Review by BeefieCheesie
"God of War: Why aren't you playing it?"
About a month ago Game Director David Jaffe was on G4 talking about God of War. One of the key things he said was "I don't care about innovation. I care about fun. I think we can execute this better than anybody. God of War is exactly this and more. It takes the core gameplay of the action-adventure genre and raises the bar in production, scope and all around design. This game reeks of polish and you will not find a better action-adventure game on the PS2 this year.
God of War cast the player as Kratos, a Spartan Warrior who now does the bidding of Ares and other Greek gods. You won't interact with ALL the gods of Olympus but you will know the ones they put before you and the game ties in the other gods through items or puzzles. At the beginning Kratos has been abandoned by the gods and is now committing suicide to end the hellish nightmares he has of his past. As the narration explains this, you are taken back three weeks prior and are then lead on a journey to find out how Kratos got to that point.
To begin with, turn of Soften, it's useless and mostly cosmetic, you'll thank yourself later.
Right off the bat you are thrown into combat. You begin with the bare minimum of moves and combos, slowly through the game you will learn more combos, new moves, and attacks to do after you block/parry. The combat is fluid, engrossing, and very satisfying. You can do just about anything you want to with Kratos, he controls so well. You can also grab opponents and depending on the button presses, do different things to them, such as tear them in half, stab them to death, flip them, etc. The sense of scale is also astonishing in God of War, you will work your way up from Skeletal Zombies, to Harpies, Medusas, Minotaurs...until you get to the bigger, more difficult enemies. You're typically given a one on one with the bigger monster, and then after you defeat them, you take on a few more at once. This mechanic plays great as you progress and the enemies get thrown together and you then have to decide which monsters should get you attention, sometimes you will be plagued by a ton of small enemies while you try to get rid of a Cyclops that is in your way. The difficulty of combat is challenging but never overwhelming as you have a ton of options at your disposal.
In addition to combat you have some magic elements, which seem mostly to help you get out of sticky situations and attack enemies that are too far away from a normal attack. You get Poseidon's Rage fairly early on and this is a staple "Clear All the Enemies in Your Path" magic attack and works great against many enemies and bosses. You gain other magic elements at all the right moments. The game never springs anything on you without preparing you for it first. You will also gain access to another weapon at about mid point in game, although this weapon is great, it's just not as powerful or useful, than the Blades of Chaos.
Where God of War takes the genre to the next level is in the design and production. This game is about as complete as it can be. It reeks of polish and looks beautiful, surely pushing the PS2 as far as it can go. From Athens to the Temple of Pandora, the areas in between and the end, the game never lacks in any design anywhere. It looks like a representation of Greece, the greatest hits of Greek Mythology, and beyond. On top of all that, the total immersion, you will do a lot things on your own with the R2 button as your action button, on top of taking on bigger enemies with a series of button presses, this reminiscent of Resident Evil 4 and Shenmue, but it somehow makes this mechanic it's own, and if you watch the game, makes sense as well. The button presses match up with the animations, and in certain instances allow the player to participate in the struggle of toppling a huge enemy and destroying it. To top it all off, it streams from the disc with little to no load times. You can literally sit there and not have to sit though a ridiculous load screen. Why can't more games do this?
Again, the sense of scale in the game is what will set it apart from others in its genre. A lot of things are huge in the game, many Kratos' big and wide. The scope of the size of things will blow many players away. You will see something far away in the distance, and slowly make your way towards it, eventually it will loom over Kratos, and many times in the game this will happen and is effective in showing just how massive your quest is going to be. For example Pandora's Temple is just humongous, you will notice how big it is as you progress towards it, and you will spend a large amount of the game inside that building doing things. It never feels like you're just going through a small chunk of it, and the outside is just eye candy, it literally plays out like you are progressing through a giant temple that has been designed by a madman. You notice the designs become more erratic and sinister as you make your way towards the prize.
God of War isn't without its faults. Mainly the camera can be difficult at times. The fixed camera is great in some situations, but more often than not, during platforming areas of the game you will fall, or miss, a few too many times. The addition of first person view would've been great. On that note, God of War doesn't really make use of all the buttons. It would seem relatively easy to make one of the shoulder buttons a first person view, if only so the player can at least see if they can make a jump or not, figure out a puzzle better, or just to look at all the beautiful surroundings. This is only a minor complaint as the fixed camera did frame some beautiful shots of the game. Another minor gripe is some of the game just feels like you just need a ton of luck and hope the enemies line just right to get past. This may just be a lack of true player skill, but often in the game the player will get bombarded with a ton of enemies and little time to get down to business and often it just comes down to sheer luck that you will get past those parts. These complaints are nominal and don't really detract from the game, they are never problematic enough to cause someone to quite but they aren't as good as the rest of the game.
This game is definitely made by a group of people that love the action-adventure genre. This game delivers on every promise made, and more. Personally this is the game I've always wanted to play, and after I was finished I didn't feel like I missed anything or was cheated out of a more complete experience. With a truck load of extras, including deleted levels and design ideas that I think anyone would've waited for to be done right. Perhaps this will be done in the sequel. God of War is a great game that should not be overlooked this year.
Reviewer's Rating: 5.0 - Flawless
Originally Posted: 03/31/05
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