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So THIS is Sparta. Blood, guts, gore, battles, and violence. Greece was a turbulent place full of myths and legends…and with that kind of mythology comes movies, comic books and, of course, video games. This week we’re taking a look at two such games (one of which is based on a movie that’s based on a comic book…that’s based on a movie about a legend). Get ready for some hardcore gore, this is just about as violent as it gets.

OH GOD YOU DEVIL

gowII.jpgIn 2005, Sony released one of its most epic, violent and storied games ever. Now, two years later we finally get a sequel to that tale of revenge and betrayal, and we come to find that there’s more of the same…and that’s not a bad thing at all. GOD OF WAR II is bigger, badder, and has more revenge and betrayal in it than you can shake a Barbarian Hammer at.

When last we saw Kratos, the Ghost of Sparta, he had killed Ares and become the new God of War. Now, full of power and a thirst for blood, he leads his Spartan armies to lay waste to the other cities of Greece. The Gods don’t take too kindly to this, and Zeus tricks Kratos into giving up his godly powers. Betrayed, Kratos seeks vengeance upon all the Gods of Olympus (but mainly Zeus), and is aided by the mother of the world, Gaia, to bring down the son of Kronos once and for all.

To say that the game is riddled with mythology is a bit of an understatement. All the familiar characters from High School Mythology Class make an appearance, from Theseus and the Steeds of Time, to the Sister of Fate and their threads, to Icarus, who flew too close to the sun on wax wings…and Kratos encounters them all…in his own unique fashion.

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The gameplay remains mostly the same from the previous title. Kratos uses his Athena Swords to hack, slash, gut, eviscerate and disembowel everything in his path. As he kills, red orbs are collected and used to upgrade his weapons and gain new combo attacks and powers. He also gains new weapons as he quests, such as a giant Barbarian Hammer, a mystic bow, and the Golden Fleece (used to project attacks back at his foes). All the while, the level design shines as the most innovative and epic looking stages not seen in a game since…well, since the last God of War.

The timed button sequences have returned as well, where once Kratos has taken a foes life down to a certain point, hitting the circle button triggers a sequence where the player must match button commands on screen in order to take down the enemy once and for all. This time around they seem more intuitive, and definitely a bit more graphic than before. You haven’t lived until you’ve pulled a Cyclops’ eye right out of its foul head.

If there was one complaint I would have with the game, however, is that while everything seems familiar, yet improved in most aspects, the one area that needed refreshing was the enemy character designs. Many foes from the last game are back, and although there are a few new ones, this is one area where I’d like to have seen a whole slew of new baddies, not just an occasional one or two. Still, what’s there is viscous and violent, and there’s plenty of gore to go around.

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It’s impossible to talk enough about this game, but this review needs to end somewhere. Let me just leave it to say that if you enjoyed the first game, the second will strengthen your love for the series. While the motive for revenge isn’t as strong as the last time, and there nearly aren’t enough plot twists and reveals as last time, there is still much to be had. A great story, great gameplay and overall great game are here just waiting for you to quest for them.

One Gamer’s Opinion:
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GLORY BOUND…BUT NOT THERE YET

300mtg.jpgIn the movie 300, the King of Sparta leads his 300 “bodyguards” against an invasion from Xerxes, the God-King and his army of over one hundred thousand strong. Based on the Frank Miller graphic novel, the film has a lush visual style and a graphic nature that lends itself well to the ideal of a video game. Unfortunately, the game we get, 300: MARCH TO GLORY for the PSP, doesn’t quite live up to the standards set by the graphic novel and film.

When watching the film, many sequences will remind viewers of such games as PRINCE OF PERSIA and to a small extent GOD OF WAR. However, the game itself is nothing more than a pale hack and slash effort with some mild innovation. While the visual look of the game mirrors the graphic novel well, the style of the film isn’t captured nearly as well here, and those looking for an extension of the film might be a tad disappointed.

The story follows the film in the same way, beginning at the Hot Gates and fighting the Persians in the nook of the craggy rocks, but all this entails is slashing with your sword, a few shield bashes, and that’s it. There are a few moments when the enemy’s arrows “blot out the sun” and by holding down the L and R buttons, you can tuck tail underneath your shield for shelter, but these are few and far between. There are even a few phalanx sequences, where your army pushes ahead with spears and shields to stop the advance of enemy forces (and Elephants) but something about each gameplay missions feels incomplete.

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Maybe it’s the lack of a jump button. In the film, you see Spartans leaping and slashing, attacking with wild abandon and finesse…in the game, you just hack, slash, block, repeat. Sure, some sequences from the film are repeated in game graphics…but you don’t really control those.

It’s not a horrible game, mind you…just a horribly repetitive one. Had the developers taken just a little more time with it (rather than, oh, trying to make a buck with a tie-in) we could have gotten a game on the same level as the film. What we’re left with, however, is just a reminder that we’d rather watch the movie.

One Gamer’s Opinion:
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Well kids, that’s it for this week. The new releases are starting to pick up again, so the next few weeks should have some good news and reviews for you. See you next time.

THE GAME ON! RATING SYSTEM

 

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Ratings From Greatest to Least:

Kick Ass, Right On, Okay, Eh, and Stinker (aka CRAPTACULAR)

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