Review by SieckJ
"A slasher with soul...SOUL!!!"
Ah God of War. Where else can you go to mercilessly kick a wounded man down a hydra's gullet; only to mock that same man in the next life? Give up? I thought so. God of War is a quick, but immersive and fun brawler that takes place in an ancient Greek setting. Here you will find the reality of the long-gone city-states of Greek history merged seamlessly with beasts and monsters of period mythology. Oh well, who cares? You are really wanting to play this game because an Anthrax look-alike albino is slashing filing pockets through hordes of big monsters and townsfolk alike. SCEI really delivered on this one. Game forums yammered on for months about quality before the release of this title; and it would seem that the community banter was not in vain (although I wish it had shut up a little sooner). Alas, I am going to go with the crowd here and say that I'm stunned. There is just something about a shattered crows' nest being pumped with a hydra head's inards' that gets me riled. On that note, this game certainly took me by surprise when I bought it. The gaming community was gun-hoe to give us the reviews of this title; praising it's overcoming of VRAM limitations on the PS2, not to mention the cinematic directorial stylings. "It looks as good as anything on Xbox SEE?!", "I'd like to see that kind of violence on LAMECUBE.", and let us not forget the inevitable "Sony rulez, xbox lamerz." What most reviews neglected at launch were the obvious scenes of extreme violence hidden here in. This was probably an attempt to dodge some of the Grand Theft Auto controversy that has taken the industry by storm. I find it just a tad irresponsible for top reviewers to dodge God of War's plethora of movie-real gore. We are not doing anyone a favor by looking the other way and praying no more 'Hot Coffee's' come our way. That point aside, this game is an impressive looker, with a brawler's mentality as the core mechanic.
Gameplay is an unmuddled composition; blending Street of Rage with Rygar. The main difference in this title is of course, the seamless 3d integration. Want to throw that Gorgon up in the air? Go for it! Want to tear her head off? Go for it! Want to save the princess and have a big mushrrom parade? Your little brother's room is just down the hall. Kratos (our protagonist) is a nimble acrobat when paired with the analog stick. Virtually any enemy can be grabbed, stabbed, or tossed like an Athenian Muppet. Kratos' offensive maneuvers are satisfying when executed on ordinary enemies and bosses alike. God of War also makes use of a random push-button combo system that prompts the player to press the matching on-screen commands to deliver more damage. For example, you might be fighting a Cyclops and press circle to grab him, the game might then ask you to push triangle to stab him in the leg, followed by triangle to swing to his eye; you get the picture by now. This blend of ultra-violent brawling and sequential button-play usually keeps things fresh, with only brief periods of stagnation towards the game's end. A note to the hardcore player, don't expect anything new here. Going into God of War expecting originality is like trying to take Justin Timberlake seriously as a solo artist. Unfortunatly, the only serious complaint I had while preparing this review was the occasional balancing act the gamer is forced to do on rafters and narrow ledges. These careful tip-toe sequences can create dull pauses for the more angst-filled person, especially when the action just got done flying. These events are rare however, and their weight on my overall score is almost non-existant.
The story in God of War is satisfying and simple. Kratos is a savage General seeking to avenge the loss of his loved ones. An air of mystery surrounds the events of Kratos' dead relatives; much like the identity of my natural father (sigh). During his journey, Kratos will be ushered everywhere from Athens to Hades. In the course of events he is aided by the Olympian gods, who ask that he kill Aries in return. You would think, that as gods, they could simply predict the future and send him directly to kill Aries with some cool power, but no. Instead Kratos has to go through this whole schpiel to get Pandora's box open (I'm not even making a joke there), and gain the power to 'kill a god'. Thus the main idea behind this game is to kill the 'God of War'. Rather than go for a spin-off of Hercules (sorry Kevin Sorbo), SCEI instead chose to go with more cinematic themes that use matrix-esque camera stopping and 'through the eye' scene shifts. Interestingly enough, some of the character designs actually reminded me of Diablo 2's. Blizzard being an excellent source to draw from, I'm not complaining.
As previously suggested, this game shines in graphical quality. Polygon counts are high, with several characters on screen at once. I didn't notice any slow down at all during my time with the game either. Load times were always short and tolerable, but occasionally caused the sound to hiccup on my copy. Textures look surprisingly good for a Playstation 2 title and shade well in the murky enviorments. Water effects (although rare) help to benchmark this title for the console comparison shopper that is hung on things like "the Gamecube has better textures than the PS2, but fewer polys." For the love of God people, shut up about the polys already. Character designs were easy to distinguish, and didn't put me to sleep with their contrasting colors and smooth surfaces. Kratos himself is an eye-catching anti-hero, which keeps players from losing interest in his persona. The long red design on his body went a long way in my self-titled inside joke 'power stripe'. Enemies will look and feel repetitive by the end of the game however, but this is fine due to the overall shortness of the title. I found it ironic that the developers made a point in the bonus features of discussing their desire to make each enemy feel unique, when three-fourths of the game later, I am still fighting the SAME fricking enemies. In the sound department, God of War shines brightly with full operatic scores done in surround sound. Approaching new areas can have a profound psychological effect when high poly counts merge with booming vocal chorus. You know in Apocolypse Now where they are in the choppers and Wagner is playing? Yeah, it's nothing like that.
God of War is a short but sweet romp in the garden of violence, not unlike my sex life. If you haven't beaten this game after 20 hours, I'm smacking your mother. Maternal battery aside, it is easy to lose interest towards the end of this title; so the play time feels appropriate. These few minor set backs should in no way hold anybody back from at least renting this game. If you have commitment issues with your fifty dollars like I do, get a Gamefly subscription quickly. A sequel is already rumored to be in development, so it would be a shame to miss out on this new mega-hit. Just because you are all cheap and trying to be too cool for this game like me. Bonus features offered up at the end of the game might hold the interests of the newly-founded fan of this game, but most players will not pick this one up twice. If you've ever wanted an interactive audio commentary with the occasional drawing-board sketch design or were wondering what the four itterations of the Cyclops were; seek help immediately.
In the end, God of War is a well-buffed brawler in an R-rated movie. The under-mentioned violence takes nothing away from a title that is rich with graphical and sound quality. This title will certainly appeal more to older gamers, who will find familiar elements of previous titles they have played. So the next time you are pinning a minotaur's thrashing head to a stone crossway, send your little brother to the other room, lube up your joypad (walk away from that joke, just walk away), and break this one out as a rental. I give God of War for the Playstation 2, an overall eight out of ten.
Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 02/21/06
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