Review by Dorkmaster Flek

Reviewed: 01/23/07

Bad-ass protagonist + stellar art direction + unrelenting action = awesome fun!

The One Minute Review

It should be noted that this game is most definitely not for the kids. It contains graphic, over-the-top violence, mature themes and situations, and some brief nudity. Now that we've gotten that out of the way, if you like action games, you should go buy this right now. God of War follows the epic adventure of Kratos, a mortal who once lead the Spartan army and became a servant of Ares, the titular god. Having renounced his former master, Kratos is tasked with doing the impossible and killing a god. God of War combines amazing technical skills in the graphics department with a fun and surprisingly deep combat system that allows you to reek havoc in bloody glory against various mythological creatures, and eventually Ares himself. Combine all this with a fantastic presentation and a story involving one of the most bad-ass protagonists you've ever seen, and you have nothing short of a fantastic romp through ancient Greece in one of the finest action games in recent memory.

Not Your Daddy's Hero

The story begins with Kratos leading the Spartan army as its ruthless general. When his army is on the brink of defeat against the barbarian hordes, he calls out to Ares, offering him eternal servitude in exchange for his help. Ares responds, giving Kratos the Blades of Chaos, which will serve as your primary weapon throughout the game, and proceeding to slaughter the barbarian army. Without spoiling too much of the story, Kratos eventually renounces his master and goes his own way. When Ares attacks Athens, he is called upon by the gods to defeat Ares, as Zeus' law forbids the gods from battling each other. What follows is an epic tale of a mortal who swears to do the impossible: to kill a god.

One of the best things about God of War is the incredible presentation. Kratos is one of the most bad-ass anti-heroes you'll ever meet, and part of what makes him such a great character is how solid and unrelenting he is. He never once falters in his quest, and never lets compassion get in the way of his singular drive to destroy his former master. The use of various monsters and characters from Greek mythology is excellent, and the art direction is stellar. The game has an undeniably slick polish to it, and it positively oozes mythological flavour the whole way through.

Kratos is all out of gum...

The crux of the gameplay is to, quite frankly, tear the *&$% out of everything you see that moves. If slicing things up with your flailing, spinning blades sounds good to you, then welcome to heaven. Kratos has weak and strong attacks at his disposal, as well as the ability to launch an enemy into the air and leap after him by holding the strong attack button down. The fun comes in how you combine these moves, along with the various magical abilities you'll gain over the course of the game.

Attacks can be chained together in a variety of ways. For example, weak -> weak -> strong is one chain. As you discover the various chains through experimentation (or just look them up online you killjoy), they'll be recorded in your log to view later. After performing the finishing move in a chain, you can immediately start another chain and continue your combo counter. You can also link together several chains using the launch attack mentioned earlier. Once you're in the air, you can pretty much juggle your opponent indefinitely using continuous launch attacks to bounce them off the ground and back into the air. It's very doable to achieve a combo of well over 250 hits using these techniques.

Now all of this actually sounds harder than it really is. The game isn't a pushover (in fact, the final boss fight can be pretty tricky), but the combat system is...forgiving, shall we say, when it comes to button mashing. This has been a point of criticism, but I find that it lets people enjoy the game even if they're not very good at something that resembles a fighting game more than a brawler. There are multiple difficulty levels if you feel the game is too easy, but a big part of fun is being able to pull off huge combos that, quite frankly, look way freaking cool when you do them.

Another nice addition to the gameplay is a quasi-leveling system. By defeating enemies (or finding certain treasure chests), you earn red orbs which can be used to power up your blades or any of your magical spells. The catch is that you can earn more orbs by defeating enemies using progressively more elaborate chains and large combos. This system allows you to customize your character to a certain degree. If you tend to use certain spells a lot, you'll probably want to upgrade them first. If you prefer melee combat, you'd be better off upgrading your Blades of Chaos to deal more damage. The upgraded weapons deal noticeably more damage, so you'll need to choose your upgrades based on your play style in order to ensure that you have the combat capabilities you need for the later stages.

The bigger they are...

The other main part of the gameplay is scripted events that require you to press the indicated buttons at the correct time. This is used for some very cool sequences, such as parrying attacks, launching counterattacks against larger enemies, as well as some totally awesome finishing moves and action sequences during some of the boss fights that I won't spoil here. Suffice it to say, you'll be tearing off limbs and ripping opponents in half on a regular basis.

Speaking of boss fights, this game has some big ones. In fact, basically my only complaint about this game is that there's basically only 3 main boss fights in the entire game, and one of them (arguably the coolest) is in the first stage. The other two aren't until the last 1/3 of the game. This gives the game a bit of what I call the “first level syndrome”. That is, the first level packs a huge wallop and really gets you excited, but while the rest of the game is still very good, it doesn't quite reach that “cool factor” that the first level had with its massive boss fight. That having been said, don't let this discourage you from playing the game. It's still fantastic, this was just something that irked me a little bit (and something it appears they're correcting in the sequel).

The finishing moves you put on the various enemies are also highly entertaining, such as ripping the heads off of the Gorgon monsters you encounter. There's just something about literally tearing monsters limb from limb in gratuitously bloody glory that makes you grin from ear to ear. This is a mature game, and the developers relish this fact to go completely over the top with Kratos' brutality, but this is part of what makes him such a great character, and what makes the game so utterly fun.

This will help make the game worth playing through multiple times, along with the extra difficulty levels you unlock as you finish it. You will also unlock the Challenge of the Gods, which is a series of 10 challenges that is quite difficult and will test even God of War veterans. Completing this mode will unlock extra costumes for Kratos that actually change his stats as well. Little extras, but they go a long way towards adding replayability to an otherwise straightforward game.

Artistic Splendor in Ancient Greece

For all its gameplay charms, God of War is nothing if not beautiful. The first time you see Ares stomping Athens into the ground (in realtime no less), you'll just have to stop and stare. The enemy design is great, the architecture is excellent and the levels have great variety to them. From a ship under attack at sea to the streets of Athens to a temple in the middle of the desert to the depths of Hades itself, everything looks fantastic and it runs at a solid 60 FPS pretty much the entire time. God of War definitely pushes the PS2 hard and it makes for some pretty impressive battles to be sure.

Sound-wise, everything is great. Blows landing on enemies sound crisp and meaty, thought they are helped by the images of graphically ripping the limbs off enemies as well. The musical score is solid. Nothing really sticks out as overly amazing composition-wise, but it's a solid soundtrack of orchestral background music to accompany your adventure. The music is appropriately intense for the majority of the game, seeing as you'll spend most of your time beating the living daylights out of everything that moves, thought it does grow measurably for the boss battles.

The voice acting is also pretty consistently good, which is more than most games can say. No Oscar winning performances here, but they're not exactly delivering lines of Shakespeare either. The important thing is that nothing here will make your ears bleed with cheese, and Kratos sounds just as badass as he looks, and this comes shining through.

The Final Word

The word on this game is most definitely not subtle. God of War is a game that literally stands up in your face, kicks you square in the balls and demands to be noticed. It is unrelenting and gratuitously violent and over the top. It also features fantastic art direction with an excellent story presentation and supporting characters, excellent technical achievements with the graphics and sound, along with great level design and a surprisingly deep and fun combat system. While the levels are very linear and the game is essentially a 3D brawler, it provides a great variety of environments to enjoy, and hacking your way through armies of bizarre creatures based on classic mythology proves extremely fun as you perform some fantastically over the top finishing moves on your various opponents.

I would score this game higher than a 9, but not all the way to a 10 for GameFAQs rounding system. The fact that arguably the coolest boss fight in the game is in the first level, and there are basically only 3 major boss fights in the entire game irks me a bit. The linear nature of the game also hinders its replayability somewhat, but the multiple difficulty levels, small character customization options and the Challenge of the Gods mode do help in that respect. Regardless, God of War remains a fantastic, action-packed romp through ancient Greece. It is a tribute to a dying genre of games that seems to have seen a revival recently with the likes of God of War and the recent Prince of Persia series. If you are at all a fan of action games, you simply must check this game out.

Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

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