The lights are on
This game has the best graphics I've ever seen and has a tremendously epic presentation that succeeds in drawing the player into the game with manificent and detailed giant bosses, but it just didn't excite me the way the original did.
The combat is the same polished system used in the other games. In fact, that's the game's largest problem. What was an amazingly fun combat system in 2005 hasn't really evolved. While there are a few variations on the chaos blades, I found that changing the weapon only resulted in small button-press variations; they were really just for flavor. Just-timed blocks do exactly what they did in the other two, and many of the enemies are the same (standard legionnaires, minotauren, gorgons, cyclopes, dive-bombing harpies). I'm not even sure that I can think of any non-trivial enemies besides bosses that are new.
As far as storytelling goes, there are some very nice techniques here. Kratos is really made out to be a monster: from the beautiful (near-sickening) gore to his unpitying barbarism to a new cinematic technique at the end of the first chapter which sets the camera to his victim's perspective. Right from the start, it's clear that whatever obstacles -- friend or enemy-- stand in his way will be killed.
I wasn't too fond of Kratos's quest being discovered futile, and I found the reuse of plot items from the first unoriginal. Why do I have to acquire Pandora's box again? His guilt over his family was a great plot device that, unfortunately, has aged like unrefrigerated milk. And again like the first, the peasants would rather die than accept aid from him. Heard it already! Too, Pandora just didn't hit the spot. He kills a beautiful helpless princess without a second thought, but he treats a young imprisoned demigod as his daughter.
Neither the extras nor the collectibles really did much inspiring, so as incentive to replay the game, that leaves just the Very Hard mode. Like the other god of war games, this is unlocked by beating it on the hard setting, and like the others, this mode is truly challenging. Playing through just the first chapter involved upwards of 40 deaths for me. Killing the Neptunian Hydra-Kraken required perfectly learning its moves and vulnerability periods since it brought death in a maximum of two hits. Most of the checkpoints that were present between phases in Hard mode were removed, making it a masochistic nightmare (in a good way). I am confident that I could beat the rest of the game, but I'm just not excited to. Whatever magic in the original had me refusing to put down the controller until 3-5 hours of kratos clones had finally submit to me just wasn't present. Even the second, while less enthralling, motivated me for a second playthrough on its unlockable difficulty.
The conclusion is that it's a great game, but the team rested on its laurels and made the classic Hollywood fail by confusing a sequel with a lot of special effects, albeit beautiful ones. I've already played this game twice.