"Epic as hell."

In a nutshell, the first hour of God of War is as follows: When you first start the game, you see some guy named Kratos jump off a cliff and kill himself on the rocks below in the Aegean Sea. But we can't have a game end right at the beginning, so we go back in time three weeks. The entire game is told through a series of flashbacks with a narrator, which is a simple but effective method of storytelling.

The narrator, who is unnamed in the entire game, takes us back to Kratos on a beached boat. His fleet is getting rocked by the Hydra, and since he's the only one in the Spartan army worth a damn he has to stop the beast all by himself. Not the most accurate depiction of how Spartans fought, but this series is all about making Kratos look as ruthless as possible. If this means he has to kill his own soldiers or civilians for health, so be it. Many games have the tale of one selling his soul for power; no game or series makes it as fun as God of War.

In somewhat of a tutorial segment, we're introduced to God of War's fighting system against some random slugs. Rather than just beat them all to death with the Blades of Chaos, Kratos runs around ripping off heads, tearing people in half and thoroughly annihilating the hell out of things. It's not enough just to kill things; Kratos has to be as brutal, ruthless and over-the-top as possible about it. It isn't long before he's catching harpies out of midair, pinning them to the ground and ripping off wings. Epic, brutal, ridiculously over-the-top -- these three terms describe God of War best.

Kratos then goes through various boats, ripping off more heads as he goes, before seeing one of the Hydra's many heads. His soldiers might suck, but Kratos? No problem, he annihilates the stupid thing. Poseidon, who's probably sipping Cognac and eating caviar while watching all this up on Mount Olympus, realizes "Hey, we might have something here with this Kratos fellow" and pays the ol' chap a visit. He bestows upon Kratos a lightning spell, but he first must rip the head off of a medusa. It's not enough to kill the slut, Kratos has to decapitate it after twisting her neck a bunch. But it's not just any Medusa. Kratos tear-asses through Gorgon herself. You learn pretty quickly that Kratos does not. eff. around.

After some more Hydra skulls are snapped and more enemies' heads torn asunder, Kratos comes face to.... faces, with the Hydra itself. The Hydra introduces itself by killing anyone it can see, but of course this doesn't phase Kratos. He goes to work beating the crap out of two Hydra heads at once, but what's this? They're getting all their health back? No matter, Kratos gets around this stuff by dropping a spike platform on both heads and impaling them to the boat. And if this weren't enough, this tiny little man kicks the crap out of big daddy itself before impaling it on the ship's mast.

This still isn't enough to sate the bloodlust, either. A desperate cry for help comes from within the Hydra, so Kratos walks right inside the thing like it's no problem. He finds the captain of the ship clinging for dear life above the Hydra's stomach acid. A decent human being would pull the poor guy up. So what does Kratos do? He pulls the dude up alright, but only to rip the captain's key from his stack-of-dimes neck, kick the poor bastard down to his death and then bang as many of the captain's women as he possibly can. He's just hardcore like that. The story then shifts to Kratos sailing for Athens and banging some more women (seriously) before setting off on his actual journey. And just to pound home the point about Kratos being a total jackass, he basically tells the girls in his boat "You're all useless, and you'd better be gone by the time I get back" after plowing their spines into the mattress.

And this is all just the first hour of the game.

It's one of the most ridiculous introductions for a game ever, and yet technically speaking it's the "worst" part of the entire game. It only gets better, more brutal, more ruthless and more insane as you progress. The word "epic" gets thrown around far too often in modern nomenclature, but it fits here. God of War is nuts. The basic premise is the actual god of war, Ares, has begun laying waste to Athens for reasons unknown -- so he probably has some daddy issues. Athena, wife of Zeus, has chosen you for the task of killing him and setting things straight. Alright, sure.

Then you see him for the first time and he is this mammoth giant of a man -- no, the giant form of a god on earth. Your first thought will be "I have to kill THIS guy? HOW?!". Just keep playing. You'll see. One of the truly frightening things about God of War -- and Sony really deserves a ton of credit for this -- is how insanely accurate they hold Greek mythology in this game. Yes a few things are changed here and there to insert Kratos into the storyline, but overall it's accurate to an obsessive level. You can really tell Sony used every bit of the PS2's technology to make all the creatures look exactly as the Greeks described them to be. If your volume is too high, a siren's shrieking just might make you go deaf instead of Kratos. If your TV is too big, you might get turned to stone instead of Kratos for looking at a medusa the wrong way. Put up the subwoofer too high, and the rumbling of a titan just might rock your house instead of Kratos's face.

As you've surmised by now, God of War is a 3D action game in the mold of Devil May Cry. The action is fast-paced and awesome, though not quite as frenetic as the DMC series. It's not a bad thing, just a different interpretation on things. Devil May Cry wants you to be as interesting as possible while slaughtering legions of demons. God of War wants you to be interesting as well, but it also wants you to enjoy brutally ripping to shreds each and every monster you come across. For every monster in the entire game, there's a special finishing move you can use on it to kill it. Most of the time, you'll get some extra health and magic drops from the monster that way. And the brutality. Good lord, the brutality in this is off the charts. If you think the first hour is crazy, just keep going. Those harpies you tore the wings off of? Child's play. Wait until you impale some minotaurs after they beg for their life, or stab a cyclops in its one good eye before slicing it from head to nuts. Kratos does not. eff. around. Even though God of War came out a year before 300, you really get the feeling these people all banded together and went "How can we make the Spartans out to be the most ruthless, over-the-top MANLY MAN alpha males ever?". Thus, God of War and 300 launched, making millions of men the world over feel quite inadequate.

You'll of course get new powerups, spells and weapons as you traverse as per any action game, but God of War goes beyond the See Enemy -> Fight Enemy -> Finish Enemy as Brutally as Possible thing. It mixes things up a lot on you. One second you'll fly down a zip line and solve a puzzle or two, next second you'll teeter across a series of traps and tight ropes. Then after that, maybe you'll have to go all commando and go across a lone rope as archers poke you from afar and baddies comes at you from the other side of the rope. This leads to some hilarious enemy deaths, then after that maybe you'll have to climb a rock wall or jump across some insane platforms, all while under siege. This game is no joke, and it culminates in a pretty sweet final stretch.

The game has two, and only two, flaws to point out. The most obvious one is you fight too many random twerps and not enough bosses. Counting the final part of the game as one major boss fight, God of War only has three boss fights -- and the Hydra is more or less an intro segment to ease you into how the game works. That leaves two boss fights where the game gives you a trial by fire. This isn't nearly enough, especially given how unbelievably good this game is. It needed a few less random twerps, and a few more boss fights. Killing enemies is cool and all, but even that gets to the point where "Here's a checkpoint, kill a bunch of enemies via hilarious methods to advance" gets old. The Hydra is epic. The Minotaur is epic. You'll want more of that thrown at you, not more slugs.

The other problem is more an industry issue, but it really shows up huge in God of War. The game doesn't punish you for sucking -- that is, there are roughly 6 million health and magic refill chests lying around, a ton of ways to refill on the enemies themselves, and even bosses throw refills at you like candy when you damage them enough. Even if you die, you get this "Restart from latest checkpoint" option that usually puts you just before the exact spot you died at. You'd think this changes in harder difficulties, but it doesn't. The same bailouts are all there; all that changes is you deal less damage while taking more from enemies. Attack patterns don't change, puzzles don't change, nothing. Just damage scaling.

There's a few other minor things, but nothing to really worry about. Most people complain about Hades, but the only thing there that's annoying are these two blade towers with awful collision detection on them. The people who complain about the platforms and such in Hades just suck at games. Ignore them. Another notable thing is how the game offers a ton of fancy moves for you to play with, but the basic Square, Square, Triangle combo is the safest and most effective way of blasting through all the normal enemies. To that end, being interesting in combat is a choice.

There's not much to say about graphics and music, really. The aforementioned attention to Greek mythology is amazing, and the music sounds very.... Spartan-like. Dunno how else to phrase that, but you'll hear it when you play it. There's a big ancient Greek war theme about the whole soundtrack that fits well enough.

Overall God of War is absolutely outstanding, with only a few minor issues along the way. Doesn't matter. Play it and love it anyway.


Reviewer's Score: 10/10 | Originally Posted: 04/19/10, Updated 05/10/10

Game Release: God of War (US, 03/22/05)


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