This game takes place where God of War left off, with Kratos causing mayhem as the new God of War by ordering his Spartans to attack Rhodes. Zeus doesn't really like how uppity Kratos has gotten, so he uses his powers to shrink the gargantuan god-Kratos down to normal human size and animate the Colossus of Rhodes (Kratos, however, initially believes Athena does all this). And that's where the game starts: with Kratos facing down the Colossus. In fact, the whole level is really just one big boss battle, culminating in a segment where Kratos destroys the Colossus from the inside. Let me tell you, it feels awesome.
This is the best part in the game.
The combat is an interesting specimen, since how enjoyable it is varies not by what Kratos is doing, but by what Kratos is fighting. The more awesome my opponent was, the more I enjoyed the combat. Undead barbarian with a big-ass hammer? Fun! Skeletons? Eh...not so much. This is precisely why no other moment in the game lives up to the greatness of the first level. Nothing is really quite as amazing as fighting an animated statue that's over 100 times bigger than you and follows you around the entire level. To be fair, there are still some pretty incredible moments sprinkled throughout the game, but even most of those pale in comparison to the Colossus. Ironically, what became Assassin's Creed''s downfall could have made God of War II better—repetition. Sure, you get new weapons and spells and can upgrade everything in your repertoire, and I guess that's fun. But like I said before, none of it really seems interesting unless you're fighting an opponent that's interesting, which occurs a little less than half the time; and the majority of those fights are against bosses or minibosses.
"Alright, gentlemen. We want to have Kratos ride a pegasus, but how do we make it not look sissy?"
"Uh...light it on fire and stick a blade on its tail?"
"Give this man a raise!"
Also awkward are the quick-time events, where the game segues into cinematic beatdowns that let Kratos show off his moves. Virtually all control is wrested from the player, which would be perfectly fine if it weren't for a couple niggling problems. Instead of sitting back and enjoying the show, the player has to press partially randomized buttons at certain times or fail the QTE. During most battles, failing usually means taking some damage and being forced to do the QTE over again, which is perfectly reasonable. However, the fun quickly gives way to frustration when failing equals instant death. This is exactly what the final QTE does. In fact, that one is a perfect example of what a QTE should not do. Not only is it a "failure = death" event, but it also happens right after a cutscene (which you have to watch every time you retry the QTE), and almost all of the button presses seem arbitrary. Remember how I said the buttons were partially randomized? That means that if a certain part of the QTE requires you to press a face button (circle, square, triangle, or X), it might be a different face button the next time, but it'll never be a shoulder button (R1, R2, L1, and L2). In other words, memorization won't help you as often as you'd think it would. So guess what the final QTE is mostly composed of! Yep, that's right. Face buttons. That single QTE took me longer to beat than most of the bosses did. Brilliant, guys. Make my final memory of your game one of incredible frustration.
Not shown here: Kratos brutally mauling Icarus to steal those wings.
Dear Game Developers,
Please rip off Shadow of the Colossus more often. Thanks.