If the idea of blood puke turns you off, I suggest you tap back immediately. Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 is not a game for children or the faint of heart - or stomach. While most reviewers will be coming in to this game a hardened fan of or having despised the first installment, we're coming in with fresh eyes. Here we've got a game where you control an ancient vampire in a modern-day (or even futuristic) world from a third-person perspective with enough cutscenes to choke an elephant.
If you're all about storyline, this game is for you. You can skip cutscenes if you want, but even early on in the game you'll find that you might have to skip 4-5 scenes in a row, with no gameplay in-between. These scenes are, if you're willing to watch them, lovely to behold. While we're not working with textures and animation here that's going to hold a torch to the highest-end games on the market, everything comes together nicely.
The voice acting is fantastic. We found the voice acting in the game Thief to be such a turn-off that we've become more attuned to its judgement from this point forward, and C:LOS 2 does it right, start to finish. Even in a gothic drama horror such as this, the whole crew remains believable.
This game flawlessly moves between several different kinds of gameplay. In one you'll be immediately behind our hero Gabriel running around with a flexible camera view, while in another you'll be pushed back far enough to be able to see whatever it is you're climbing on. In this gameplay video you'll find us throttling a siege titan so massive, it takes several angles and 20+ minutes of gameplay (not all in-video here) to defeat him.
Combat in this game is exceedingly entertaining and interesting to learn and implement. It's never been so fun hunt the innocent and drain the blood from their body for your own benefit.
You can dip into the shadows to become a mouse. You can possess enemies until your blood destroys their body and they explode into blood. You can use a massive blue light sword or claws made of fire* right from the beginning.
*NOTE: These weapons are called the Void Sword and Chaos Claws, representing light magic and shadow magic (evil, if you wish), very similar to what was delivered in the first game. If you enjoyed that, you're going to love this.
The controls are easy to understand, building on the broadly understood "press X for jump" system you'll have played in most games over the past 10 years. In the PC version, load times are swift - even jumping through cutscenes one after the other results in no more than 20 seconds of wait time - on the long end - before you're allowed to jump in and play.
In Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 you've got a game that plays very, very similar to God of War. You've got long-reaching weapons of epic destruction, you're hack-and-slashing your way through hordes of beasts, and you do come across the occasional epic-scale enemy. Combat is not something you're going to rave about as a whole new experience - but in this case, that's a good thing.
This game was built for a gamepad. At the beginning of the game, the developers go so far as to warn you that it was built for a gamepad - throughout the game there are prompts for buttons you wont have on your keyboard. WASD works, but the B button is F, for example. Once you get over the idea that you're not being prompted for the same keys as you're using on the keyboard, you'll find them all to be relatively intuitive in practice.
Sound in C:LOS 2 is exquisite. I don't use that word very often for reviews - here I really mean it. Even the dark, depressing tones of the initial loading screen get stuck in my head without fail. The sounds take the game to a new level - voice acting, clangs of metal on metal, and the music especially. The music in this game was directed by Oscar Araujo, if you'd like to know.
If you enjoyed the first Castlevania: Lords of Shadow, you'll enjoy the second installment as well. If you're a fan of third-party adventure games with environment-based puzzles and diverse, 360-degree combat, you'll enjoy this title as well. Nay-sayers will suggest that this game gets repetitive in its delivery, but we say it takes everything good about this genre and gives it a swift kick into 2014 with a package that's fully worth the cash you'll pay for it.