Review by Millers C

Reviewed: 09/05/06

Ancient Greece recreated in all its glory; and the game is good too

Ancient Greece. Of all the mythologies you may have learnt about at school, Greek mythology was probably the one you found most interesting. Tall Tales, strange creatures, gods, magic and war, it was never short of dramatic quality and had all the ingredients required to make a decent video game. Well, whatever you have learnt and read over the years has been taken by Sony and put on a PS2 bound DVD as we see the first ever ancient Greece em up in God of War.

The game is held together by the rich plotline. We begin the game atop of the highest mountain in Greece where we are introduced to the muscle bound Kratos, who stands at the edge peering out into the Adriatic Sea. After long moments he says with an air of resignation ‘The gods of Olympus have abandoned me’, and with that he throws himself off. As he is about to crash into the water below, the opening narration kicks in which goes on to explain how Kratos seemingly took his own life. We then enter the game, and after a deadly battle with hydras, Kratos is charged by the gods of mount Olympus with killing Ares, the God of War. The cutscenes are all really well directed, if a little brutal and gory at times and the voice acting is very effective. It’s told, effectively in flashback. We don’t know much about Kratos in the beginning, but as we progress through the game we see a series of character developing flashbacks which delve into Kratos mind and help explain how he became the war hungry warrior that he is. Its an interesting way to introduce the character to us slowly and it helps the narrative progress, whilst never hindering the fast gameplay by resorting to masses of cutscenes at inopportune moments. Added to this, I liked the way Kratos is a fatally flawed and borderline evil character. His only loyalty is to the gods and the mission at hand, he’s certainly no 2D hero. Not only is the voice acting impressive, but the rest of the audio effects are also used to great effect, particularly in the soundtrack. There are some excellent tracks which are used to create a foreboding atmosphere, and at times an atmosphere of awe and it helps make the game a great experience and works effectively alongside areas of puzzle and boss battles.

Playing God Of War is like driving a Mcclaren F1; the sense of pace when you play the game is excellent. Rather than gloss over storyline and plot, the game thrusts you right in at the deep end – so to speak – from the beginning, with the narrative speeding along. Within seconds of selecting your difficulty, you’ll find our hero Kratos aboard a galleon damaged by a ferocious storm in the Adriatic Sea and the ferocious assault of several Hydras. This formulates the first few sections of the game where you become acquainted with the controls and start to see the plot develop, and it ends in a massive boss battle against 3 Hydras. While this segment of the game is by and large an action adventure, the game itself is a hybrid of different genres. There are segments where you will need to solve puzzles, which include pushing blocks, maneuvering levers and even making a human sacrifice to get past a puzzling sections as well as facing tricks and traps which will abruptly halt Kratos’ quest. There is just the right blend and balance between scene after scene of high octane action and action dry puzzle sections. You’ll also find yourself facing jumping platforming sections at times, and it really feels that God of War is a fantastic hybrid of several genres. It reminded me of the original Tomb Raider in that way.

Kratos is certainly a versatile character in combat. He moves quickly, actually he reminded me of Sonic The Hedgehog the way he can charge and run and fall great distances without getting hurt at a fast pace. It’s the excellent and well thought out control system that makes the game such fun to play and it certainly gets the best out of God of War and is well suited to an adventure game such as this. Kratos has two blades chained to his wrists, and these are the main weapons he’ll use in the game. Button mashing and magical upgrades can lead to upgrading the weapons in term of power and unlocking some punishing combos to dispatch the various undead creatures out to get Kratos. The game lets you interact with the environment, as you’ll need to button mash to gain strength in Kratos to turn turntables, open heavy stone doors and to push columns around. There are also some Resident Evil 4 style button mashing sequences particularly when you are trying to defeat an enemy. You can finish them off in style by completing this. Although at times this is interesting, rather than getting cramp in your knuckles from repeatedly bashing square, you can perform a coup de grace yourself by just continuing to fight. It all makes for some epic and exhilarating battles. Sometimes though, the button mashing is mandatory on some bosses, and instead of button mashing at times you are required to twist the analogue stick. Unfortunately, this becomes very frustrating as you’ll find yourself at times not having enough time to twist it in the right direction and its also awkward and confusing to complete at times.

Kratos doesn’t just rely upon his blades; he’s effectively an assassin charged with killing the God of War by the gods of Olympus; they back Kratos up with support via their magical powers. Magic becomes indispensable at times as it certainly makes some of the battles easier. Hades allows Kratos to use undead assassins to kill his enemies; you can also use the head of a gorgon to turn your enemies to stone, whilst the power of Zeus enables you to fire bolts of lighting at your foes. You’ll also be able to pick up another weapon during the course of the game as an alternate to the blades of chaos.The wealth of options and depth to the combat is impressive and makes the game a lot of fun to play, and makes it somewhat addictive. Of course, due to the game’s nature, you can expect a sea of blood and gore to be spilled as you play through the game, especially in the blood soaked cutscenes – it’s a game with an overwhelmingly dark theme at times and it’s clear that for anyone who is faint of heart where gore is concerned should proceed with caution.

The game is like a who’s who of ancient Greece. You’ll encounter Minatours, Gorgons, Centaurs, Undead Knights, Harpies and Cyclopes to name but a few; I really liked the siren creatures who attract Kratos through their beautiful singing, only to reveal a deadly creature. The developers have put a painstaking amount of detail into these monstrous creations to make them look as hideous and ghastly as we can only imagine they were. Even the roars and battle cries of the creatures sound spine tingling. It’s also, in a way, very educational; if ever you wanted to rekindle interest in ancient mythologies, God of War is the game for you! But what the developers have done is brought this mythology to life in stunning detail and, as legend has it, is historically accurate, and it’s fascinating to be drawn into the ancient world of ancient Greece as Kratos fulfills his destiny. The wickedly designed traps are a joy to try and navigate, including circular Saws on blocks, collapsing spiked walls and an underwater puzzle. They are all well manufactured and detailed and it’s clear the developers had a lot of fun thinking of methods with which to dispatch Kratos.

There are 3-4 difficulty modes to test yourself on; the easiest Spartan is perhaps a little too easy for veteran gamers to start on and the hardest difficulty is unlocked upon completion of the game. The game clocks in at around 12-14 hours playing time depending on how dedicated a gamer you are which is a reasonable length of time to keep most gamers satisfied. There is a fair bit for you to come back to; there are several interesting Easter eggs and unlockables for you to have a look at and try to aim for when playing the game again, and I’m certain many people will come back to play the game again. It’s an uncomplicated game which is easy to pick up and play and its addictive fast paced and adrenaline soaked gameplay ought to keep most gamers interested and coming back for months.

There is a lot to admire in the graphical department. You’ll see some varied and well architected sights in ancient Greece. I was impressed with the lighting which was used to great effect at times during the course of Kratos’ adventure. But the detailed creatures and locales are some of the most impressive and good looking I’ve seen in action on the PS2. Landscapes include areas of desert, cliff top ruins, and a main thoroughfare in Athens, a sprawling Palace – the attention to detail put into the game is astonishing and noteworthy. The excellent animation of enemies and Kratos himself can only be admired when seeing Kratos have a round of combat with a minatour. You can have Kratos fight with 5-6 or more creatures at any one time, in an open area with a huge background detail and not suffer any slowdown and that is certainly very impressive. It’s a game that has clearly pushed the PS2’s capabilities to its very limits.

God Of War pulls you right in to the fascinating and awe inspiring world of Ancient Greece with its excellent playability, addictive gameplay, epic plotline and in its fantastic visuals. It’s a game that ought to appeal to anyone who enjoys their games fast paced and easy to pick up, yet it also has great challenge and a storyline which should interest people who like their games to have substance beyond its gameplay. In effect, God Of War is a game which scores top marks in almost all areas; it’s a game which never lets up in interest and frenetic gameplay and it’s a lot of fun to play through. If you dislike games with a lot of gore, and a game which involves hacking and slashing, God of War may not be for you; for everyone else, here lies one of the greatest games to grace the Playstation 2.

Rating:   5.0 - Flawless

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