Review by JCvgluvr

"An epic experience"

Intro:
Ah yes, God of War. This is a game that doesn't really need an introduction.

With that in mind, I will review the first game just as I've played it: the original gameplay, story, controls, audibles, and replayability. I hope to present an honest, unclouded view of the game, going past all of the hype.

Gameplay:
All of the gameplay in God of War is comprised of either combat, puzzles, or platforming. I put them in that order to demonstrate which is done the best and which is done the worst. When it comes to the combat system, it's not quite deep, but it has plenty of variety. Your main weapons are the Blades of Chaos. These function pretty well, and can become the best weapons in the game, once you've powered them up. They're quite strong, have good reach, and are very useful for crowd control.

Combos are executed in a straight-forward manner. Simply string along three-to-five buttons in a sequence, and you'll end up making a combo. These combos are completely necessary if you wanna beat this game. A criticism I've heard before is “to win in God of War mash the square button, and that's it.” Trust me, this isn't true. I've died enough times to know that using the light attack will only get you so far. One must take into account light attacks, heavy attacks, simultaneous button presses, chaining, juggling, grabs, and sometimes, all of the above during a single fight. Then, throw in dodging and blocking. Ha! Not so simple now, is it?

Magical attacks add some variety and depth to the swordplay. There are four different attacks, each mapped to a button on the d-pad. Poseidon's Rage creates a circle around the player, electrocuting enemies. Medusa's Gaze turns enemies to stone. Zeus's Fury allows players to create lightning bolts like arrows (and isn't terribly useful). Finally, the Army of Hades allows the player to summon undead souls to fight enemies for them. All of the attacks are stylish and impressive (minus the lightning). The only other element added to combat is an extra sword, useful for close-quarters-combat, and specific combos.

A reward for combat is provided in the game's upgrade system. Your weapons and magic can be improved by upgrading them with the souls of the enemies you kill. These souls, represented by a red bar on your HUD, can also be found in many different treasure chests lying about the world. Upgrading adds a bit of longevity to the game, as do the collectables. Yes, there are little trinkets lying around in other treasure chests for you to find. Some increase health and some increase magic. There are also a few keys that will unlock a secret treasure room, but those keys are rare, and hard to find.

Something that God of War games are famous for are their use of quick-time-events. These are points in the game where the circle button initiates a sequence of timed button presses, in order to complete a strong, and often gory execution event. These are used quite often, and they include button mashing, button sequences, and control stick twisting. While they aren't as annoying as some might think, the sequences do have a tendency to obscure the action, and can be frustrating when they are failed. Once failed, the sequence has to start all over again, which leads to repetition.

Another frustration resulting from combat is a few areas in the game where enemies are capable of using multiple attacks in a row that the player is unable to recover from. Being stun-locked in place is annoying, and leads to unappealing, unfair gameplay. Now, to be fair, the player is capable of avoiding such a sequence if he dodges it before it begins. But, playing on the normal difficulty, I found myself getting sucked in again and again. I found this to be a minor problem of the game.

A different aspect of the game is a number of areas that make use of puzzles that impede your progress. They must be solved if the player wishes to continue. In general, the puzzles are kind of fun, even if they seem somewhat out of place in the world of the game. There are a few that will test your patience, however. To give an example of an out of place puzzle, let's look at a certain part of the game, probably just a little after the middle of the game. There is a cage on a wall to the north, obscured by oddly-shaped pillars. These pillars must be fitted together in order to lower the cage. What seems so strange is how they are shaped. They look like Tetris pieces, for the most part. And so, a game featuring a great warrior and bloody gameplay...forces you to play Tetris. Hmm...Nevertheless, puzzles alter the pace of the game, which is mostly a good thing.

Then, there are some sections that make use of straight-up platforming. These display a lack of attention and quality, compared to other facets of the game. Platforming in this game is unforgiving, and requires a level of precision that the game itself doesn't fully provide. This leads to quite a few deaths that would seem unfair. In particular, I'd like to address the edges of platforms, and ledges that the player must grab onto. They both handle quite poorly. It's as if every one of the edges and ledges are made of ice, and the player's hands and feet are covered in oil. There were several instances where I would be within a perfect distance of a ledge, and should have been able to grab it. Instead, I would slip right past it, in a rather glitch-like manner. I won't even bother to mention a certain section that comes late in the game. It's an infuriating abomination, making the player fall over and over again.

Of course, platforming isn't broken, per se. There are lots of places where scaling walls and climbing on/swinging from ropes is necessary. All of these places worked quite well, and never caused a problem. Likewise, landing on platforms and grabbing ledges ends up being quite successful on more occasions than not. Despite that, before I play the sequels, I hope to see less of a focus upon platforming, or at least an increase in attention to detail and mechanics. As if that will do me any good.

One aspect of the game contributes problems to every part of the gameplay, whether it's combat, puzzling, or platforming. That aspect is the always-isometric camera angle. It is impossible to control the camera in this game. Instead, it was decided that the camera would always be fixed in some corner of the room, where it could display all of the action at once. This works, in theory, but shows many flaws in execution. At one point, I could be under a doorway, fighting a skeleton warrior in front of me. Lets say that I go to attack him. This attack brings me a little bit forward. Suddenly, I'm in the next room, and the camera has rotated 70 degrees in order to compensate. What was once “forward” is now “almost left.” Now, my attack is missing, and the warrior can retaliate with a sword swing to my shoulder. This is problematic enough for combat. Imagine how much more so when it comes to precision platforming. Ugh...At least the camera does a good job of setting up some epic wide-shot angles.
Score: 7.5 out of 10

Story:
A war begins in ancient Greece. Ares, the God of War, has come down from Mount Olympus, to destroy the city of Athens. Kratos, a feared warrior from Sparta, is sent to stop him, on behalf of the other gods. It's a rather simple premise, containing a few twists and turns. However, the story gets extra points for a particular part at the end, which I won't spoil. But know this; a story filled with blood, boobs and the most manly of men somehow presents a very touching element to the story. Don't ask me how Santa Monica studios did it, just play and find out.

A great aspect of the story is the setting it creates. An ancient Greece, containing the flawed, complex greek gods is perfect for video game exploitation. It's filled with wonder, character, violence, excitement, variety, magic, nightmares, sex, and fame. What's cool, is that the framework of the world is set up, and yet the game takes liberties with it, in order to serve the story. Santa Monica Studios gets a thumbs-up for taking risks, instead of sticking to the story and characters with boring rigidness.
Score: 8 out of 10

Controls:
God of War is all about the button presses. It's a good thing that it works so well. Every attack is easily accessible. Jumping works without a hitch. Blocking and dodging come naturally. Magic, mapped to the L2 button, is just far enough to avoid misfire, but is still easy to pull off, since it's just the one button, or L2 + another button for higher strength. Now, the success or failure of these controls in the game is a different story. But, that's a gameplay problem, the controls are not to blame.
Score: 9.5 out of 10

Graphics:
The graphics are a mixed bag of good and bad. Kratos, and some of the enemies look almost respectable by today's standards. The most impressive memory of the game that I have is seeing Ares for the first time. As a gigantic god, he towers over an army, making them look like ants. It was pretty cool. I can't imagine how awesome that must have been in 2005.

Other parts of the game haven't fared so well. Character models for NPCs are almost comical now. Every time I see them, I think of a scarecrow. Textures seem to be plastered onto certain enemies and backgrounds, without looking believable. Not to mention the water effects. I'm a sucker for good water effects, so I'm sorry to say that this game doesn't have any.
Score: 6.5 out of 10

Audibles:
Music:
If I could describe the music in one word, it would be “epic.” Then I would add some exclamation marks and ones for emphasis (j/k). A resounding choir sings in latin in the background during most of the fights. They even go so far as to sing “KRATOS” every once in a while. You know a game character is awesome when his name is chanted by an orchestrated choir. The music perfectly compliments the game, and is always appropriate. If it has any flaws, it would probably be the fact that the score isn't very memorable, outside of the game itself. Don't get me wrong, it's really great, but you probably won't be humming any of the epic numbers after you've beaten the game.
Score: 9.5 out of 10

Sound:
This is another aspect of the game that fares well. Kratos yells, grunts, and smashes. Enemies roar, bite and die. Levers click, gears turn, and harpies shriek. Outside of 2 specific examples, I can't think of anything to complain about. Example one: Kratos is trying to walk across some wooden beams, but harpies are flying around him and halting his progress. He lets the player know by saying “I'll never get across with these harpies.” Then he says it again. Then a third time, and so on. Example 2: Every time Kratos pushes a crate, you are able to charge up his power, in order to kick the crate a certain distance. Every time you kick it, Kratos lets out a gruff “HAW!” The sound begins to wear on you after a while.
Score: 9 out of 10

Replayability:
I would say that the level of replayability is fair. After completing the game, several bonuses unlock, including a challenge straight from the gods. A new difficulty unlocks, as well, which provides it's own set of unlockables, including secret cut scenes and special costumes for Kratos. However, the game itself is quite linear, and doesn't allow room for much experimentation. Most players will find which combos work best, and which magic is the most important to upgrade. A second play through the game isn't going to change their mind.
Score: Medium

Outro:
Many would say that God of War is over-rated. Is it? I would say, “yes, but only slightly.” The experience is very good. Think of it as the video game equivalent of a roller-coaster. It's really fun the first time you ride it, and it can be just as good the next time you come to the amusement park. But riding it over and over everyday would make you bored, or even sick. Still, it's easy to see why this franchise has done so well during these 5 years. Good attention to detail, and compelling gameplay has created a fun, iconic adventure worth playing.

Score Card:
Gameplay: 7.5 out of 10
Story: 8 out of 10
Controls: 9.5 out of 10
Graphics: 6.5 out of 10
Audibles: 9.5 out of 10
Replayability: Medium
FINAL SCORE: 9 out of 10


Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 08/11/10, Updated 08/16/10

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


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