Review by Bill_Lange
"Gore + Awesome Combat + Ancient Greece = Classic!"
God Of War
Are you the type of person who fell asleep in World Lit class, and subsequently believe that a "Minotaur" is "that new car from Ford"? Or perhaps you wrote a 100-page research paper on the influence of the combined works of Homer and Virgil on the emergence of the grunge music movement of the early 1990s? No matter which group you belong to, the Greek-mythology flavored God Of War will have you thanking the gods (and frequently cursing them too).
<Storyline and Characters>
The game begins with a pale-skinned Spartan warrior named Kratos stepping off a cliff and falling to his death. Killing off the main character; quite a way to start a game off, no? Fortunately, the entire game is a flashback to three weeks before Kratos takes a disastrous cliff-diving lesson.
Apparently, Kratos has quite a beef with Ares (the titular god of war), and so thirsts for vengeance that he is willing to take care of whatever crappy errands the gods throw at him in order to get it. He is plagued by nightmares wherever he goes, and his guilt for some unexplained offense is driving him mad. He has spent quite some time serving the gods, attempting to curry enough favor that they will wipe the slate clean.
His latest mission is to be his last: Kratos must kill the god of war. The gods are forbidden from waging war upon each other, but a mortal with a god's aid may be able to prevail. The game follows Kratos' journey as he grows closer to his ultimate goal, the death of Ares.
As a character, Kratos is superb. His shame and self-hatred are all that drive him anymore, and as the game progresses his past is slowly revealed, explaining why and how he ended up alone, with pale skin and swords chained to his arms. Kratos is stoic as he moves through the world, with no cheesy one-liners to be heard, and stares down even the biggest and nastiest of mythological beasts. Show me a guy who doesn't even flinch when a gigantic armored minotaur roars in his face, and I'll show you one cool dude.
The PS2 should not be capable of these graphics. The level of detail is simply incredible. From a rickety ship on a raging ocean to an incredible scene where Athens is under siege by Ares himself, the amount of visual work done on God Of War is awesome.
The character and enemy design is also superb. Kratos's animations are fluid and combos link together flawlessly. The monsters are varied and interesting, from the prerequisite zombies to the vicious Hydra to the stone-gazing Gorgons.
If you are sickened by the sight of blood, or offended by the unclothed female form, this isn't the game for you. By the time the credits roll you will have spilled many, many gallons of human and monster gore, and you will have seen several topless lasses. (You have been warned.)
The audio is well done; orchestrated pieces accompany battles and cutscenes, and nice sound effects round out the package. The clash of steel, roaring thunder, and Kratos's shouts ring true to the ear.
The voice acting work is nicely done as well. Kratos's voice actor perfectly gets across the point of his character, and the narrator's voice is ancient and wise-sounding. Though not heard as often, NPC voices are excellent as well (it seems that almost everyone Kratos meets is destined to die horribly).
<Gameplay and Controls>
Kratos controls like a dream. You have many different options in combat; juggle them into the air with an upward swipe of your Blades of Chaos, then whirl around like a human blender and slice them to pieces in midair, or soften them up with a few light attacks, then deliver the finishing blow with heavy attacks. It shows that several of the developers were Street Fighter II tournament champions, with all the combo options in the game. Even more moves open up when you upgrade your weapons and magic with red orbs gathered from slain foes.
Admittedly, God Of War and the Devil May Cry series seem suspiciously alike at first glance, with similar gameplay and the 'power-up' system. Setting God of War apart are the minigame finishing moves; when a monster is near death or weakened, the Circle button appears above its head. Grabbing it at this point initiates a quick button-pressing or analog-stick-rotating sequence, where you must press or rotate as quickly as possible to keep up with the prompts. Success is rewarded with a fantastically gory coup de grace, as well as a health or magic powerup.
Here comes my only complaint about God Of War: the insane difficulty level. Easy mode is too easy, while Normal is brutally hard. I'm kind of scared to see just how punishing Spartan level is, and anyone who plays on the hardcore God difficulty must have a strange fascination with "game over" screens.
To put it another way, don't use a brand-new controller while playing God Of War, because you WILL throw it, guaranteed. After the first "level", the game plays for keeps. You'll frequently be thrown into a small, inescapable room with three Gorgons, a minotaur, and about a dozen zombies with magical shields, and your only option is to somehow hack your way out. This is good in that it forces you to refine your skills and power-up your weapons to meet the challenge, but sometimes the bar is set ridiculously high. My advice? Upgrade your Blades of Chaos to maximum as quickly as you can, you won't regret it. However, save points are frequent, and when you die you aren't sent too far back, which makes being slaughtered effortlessly slightly easier to swallow.
God Of War is fantastic, deep game held back only by a lack of length (you'll finish it in about ten hours) and frequent incredibly frustrating moments (make sure your little brother and grandmother aren't around, because the F-bombs will certainly be deployed). Otherwise, it's a must-buy and earns 9/10 from me. After this and Ninja Gaiden (Xbox), I think I need high blood pressure medication.
Reviewer's Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Originally Posted: 08/17/05
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