Our Five Year Anniversary - Revisiting God of War II

God of War II
God of War II Cover
Platforms PlayStation 2, PlayStation 3
Genre Hacking and slashing, for five years
MtAMinutes to Action 3
Keep Playing? Yes, still
Buy from Amazon

Five years ago I played about sixty minutes of the beginning of God of War II and was impressed by how quickly the action ramps up and how the momentum is carried throughout. Big action set pieces like the Colossus battle and flying on Pegasus made for an extremely memorable first hour, and still one of the best. At that moment I made a decision that I suppose in some ways has changed my life: I reset the PS2, grabbed a pen and notebook, and started playing God of War II over again.

Five years later and a full ten days worth of first hour reviews written by me and a half-dozen other writers, we're back to where it all began. I imagine this is a one-time event, I'm not sure there's really much left to point out in the game's first hour that I didn't the first time, but the timing is fun. I've always measured first hours in how many "days" have passed, with 24 first hour reviews representing a day. Since this is review 240, the end of day ten, I couldn't really pass up the opportunity.

The review format hasn't changed a lot in five years, even then I was keeping track of "minutes to action", but I don't give scores anymore, focusing instead on what really matters: would I keep playing beyond the first hour? Fellow writer Nate has developed his own first hour review format, and from now on I'll be moving more towards that. It's very time consuming to detail every minute of action, and I'm not sure if it's entirely valuable to the reader, so things will be changing for me as a critic, I'm still not entirely sure what it will look like.

But somehow my little review site has survived five years without much trouble, or attention, for that matter. But that's okay with me, soon after I began writing regularly about a subject I actually enjoyed, I realized I loved doing it and the number of readers or amount of money I was making was far less important than the fact that I was putting my thoughts and ideas on paper.

So thank you to all readers, fans, and critics over the last five years. You have turned a curiosity into a hobby into a passion.

Minute by Minute

00 - I select New Game and the first hour of God of War II begins (again). I leave the difficulty at Spartan, and a woman tells the story of Kratos and how he’s been deserted by the other gods after defeating Ares. Athena tells Kratos that the gods are starting to hate him.

01 - Kratos heads to Rhodes to deliver the final blow on the city, he’s gigantic! But he’s zapped by some magic and is made normal sized again, and the Colossus of Rhodes is brought to life!

02 - The Colossus starts walking and I gain control, fighting with some twerps immediately begins. The Colossus is in the background trying to get in on the action.

god of war 2 Kratos Colossus of Rhodes Fight

03 - Fighting consists of hitting the Square button a lot.

04 - I fling open a gate and continue on, the Colossus follows my every move.

05 - He finally pops his hand through to say hello, smashing some of the bad guys.

06 - I’m outside now in full view of the Colossus, I dodge an attack and smack his hand a few times, then catapult a boulder at him but he simply catches it in his giant hand.

08 - I then attempt to launch Kratos but he catches me too and throws me against a wall. Ouch.

god of war 2 Kratos Colossus of Rhodes 2

09 - Fool me once... using the ballista again doesn’t result in anything different. Until you knock him out, that is! When he’s dazed, I launch myself at him kicking off a quick time event attack which results in Kratos stabbing his eyeball. He tosses me across the city and I land in a palace of some sorts.

11 - Oh, I remember this part! Knocking over a screen reveals two topless women in a pool. Yeah, I’ll try out this quick time event. The camera pans over to a statue of a kid peeing and his stream mimics... Kratos.

13 - Time to move on, quick time event indeed!

14 - After some swimming around to cool the head, I save my game and learn how to grapple across pits.

16 - The Colossus is back! This time he shoves his foot through the wall.

god of war 2 kid Statue

17 - Cool, I don’t know where to go... Oh, I have to climb the wall. Thanks for not making that obvious at all.

19 - Cinematic camera turns on as I circle the Colossus and learn how to unleash a lightning magic attack! Oooh.

20 - After zapping him enough, another QTE kicks off with me... scratching his cheek. Why not take out the other eyeball?

21 - My first YOU ARE DEAD! Cheap death as the Colossus knocked me in the water as I was swinging across platforms. Full health death!

23 - And to add insult to injury I fail the cheek scratching QTE.

26 - After successfully pulling off the QTE two more times, the Colossus now has two big glowing X’s on each cheek from my Athena Blades. But he’s caught me in his clutches! More quick time eventing to escape.

god of war 2 Quick Time Event

27 - Colossus throws me across town again, into another palace. How convenient for our hero. I save and continue through the maze of this building.

29 - Just in case you forgot I was playing a video game, I’m forced to move a giant box on top of a switch to keep a gate open.

33 - I also just pulled off a 145 hit combo, so there’s that.

34 - After an elevator ride, the Colossus reappears! Suddenly Zues chimes in from the heavens and offers me a giant sword, The Blade of Olympus. “Drain your godly powers into the sword.” It’s a trap!

36 - Before the obvious trick, I actually have to run to the sword and fight through more bad guys.

37 - And even though I’m still a god, I have to do this really obnoxious slow creep over some narrow walkways. Awful.

god of war 2 Archers Palace

41 - I drain my power in the sword, but the Colossus keeps hitting me before I can pick it up. Oh, magic will knock him down again. This time I drain my blue magic bar into the sword.

43 - Finally hit him twice in this third round... ugh, I must be getting bad at games.

44 - YOU ARE DEAD!

45 - Time for the whole power draining thing again.

48 - I finally drain most of my life bar and obtain the sword! After some slashing at his wrist, I jump inside the Colossus.

49 - YOU ARE DEAD! Fall to my death.

god of war 2 big Collosus of Rhodes

50 - I stab my sword into some internal magical mechanism and wreck havoc!

52 - YOU ARE DEAD! Obnoxious, cheap fall. Game sure isn’t making it clear where to go.

53 - Oh, I had to slash at some chains before I could hit R1. Yuck.

54 - Shimmying, I hate shimmying.

57 - YOU ARE DEAD! Got zapped by the internal workings of the Colossus.

59 - YOU ARE DEAD! Well, I figured out the puzzle of sorts, but still died.

60 - I strike another blow to the Colossus’ inside and escape out of its mouth as it blows up! Kratos starts showboating and gets crushed by the giant’s death throes. I lose the sword, my armor, and all my godly powers. That’s the end of the first hour of God of War II, again.

god of war 2 Kratos Bloody Gryphon

First Hour Summary

Minutes to Action: 2

Bias: Well, the first time I played this game five year ago, I loved it enough to start an entire website around the concept, so... I obviously went in with pretty high hopes. Minus the fact that I gave up on the game a few hours later, I have much respect for God of War II.

Would I Keep Playing? Wow, five years ago this was a resounding “hell yes!”, but now it’s a much more tepid “sure”. Five years is a long time when it comes to video games, even longer for 3D action titles from an entire generation ago. Game design has improved immeasurably over the years and I couldn’t help but think that the climbing stuff sure would have been improved a lot with some Assassin’s Creed influence and that whoever put the tiptoe sections in a game like this should have been fired.

God of War II was just a lot more frustrating this time around, cheap deaths abound and all the platforming sections made me want to rip my hair out. I also ran about 10 minutes behind my original first hour, which I chalk up to having just started the game an hour before and replaying the starting sections immediately for taking notes. This is part of the reason I’ve stopped playing first hours of games I’ve already beaten, too much bias going in for one, but knowing the ins and outs of a title easily give you the upper hand.

But it was still a fun first hour, if not as smooth sailing as I originally remember it. But like I said, games have changed a lot in five years. Design choices made then and praised as being groundbreaking may well be laughed out of the meeting room now.

Now What?

Replaying the first hour of God of War II has made me think more than I expected about the video game industry and how our opinions change. I really thought I would go into this game and just love the hell out of it all over again, but that wasn’t true at all. Is it really that gaming has changed so much, or have I? Have my expectations for a game become so lofty that I can’t even really enjoy the original game that spawned everything?

Maybe I’m being too introspective, but this milestone was meant to just be good old fun; now I’m having a bit of a crisis in understanding what truly makes for a great first hour of a video game. After personally playing and reviewing 146 first hours, you would think I would have a better understanding. It just probably wasn’t a good idea to replay something I had placed so high on a pedestal five years later. I’ll say this right now: this is never happening again.

So where to now? Another 240 first hour reviews is probably a good place to start. More full reviews of games, more varied content from video game-based TV shows, books, and movies, and hopefully I can improve my writing and critical review skills even more over the years. Looking back at my writing style and skill five years ago makes me cringe a bit, but it pleases me that putting a million words down on paper does help accomplish something.

Thanks again for reading, here’s to another five years.

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