PopMatters is moving to WordPress. We will publish a few essays daily while we develop the new site. We hope the beta will be up sometime late next week.
Games

God of War II

Arun Subramanian

The God of War franchise is as over the top as an action movie -- there's no point in warning you not to try this at home, because you can't.


Publisher: Sony
Genres: Action/adventure
Price: $49.99
Multimedia: God of War II
Platforms: PlayStation 2
Number of players: 1
ESRB rating: Mature
Developer: Sony Santa Monica
US release date: 2007-03-13
Developer website

God of War II is the sequel to the critically acclaimed and commercially successful God of War for the PlayStation 2. The game's release comes at an interesting time, in that the recently released PlayStation 3 is struggling in adoption rate and in the critical success of its first batch of games. In that sense, it may seem odd that Sony has seen fit to release God of War II for the PS2, though the decision does make sense for a variety of reasons. For one, Sony consoles are notoriously difficult to program for, and by developing God of War II for the mature PS2, particularly given that the first game looked and played so well on the same console, and that this title does not stray far from the path forged by its predecessor, development focus has been well-placed in the level design and story of the game. What comes of this is a very accomplished sequel to an already great game.

Releasing a triple-A title like this speaks to Sony's promise to give the PS2 a full 10-year lifespan. Whether or not they deliver on that promise remains to be seen, but releasing God of War II for what could now be considered a previous-generation system is a good start. Other reviews have discussed God of War II well enough with respect to the normal sorts of video game rating criteria -- it looks, plays, and sounds great. The story is engaging and intense. There seems to be no need to expound on those facts any further than that. Rest assured, God of War II is extremely fun, and fans of the first game owe it to themselves to play the sequel. Rather, I'd like to discuss the franchise's approach to adult content in the context of the current state of the industry.

Seldom have there been more violent games than God of War and God of War II. These games also have more than their fare share of sexuality. Why, then, have they not been subject to the same scrutiny as other franchises? The original Mortal Kombat, now tame by comparison, received far more criticism and attention. That said, I remember vividly being stunned the first time I saw a fatality in the arcades, and perhaps in the span of many years, the fervor has faded. Certainly Mortal Kombat blazed a trail in terms of quasi-realistic (and particularly gruesome) violence in a game. So perhaps part of the reason that the God of War games haven't been controversial is simply that the times are different. It may be that the bar for when to get worked up over how a game might be affecting our children is a little higher than it used to be.

Which brings us to Grand Theft Auto. Indeed, we could discuss Rockstar Games in general, since aside from Table Tennis and Red Dead Revolver, nearly every one of their modern releases has had some measure of media (and sometimes political) scrutiny. But certainly the most influential and popular of their franchises is the 800 pound gorilla that is the Grand Theft Auto series. Part of what makes those games so fun, aside from their having popularized the "sandbox" style gameworld, is the element of cartoony realism to the mayhem at hand. I can't go into the street and start shooting passerby, stealing cars, driving into other vehicles, and generally causing severe chaos without serious consequences, both legally, emotionally, and physically. But in this game, I can do all of that, with relatively arcadey physics and no real consequences. That is why the protests over Grand Theft Auto are particularly loud, while those over God of War are relatively nonexistant. God of War is too far removed from reality. Is someone going to go rip the eyeball out of a cyclops and say a game made them did it? Certainly not.

If this is true, then in an effort to make a game that scratches the violent action itch of many a gamer, David Jaffe and the other minds behind God of War made a brilliant choice of locale. Certainly, religious texts of many faiths are filled with fascinating tales and bloody conflicts. But to single a practicing religion out for story fodder would be disastrous. Picking the world of Greek mythology, on the other hand, provides nearly endless possibilities for interpretations of stories, with almost no risk of offense from a religious standpoint. Further, as alluded to earlier, the game takes itself so seriously, that it comes off a touch tongue in cheek. It doesn't have a sense of humor in the way the the Grand Theft Auto games do. Those games make you giggle while inducing mayhem by tapping into something puerile (a notion reinforced by the talk radio programming, advertisements, and signs in the game). On the other hand, the God of War franchise is as over the top as an action movie. There's no point in warning you not to try this at home, because you can't. The smiles and glee that come from playing the game come from it's sheer intensity, as opposed to a wacky sense of humor that makes the violence more palatable.

For these reasons, in addition to the fact that it's a remarkably fun game, God of War II and its predecessor are worthy of discussion. They're prime examples of how to make a game well from the ground up, from the choice of source material all the way through development and marketing. At this point, all the franchise legitimately needs to worry about is overload. With a newly announced entry for the PSP along with a third in the home console franchise due for the PS3, hopefully the developers will be able to continue to deliver high quality experiences. For the time being, however, these are some of the best and most interesting action games being produced.

9

Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology and hosting provider that we have less than a month, until November 6, to move PopMatters off their service or we will be shut down. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to save the site.


Music

Books

Film

Recent
Books

Peter Guralnick's 'Looking to Get Lost' Is an Ode to the Pleasures of Writing About Music

Peter Guralnick's homage to writing about music, 'Looking to Get Lost', shows how good music writing gets the music into the readers' head.

Film

In Praise of the Artifice in George Cukor's 'Sylvia Scarlett'

George Cukor's gender-bending Sylvia Scarlett proposes a heroine who learns nothing from her cross-gendered ordeal.

Music

The Cure: Ranking the Albums From 13 to 1

Just about every Cure album is worth picking up, and even those ranked lowest boast worthwhile moments. Here are their albums, spanning 29 years, presented from worst to best.

Television

The 20 Best Episodes of 'Star Trek: The Original Series'

This is a timeless list of 20 thrilling Star Trek episodes that delight, excite, and entertain, all the while exploring the deepest aspects of the human condition and questioning our place in the universe.

Music

The 20 Best Tom Petty Songs

With today's release of Tom Petty's Wildflowers & All the Rest (Deluxe Edition), we're revisiting Petty's 20 best songs.

Joshua M. Miller
Music

The 11 Greatest Hits From "Greatest Hits" Compilations

It's one of the strangest pop microcosms in history: singles released exclusively from Greatest Hits compilations. We rounded 'em up and ranked 'em to find out what is truly the greatest Greatest Hit of all.

Music

When Punk Got the Funk

As punks were looking for some potential pathways out of the cul-de-sacs of their limited soundscapes, they saw in funk a way to expand the punk palette without sacrificing either their ethos or idea(l)s.

Music

20 Hits of the '80s You Might Not Have Known Are Covers

There were many hit cover versions in the '80s, some of well-known originals, and some that fans may be surprised are covers.

Music

The Reign of Kindo Discuss Why We're Truly "Better Off Together"

The Reign of Kindo's Joseph Secchiaroli delves deep into their latest single and future plans, as well as how COVID-19 has affected not only the band but America as a whole.

Books

Tommy Siegel's Comic 'I Hope This Helps' Pokes at Social Media Addiction

Jukebox the Ghost's Tommy Siegel discusses his "500 Comics in 500 Days" project, which is now a new book, I Hope This Helps.

Music

Kimm Rogers' "Lie" Is an Unapologetically Political Tune (premiere)

San Diego's Kimm Rogers taps into frustration with truth-masking on "Lie". "What I found most frustrating was that no one would utter the word 'lie'."

Music

50 Years Ago B.B. King's 'Indianola Mississippi Seeds' Retooled R&B

B.B. King's passion for bringing the blues to a wider audience is in full flower on the landmark album, Indianola Mississippi Seeds.

Film

Filmmaker Marlon Riggs Knew That Silence = Death

In turning the camera on himself, even in his most vulnerable moments as a sick and dying man, filmmaker and activist Marlon Riggs demonstrated the futility of divorcing the personal from the political. These films are available now on OVID TV.

Film

The Human Animal in Natural Labitat: A Brief Study of the Outcast

The secluded island trope in films such as Cast Away and television shows such as Lost gives culture a chance to examine and explain the human animal in pristine, lab like, habitat conditions. Here is what we discover about Homo sapiens.

Music

Bad Wires Release a Monster of a Debut with 'Politics of Attraction'

Power trio Bad Wires' debut Politics of Attraction is a mix of punk attitude, 1990s New York City noise, and more than a dollop of metal.

Music

'Waiting Out the Storm' with Jeremy Ivey

On Waiting Out the Storm, Jeremy Ivey apologizes for present society's destruction of the environment and wonders if racism still exists in the future and whether people still get high and have mental health issues.

Music

Matt Berninger Takes the Mic Solo on 'Serpentine Prison'

Serpentine Prison gives the National's baritone crooner Matt Berninger a chance to shine in the spotlight, even if it doesn't push him into totally new territory.

Music

MetalMatters: The Best New Heavy Metal Albums of September 2020

Oceans of Slumber thrive with their progressive doom, grind legends Napalm Death make an explosive return, and Anna von Hausswolff's ambient record are just some of September's highlights.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.