God of War II PlayStation 2
Published by Sony Computer Entertainment Europe
Developed by Sony Computer Entertainment America
Release Date: Out Now
Perhaps one of the biggest surprises of 2006 was the announcement that God of War II was to be developed for the PlayStation 2. With the original game being such a smash hit and with the PlayStation 3 on the horizon, it was thought by many that the game would make an appearance on the PS3 and not the PlayStation 2. Of course it makes perfect economic sense for the game to be on the PlayStation 2 because with over 100 million of the consoles in circulation and the fans of the original game ready to purchase a sequel, it was always going to sell a lot more on the PlayStation 2 than it was on the PlayStation 3. Still you have to admit it would have given the PlayStation 3 a real ace so early in its lifespan. Of course as excellent as the first God of War was, it didn't cater for deaf gamers. Will this highly anticipated sequel be deaf gamer friendly?
God of War II, like God of War is a Greek mythology based, gore-filled hack n' slash action game that combines standard hack n' slash action with some truly epic boss fights. The game follows on from where the first game finished so we'll say here and now that you really ought to have played the first game before attempting this sequel. Kratos, now the God of War after killing Ares, isn't happy just sitting around and decides to leave the confines of Mount Olympus to head back down to earth to aid the Spartans in their efforts to seemingly crush everything in sight. The gods are not happy with Kratos' actions and he is stripped of his godly powers. To make matters worse Zeus manages to deceive Kratos and appears to kill him. Thankfully for Kratos he's not killed and manages to find help from a Titan named Gaia. It's decided that Zeus needs to be got rid of but to do this Kratos must enlist the help of the Sisters of Fate. Naturally the road to the Sisters of Fate is a long and arduous one that's absolutely filled with copious amounts of combat and boss fights.
The combat in God of War II is the heart and soul of the game. Sure, there are some puzzles to solve along the lines of finding switches to flick and blocks to push etc. but almost 99% of what you'll do in this game is fighting enemies. The enemies you'll face come in two categories. There are the standard enemies who you'll deal with in their hordes and then there are the boss fights. Fighting the standard enemies is practically a case of button bashing your way through the hordes using a variety of combos and special moves. There isn't much of a strategy where they are concerned although you'll probably make use of the right analogue stick (that performs evasive manoeuvres) from time to time, particularly with those who used ranged weapons. Kratos has access to several weapons during the game and each of these can be levelled-up with the red orbs that are collected from the slain enemies. As the weapons are levelled-up you'll have access to more combo moves. Kratos also has access to magical attacks and again these can be levelled-up. Kratos can also perform finishing moves.
The many standard enemies you'll face in the game aren't what gives the game its appeal. As we've just mentioned, dealing with them is, for the most part, a case of button bashing. The boss battles are a different story entirely though and require you to think about what you're doing and finding your enemy's weak spot. At key stages of the battle you'll have sequences where you need to press specific buttons at the correct time in order to hurt the boss. You'll also have to use your surroundings and work out how to avoid certain attacks as some are immensely powerful and could kill Kratos quite easily. Thankfully the game creates a temporary checkpoint before a boss encounter so should you make a complete mess of it you are given the opportunity to immediately fight the boss again without having to make your way from the previous save point. Should you make a mess of the boss battles several times in succession, the game will even offer to turn down the difficulty setting. The game includes four difficulty settings with the most difficult of all, Titan, being unavailable for your first play through which is just as well as it's excruciatingly painful.
Over the course of the PlayStation 2's lifespan it's quite amazing how the graphical quality of the games has differed so greatly. Some of the games look only slightly better than mediocre PlayStation titles whilst others have really pushed the system to the limits. In fact God of War II isn't that far away from looking like a PlayStation 3 title and has to be regarded as the pinnacle of graphical quality on the PlayStation 2. The game simply looks amazing. The levels are huge and are well designed but it's the sense of scale that will really amaze. The boss fights are stunning and especially impressive with the bosses usually being many times larger than those you've faced in most games to date. In fact only Shadow of the Colossus springs to mind in having enemies that come anywhere near to being as impressive. Given the level of detail on display it's amazing there aren't any real performance issues. The game doesn't let you control the camera angle and gives you a fixed viewpoint instead. Most of the time this works really well but there are a few occasions when your view of the action could have been better.
So far it's all very impressive then but when we look at how suitable the game is for deaf gamers, disappointment begins to rear its ugly head. The real problem is that the game does not offer any subtitles. In most games this is very disappointing but in God of War II it's crushingly so. Deaf gamers will simply have no idea of the dialogue in this epic tale and that's simply all wrong. What really irks me about this is that the developers were bothered to display all of the tutorial messages in text and yet did not think it worthwhile to include subtitles. Why? During the game you'll come across a variety of chests, gates and other objects that can be interacted with and an icon showing you what button needs to be pressed to interact with the object in question is displayed. During the boss fights, as well as several action sequences, you'll need to press specific buttons at the correct times to perform manoeuvres and again an icon showing you which button you need is displayed. Deaf gamers can still play God of War 2 without any real problems but you have to ask yourself why they should, when no provision has been made to allow them to enjoy the game in its entirety.
Many will view God of War II as a superb swansong for the PlayStation 2. Of course it certainly would be but given the unbelievable popularity of the console and its capacity to still sell very nicely indeed you can't help but feel that it will continue to be Sony's main console for the foreseeable future. Even so it's difficult to imagine the PlayStation 2 having many better games than God of War II added to its ever-increasing catalogue of games. The harsh reality of it though is that the game does nothing to endear itself to deaf gamers. Deaf gamers will miss out on the entire story and all of the game's dialogue. Yes it's still a great game to consider for deaf gamers but it's unfair that they should have a lesser experience and miss out on the entire story. Even with this rather large disappointment though, it's still a game that's difficult for fans of the action game genre to ignore.
God of War II is one of the PlayStation 2's most impressive titles and, as far as deaf gamers are concerned, one of its biggest disappointments.