Review by neonreaper
A brutal, detached assault on a god needed more boss fights.
God of War starts off very well, with fast paced action sections aboard a boat being attacked by small time villainous henchmen as well as a giant Hydra beast. There are some foolish tightrope sections which detract a bit from the quality of this first section, but they are over quickly. It's an exciting romp to begin the game, culminating in a terrific battle against the Hydra boss. After Kratos dispatches the beast, he and the gamer are "treated" to a quick-time event (QTE) sex mini-game with two virtual topless ladies, and he has thus arrived at Athens.
The game keeps a certain pace, not quite as action packed as the first part of the game. Kratos has an array of bad guys to fight, but soon they start to block his attacks and resist his grabs, such that you'll need to learn to block, counter attack, put together combos, and reign in your attacks to avoid taking some heavy damage. Combat from this point on is satisfying, but even with th addition of new enemies here and there, it becomes a wee bit repetitive. The Hydra is an exciting fight, a large monster that you need to figure out how to conquer, but is only one of three bosses, including the obvious final one.
God of War features an epic conquest for Kratos, with some amazing spectacles along the way, some great quests built on Greek mythology, and it's a shame that there are so few boss fights along the way. There are some tense, timed puzzles which can be pretty tough (especially in the Collection edition), but also some mundane "rotate the blocks and push them around" style puzzles that remind me of the stale path the Zelda series has taken. These types of puzzles feel more like time sinks to extend the game as opposed to real challenges, and the game is "God of War", not "God of Mundane Puzzles". It'd be nice to see these types of puzzles scrapped in favor of more harrowing puzzles (and as I said, there are plenty of these), or some sorts of boss battles. Mini-bosses would be fine!
Kratos not only has his Blades of Chaos, vicious blades chained to his arms for short and long range attacks, but he gains the powers of magic and a second melee weapon. Magic has to be used selectively, as the effective ones use a good deal of Kratos' magic energy, but there are plenty of chests that refill this, so you can feel free to use them in most tight combat situations that you need to. Kratos also has a Rage meter that fills up and allows him to unleash a crazy flurry of attacks, and at higher weapon levels, can lead to unlimited mana for a short period.
Each magic and weapon has an experience level, and for beating enemies, performing big combos, or finding treasures chests, Kratos will achieve more attack styles and stronger attacks. Kratos can also collect items that add to his max health and magic stores.
The game controls are pretty straight forward, one button jumps, others perform attacks, magic, interact with specific things in the environment, and the right analog stick performs a dodging roll. At this point, you're probably used to games with a controllable camera, so it can take some getting used to, though if you've been following PS2 action games, it's nothing new. It's not always ideal, as the few tightrope segments have fixed tracks for the camera that aren't 100% perfect, and sometimes you just want to see a bit ahead of where Kratos is for some puzzling areas where you need to time your approach through an obstacle filled section, but have to rely a bit on guesswork and luck instead. There's one stage that didn't have much play-testing due to schedule problems that suffers a great deal from this... luckily you don't run out of lives/continues, so you can take your time getting it right.
There are some challenges after beating the game, including Challenge of the Gods and two difficulty modes beyond normal, assuming that was your first choice through. The PS3 Collection edition also contains some trophies that can extend gameplay choices and add more reasons to play through the game as well, including a speed run and solving puzzles in certain ways.
The story is actually pretty good for what it is, but you aren't really clued in until a bit later in the game. The first chunk of the game just features Kratos being angry and violent and obsessed with his quest. It causes the gameplay to feel detached in a few ways, so while it's fun, it's not as compelling as it could be if it found a way to clue the gamer in earlier. There's a bit of a plothole near the end that isn't a major deal, but plays heavily on the final battle so I can't really spoil it.
The lack of boss fights, the mundane puzzles, the repetitive nature of enemies and the poorly playtested levels near the end of the game drag God of War down a bit. It's exciting and fun for large stretches, so it's certainly worth playing, especially to get into the rest of the series. If this was the only entry that existed, I would probably suggest finding other, better action titles, but that's not the case here, especially as a cheap Greatest Hits buy or even better, the PS3 Collection that also has God of War 2.
Rating: 3.5 - Good
Product Release: God of War (US, 03/22/05)
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