Review by johnathanblade
"GOD OF GAMES...from the action genre"
God of War is an action-adventure epic in the vein of Devil May Cry. At this point the style of gaming is common. However God of War is uncommon in that all of its elements come together to form a near perfect gaming experience.
God of War follows the final days of Kratos, a Spartan warrior turned garbage man to the gods (cause he does their dirty work.) He is the avatar of their godly might and as such he has been chosen by the gods to dispatch one of their kin, the God of War, Ares. As the story progresses you learn more and more about the past of Kratos and why the people of Greece fear him. A lot of it is cliché in the telling, but there are enough twists, turns and epic masculine bravado to keep things interesting. The story is told through a combination of prerendered and in-game movies. The prerendered movies are fantastically stylistic, but the in-game ones fall a bit short of what we are used to at this point.
As I said before, God of War falls into the Devil May Cry genre of gaming. This means one part combo laden hack and slash, one part environmental puzzles and a dash of platforming are the basic parameters for the gameplay. The combo system is robust and the attacks are visceral. As with other types of games in this genre more attacks become available as you make your way through the game. By the end of the game Kratos has two main weapons, four types of magic to use and somewhere around twenty-plus different attacks that can be strung together. He also has the ubiquitous rage mode in which Kratos gains increased attack power for a short period of time. On the defensive end Kratos is able to block, parry and dodge attacks.
What sets the attack system apart besides the brutal aesthetic of the attacks is the Shenmue style QTE system during combat. Basically during combat if you hit the correct button while that buttons icon is flashing above the enemies head you will do a savage, flashy enemy specific attack that will do extra damage. There are several types of enemies in the game. All of them have unique attacks and they are mostly visually appealing. There are only a few true boss battles, but the ones that are there are magnificent, involving action puzzles and showcasing the God of War graphics engine.
Fallen foes yield one or a combination of three types of energy. You will be given life energy, upgrade energy, or magic energy. There are also chests in the game that yield those same types of energy and life and also yield health bar and magic bar upgrades.
The next element of the gameplay is the puzzle solving. The puzzles are even more delightful than the fine combat. God of War does environmental puzzles better than any other game in this genre save Prince of Persia:WW. There are a lot of push this, pull that, find the key type of puzzles. However, they are executed so well and in such a novel fashion that they seem innovative. The moving environmental puzzles are fairly novel in my experience, and they are loads of fun. The best thing about these puzzles, however is that they almost completely do away with directionless backtracking.
I despise video game puzzles because they often make no sense and involve the previously mentioned directionless backtracking. God of War's puzzles are simultaneously clever and easy in that you are constantly wowed by the ingenuity of the design, but never hopelessly stuck. Best of all, if you have to travel a ways to find an item to solve a particular puzzle the game leads you back to the primary area. The platforming in the game is mostly used to enable the puzzle solving.
Graphically God of War is probably neck and neck with Jak 3 for the title of most technically impressive 3rd person action game on the PS2. The character model's are superbly detailed, especially Kratos. The environments are epic and active. Some of the effects are excellent while others are just really good. The textures are high quality (for the PS2), just one step below Legacy of Kain: Defiance in detail. As far as sharpness and clarity nothing compares though. God of War is also one of the most technically hardy games to grace the PS2. With a screen full of enemies, particle effects, real-time reflection, lighting effects, the most impressive water surface deformation ever seen on the PS2 and active polygonal environmental effects going the game still holds rock solid at 60 fps.
You can really get into all of this because of a flawless camera. It moves cinematically and gives you a wide view in combat as to never block your view. You don't have any control over the camera, but you rarely feel that you need to.
God of War employs an N64 style edge filter on top of its normal AA filter as a default setting in a function called smoothing. Before you start playing the game turn the smoothing option off. Smoothing kills a lot of the games visual detail and is completely unnecessary.
As in most 1st party Sony games God of War can be played in progressive scan mode and supports Dolby Prologic II surround sound. Speaking of the sound, the aural effects are appropriate for this kind of game, but the music rocks. It's ancients Greeks rowing a trireme, Hollywood style music.
As an aside, God of War is one of the many games that have come out in the past year that represent the outer limits of what can be done on the PS2. In the allocation of resources at the edge of programming efficiency all of those game have had to give something to get something else (MGS3's area-load, area-load structure, Jak 3's low bit textures, PoP:WW's low poly character models, Onimusha 3's poor AA filter, Killzone's horribly unstable framerate, ect.) God of War makes very little concession in its technical vision though. Kudos must be given to the programmers.
Those programmers have also provided quite a few unlockables and lots of bonus material. You have a making of featurette, internet trailers, an extra difficulty level (for a total of four,) a peek at some deleted levels, a bonus survival game and lots of other stuff. When it's all said and done God of War is well worth the price of admission. Lead designer David Jaffe said that in making this game he has created something that he has wanted to play since he was a child. Well I'm glad that he did because I feel the same way only now I don't have to bother with getting one of those pesky programming degrees to actualize the fantasy.
Reviewer's Score: 10/10 | Originally Posted: 04/11/05, Updated 08/01/06
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