Review by Galactus21

"A redefining and thought provoking experience"

Cruelty and compassion; and whether it is better to be loved than fear, or the reverse – Niccolo Machiavelli (1469-1527)

Over the centuries many have pondered if ruling with compassion is better than ruling with cruelty. In the case of God of War, it is definitely better to be cruel and feared than it is to be compassionate and loved. The game's main character, Kratos comes off, as a head strong, take no crap from anybody, weapon wielding badass that one would only see in the movies. In fact he shows his cruelty in the very beginning when he sacrifices an innocent man. Ryu Hayabusa and Dante can both take a back seat, as Kratos takes coolness to another level. Based on Greek mythology, Kratos is a servant of the Gods of Olympus. Kratos starts the game off by doing the biddings of the Gods. Soon after the story becomes clear and the plot is set. Ares, the God of War, is running rampant on Athens. Being the God of War, it gives this game a very fitting name. Ares is a renegade God from Olympus and because Zeus the God of Gods has set forth a rule that no Gods will harm each other, the Gods order Kratos to do their biddings. Ares has unleashed hell on Athens and his demonic creatures take over and burn the city to the grounds. Enriched in Greek Mythology, God of War is set to thrill and keep your heart pounding till its bittersweet ending.

Playing this game soon after I read Niccolo Machiavelli's “The Prince”, I could not help but draw similarities between the book and the game. Considering the fact that many Machiavellian principles are based on war and how to stay in power. These principles apply to God of War in a sense that they are both about power. While not a Prince, Kratos is still someone who wields a lot of power and commands a lot of respect. Fresh off such an insightful book, I could not help but tie Machiavellian principles in with this amazing game about power and destruction.

Composite Principalities

And here it has to be noted that men must be either pampered or crushed, because they can get revenge for small injuries but not for grievous ones.

Well it is quite apparent that Ares has decided to crush the ordinary citizens rather then pamper them. Throughout Athens, his forces overrun the city and many of his minions wield a vast amount of power. Kratos, once a Captain of the Spartan army, is now a minion of the Gods of Olympus. Kratos as the Captain of the Spartan army was a man consumed with power, he used brutal tactics, and many feared him. With a brutal and unforgiving past, Kratos sets forth on a final quest for the Gods in order to fulfill his service to them. Kratos is neither a hero, nor a villain; he was a man that craved power and respect like many men in their time.

So good it hurts

God of War is an action title that will consume you, its intensity will send sweat throughout your body, and in the end of each session you can expect a painful pair of hands. That is right; God of War is so good it hurts. After playing the game through long hours and enduring countless battles with long strings of combos, my hands have become weak and sore. Soreness is a small price to pay if you ask me. So suck it up and play through the pain and I guarantee that you will not be disappointed by this incredible experience. Be prepared to play long hours because this game is extremely addictive. Not only is this game addictive, but the story will also keep one on the edge of one's toes. The game draws heavy influence from an inveterate Greek mythology.

God of War's combat system strays from the norm and offers a whole new perspective to action titles. Instead of a traditional sword or even a nunchuck, Kratos wields these two huge blades that are tied to unbreakable chains that are imbedded in his arms. These blades are called the Blades of Chaos, a powerful and chaotic weapon that was forge from Hades himself. When one uses this unique and baneful weapon, one will find that this weapon can propel itself across far distances. The game has a light and heavy attack, which can be pressed in any order to pull together strings of combos. Just utilizing these two attacks, God of War already has a deep and engrossing combat system, but one can use magic and throws to form larger and more alluring combos. God of War's combat system is incredibly deep and there are many combo possibilities. One can use combos that are provided each time one levels up or one can be creative and form one's own combos.

A combat engine that brings a whole new perspective to action games

Blades and grabs

When talking about God of War's combat system, I don't even know where to start. So stay with me here okay. This combat engine is insane and incredibly deep, so deep that it will take numerous lines to get the point across. When starting the game out, one can use throws and light and heavy attacks. In the very first battle, one can sense the depth in the combat system. A short tutorial will give one the basics in this combat system, but soon after the tutorial, one will find oneself pulling combos of amazing proportion. Using just the light and heavy attacks, one can pull together a few light attacks and then end it with a heavy attack that will do excessive damage to the enemy. When one starts mixing in throws, the game becomes even more fun and rewarding. For example if one holds down the triangle button, one can launch the enemy in the air, launch himself in the air simultaneously and slash the enemy a few times with the blades, and then while still in the air perform a grab move and one ends up tossing an enemy around like a rag doll. However the grab move alone has a good amount of variation. Grabbing an enemy and pressing different attack buttons will perform different grabs. The combat system in a sense is quite chaotic, but at the same time it is very well balanced. It takes the best of both worlds and melds it together very well. One can duke it out on the floor or take the fight into the air. Let me tell you, jumping in the air and waving your blade around is not only cool, but also very effective against larger enemies.

Magic System

If your not yet convinced about the depth of God of War, then let me describe the amazing magic system. If your still not impress after this, then you might as well give up gaming. The magic system in itself is exceptionally deep. Again going back to the blades, one can mix and match the blades with the magic system. Some opponents may be too difficult to handle head on, so luckily for you, Medusa's head can be added to your arsenal. Take out her head and turn your enemies to stone. Ever dreamed of throwing lightning bolts at someone or wield Hades army? Well you can do that too, in fact it is quite effective against archers and to keep enemies at bay. My favorite magic is actually the first one that is available. With a vast amount of enemies around, this magic attack along with the blades can string together combos upward to two hundred hits or at least that was my maximum. What I would do is let the enemies have it with the blade and then finish them off with a massive energy attack.

Other form of attacks and weapons

With all that I have written, you would probably think that I have finished describing the combat system, but guess again. The combos are endless and stringing these combos together is not only a pleasure, but also an accomplishment. One move that I have become quite fond of is the blocking attack. When blocking, one can propel an enemy in the air, and once this occurs one can start twirling his or her blades to form one massive combo. That is not the end of it, while pressing a different button while in block mode will perform a different attack. So when one knocks an enemy into the air, one can toy around with the different block attacks and see what they can come up with, or one can use normal attacks to finish off an enemy that way. Another cool move is the charge move, where one can charge at an enemy and string together three hits and soon after, one can follow that up with other attacks. Another form of attack is ability to strike an enemy while climbing walls or rocks. Instead of leaving Kratos defenseless, Kratos has the ability to grab an enemy and start bashing his head into a wall of rocks or he can swing his mighty blades and knock an enemy off. About a third of the way through the game, one will get one's second weapon. The weapon is a sword and a cool looking one at that. The combos for the sword are more powerful and does more damage, but the combos are more limited then the blades. The sword is also slower too, thus making the sword more effective against slower enemies. I leveled it up once, but I stopped there because I preferred the unique and far reaching blades.

Icons

When facing bosses in this game, icons over their heads will pop up. In order to defeat them, one has to press those combinations of buttons. This does not only apply to bosses, but also normal enemies. Much larger enemies usually have icons pop up. However it is not necessary to press those icons to defeat the enemies. They will go down eventually, but killing them through the icon pop ups will spawn health orbs. On some specific enemies, one has to press a variety of buttons in order to kill an enemy and if one misses they will take damage to oneself. It may take a bit to get used to, but once one does then pressing these icons should be a cakewalk.

Puzzles, Platforming, and Item Searching

The puzzles in this game are rather simplistic, which is understandable since this game is an action title. However the puzzles in the game does a great job at breaking up the action. To keep things fresh, the puzzles are a way to ease the tension of the numerous fights. The plat forming is intuitive and the smooth controls allow for easy movement. However there will be a few instances where the camera gets out of place and it will make it hard to see where one must jump. On several occasions, one will have to backtrack and collect items that will allow them to proceed. For example some cranks will be missing levers or an item is needed to proceed to the next area. The superb level designs allow for item searching and backtracking to be rather painless, in fact through the intensity of the fights along the way it can be extremely satisfying.

Superb Level Design

The level design is absolutely brilliant. The levels are connected to each other and offer a very authentic feel to it. The levels being interconnected reinforce the thought of cohesiveness. One can always go back and check to see if anything has been missed. Unlike other level designs, God of War melds these levels together and shows off its gorgeous view. On several occasions the game forces one to play through a certain part of a game before one can go to another part. While the game is quite linear, it does offer exploration to some extent. The game also has many routes that allow for easy access and painless backtracking.

Orbs

Throughout God of War, there will be three distinct types of orbs. These types of orbs will be green, blue, and red. Each with its own specific use, the orbs will help Kratos along his journey. Killing enemies will always spawn orbs, but depending on how the enemy is killed will determine the color of it. If one kills an enemy through pressing the icon button, then one will increase one's chance in getting healing orbs. However for the most part, red orbs will spawn when an enemy is killed. Throughout the course of one's adventure, one will find many treasure chests containing a significant amount of these orbs. Treasure chests will also contains feathers and eyeballs, which extends the life bar and magic meter. Collecting as many red orbs as possible will enable one to level up one's weapons and magic attack. The red orbs are the bases to the game's level up system.

Rpg Elements

As mentioned before hand, collecting red orbs will allow Kratos to level his weapons and magic up. A certain amount of these orbs will enable Kratos to level his weapons up. After each level, the amount of orbs for the next level will increase. Each time a weapon or magic attack is leveled up, its power will increase, or there will be more moves to perform, and sometimes both will occur. Progressing through the game, Gods such as Zeus, Hades, and Athena will grant Kratos a specific item or weapon that will help Kratos through his adventure. As one progresses, one will find that Kratos will become stronger and more deadly.

Boss Battles

With the game's many bright spots, it is hard to single out one thing that sticks out in my mind. God of War's boss battles are simply astonishing. Each fight is a war in itself. The fights are intense and breathtaking. On many occasions after a boss battle, my hands were sweating because of the intensity. Some of the battles can be long, but the developers did a great job at maintaining its pleasure throughout the boss battles, which unlike some games it made the game a chore to play.

Miscellaneous

With the many enemies that Kratos will encounter, the controls would have to be crisp and sharp in order to deal with these threats. Well suffice it to say, God of War's controls are very fluid and responsive. Even with the numerous enemies that will come after Kratos, the game's intuitive and responsive controls allow the player to deal with the threat with smooth precision. Speaking of enemies, the game has a variety of them. While some enemies are rehashed, the variety of enemies that are in the game keeps the game from being repetitive. Some of these enemies are of gigantic proportions, while others may seem like a bug, but make no mistake about it they all pack quite a big punch.

Some Minor Flaws

God of War is an exceptional game, but no game is flawless. Few and far between, God of War does have some minor flaws. The camera for the most part is quite fluid and follows the action very nicely, but at times the camera can get out of place, which makes it hard to see. Players will never have control of the camera, which is understandable because for the most part the camera does an exceptional job at following the character's movement. The few times that the camera does get out place, it would have been nice if there were a rotating camera. Another shortcoming is the game's overall length. The adventure is rather short and can be beaten in about 10-12 hours. However given the game's unique combat system, the game does have some longevity. It would have been nice if the game was longer, but with the game's exceptional core mechanics and its breathtaking adventure, this is one minor flaw that can be easily overlooked.

Eye Candy

The FMVs do a great job at showing an enriched Greek mythology. The FMVs also immerse the player into Greek mythology. Several flashbacks are used to convey the history of Kratos. These flashbacks will occur when Kratos arrives at a certain point in the game. Bit by bit, the player will begin to understand his cruelty and his ambition for power. This sets a nice pacing to the game. Not only does it break up the action with its beautiful scenery, it also conveys the story rather nicely. The in game graphics are exceptional and it seemingly takes the PS2's hardware to its max. When the screen is filled with many enemies, the game will have some minor frame rate issues. Keep in mind that it is very minor and does not affect the game whatsoever. In some instances the game will be blurred a bit, but this is probably due to the hardware rather then the developer being incompetent. The game's animation is superb and it showcases your character's ability. Many of his moves are not only devastating, but they are also easy on the eyes. The game is very stylish and offers some nice eye candy. On its own merits, God of War is one of the better looking games on any system, but due to the hardware limitation there are a few things that can be nitpicked.

Turn up the volume

Another thing that God of War excels at is its musical score. Through a dramatic musical score, the game's intensity and fun factor increases. Each beat and each note adds to the flavor of the game. The music does a great job at showcasing Greek mythology. What makes it exceptionally good is the fact that the music becomes more dramatic at certain instances. The voice acting for Kratos is very befitting of his personality. His voice offers a tough, yet, not over emphasized tone. Depending on the God, the voice acting fits the type of ruler that they are. For example, the God of the underworld, Hades sounds rigid, Zeus is holy, and Athena sounds benevolent. With an incredible and varied soundtrack coupled with superb voice work, God of War not only plays well, but it also sounds great.

Enriched in Greek Mythology

Basing the game on Greek mythology was not only wise, but the subject allows the developer to be more creative and thought provoking in crafting a story. Is the story one of the best ever? That would be a definite no, but it does keep things interested and for the most part it is quite satisfying. I would have liked it if the story was a bit deeper, but since this is an action title the story takes a back seat to the action. From one's very first step into Athens, one gets the feeling of an enriched and beautiful city. The developer presents the theme of the game through Greek like buildings, religion, and overall presentation.

New principalities acquired by one's own arms and prowess

So a prudent man must always follow in the footsteps of great men and imitate those who have been outstanding.

Where are the morals? Where is the compassion? These are no longer necessities, you are Kratos and you are a man that wields tremendous power. Morals? Compassion? Kratos does not need any of this; it became quite apparent when Kratos first sacrifices human life. Kratos is portrayed somewhat as a villain, but in reality he just seems like a lost soul. His character reflected his past and through his characteristics the game is not only action packed, but it also offers a thought provoking experience. God of War sets the bar as possibly the best action game to ever grace a home console. What is there not to love? There are tremendous amounts of enemies for one to slaughter, the combat is bar none one of the best in any 3d action title, there is plenty of gore to go around, and yes there is more and much more gore. At first glance, God of War may seem like any other stereotypical action title, but in reality God of War strays from your typical action title and offers a fresh new perspective on action gaming. Make no mistake about it; God of War's core mechanics will drastically change our view about future action titles. Many developers might even copy God of War's formula and I sure hope they do because God of War is simply masterful. God of War will define action games for years to come and in the future when we look back we will know where action titles draw its semblance.


Reviewer's Score: 10/10 | Originally Posted: 03/25/05, Updated 08/01/05


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