One of the last video games for the aging PlayStation 2 console turns out to be one of the best.
The game picks up after the events of the original 2005 "God of War," where Kratos had defeated Ares to become the new — you guessed it — god of war.
His disdain for pretty much everything except the Spartan warriors under his command continues, however, and some decisions early in this sequel return Kratos to mortality and on a long, almost inconceivably violent quest to defeat none other than Zeus himself.
With his battle-scarred body and red face paint framed around a permanent expression of infinite rage, Kratos is a classic love-to-hate protagonist.
But it's his abilities in battle — which you'll control — that make it so much fun.
It's definitely an action title that turns violence into an art form. Tetris/puzzle-gamers need not apply.
From the very beginning, you'll have to dispatch towering gods and entire armies as you advance through a variety of ancient cities and ruins.
The battles are epic. Consider the opening sequence against the Colossus of Rhodes — a statue the size of a 20-story building — a good example.
Taking down this living hunk of bronze isn't as simple as repeatedly whirling Kratos' powerful, oversized blades. You'll have to figure out how to launch yourself onto its head and take out an eye for starters.
It's only a while later that you enter the statue and permanently disable its magical machinations.
As in the first game, the battles with powerful bosses such as the Colossus are one of the most satisfying aspects.
They play out as mini-games, where you have to press the correct button at just the right moment to perform dizzying — and often incredibly gory — death maneuvers.
A personal favorite was the aerial battles where you fight gryphons while mounted on the flame-winged Pegasus. At just the right moment I was able to jump from the Pegasus, land on the enemy flyer, chop off its wings, then free-fall back onto my trusty steed.
Ripping out the eyes of a Cyclops, grabbing a soldier and smashing his head on the floor ... clearly this isn't something for the kiddies.
But after a long day at the office or a frustrating, hours-long schlep through rush-hour gridlock, it's an extremely satisfying way to safely vent any frustrations.
So yes, it's violent, it's hardcore and it's not for everyone. But few games make you feel as godlike as "God of War II."
Four stars out of four.