well-known myth is represented. They release the kraken, for crying out loud! Fun, fun, fun.
More of God of War II relies on instantaneous button sequences followed by merciless button mashing than its predecessor, which is OK if you're part of this new generation of alien children born grappling PlayStation 2 controllers. But for the old, motor skilldeteriorated rest of us, it can be a living hell. Just lifting gates can be murder. You certainly get the feeling that the makers of the game had this in mind when they designed it. There was a lot of me muttering, "You dicks," at the TV. In fact, on the bonus making-of documentary that came with the first game, the main creator, David Jaffe, made a few comments about being bummed that some superhard levels had to be cut. This time around, the makers seem to have thrown every possible thing in there to make beating level bosses a nightmare, but somehow they don't make the difficulty too much to bear. As tough as some of the levels were, I was never overwhelmed with frustration, a daily occurrence for me with God of War I. I said, "What the hell? I can't beat this guy," a couple times, but then all of a sudden, the guy was dead, and I wasn't even sure what I did.
If anything, the game is too short, with more puzzles than fighting, yet you don't think of that while playing because you're having too much fun. And admittedly, it's not that easy. I did throw and break one of my controllers at one point. It's just over kinda quick. The problem is, it's so fun being Kratos, any ending is gonna be a letdown. There just isn't another character in video games who kills with his ferocity and variety of methods. The guy kills everybody. (Mike McGuirk)