Review by joncalvin
"An adrenaline-fuelled adventure that only falters in terms of story pacing and variety."
+Very satisfying and entertaining combat
+Incredible technical presentation
+Enchanting world and inventive setting
+Suitably grand and exciting score
+Great voice work across the board
-The story is often times way too rushed
-Combat fails to remain completely fresh through the entire experience
Time spent playing to date: 10-20 hours
Difficulty: Just right
The world of Greek mythology is a truly interesting one. The fantastical stories, interesting personae and mythical creatures offer a fertile ground to create expansive adventures filled with wonder and excitement. God of War is one of the most prominent ventures into this ancient mythos, and though it stumbles at points, it is an amazing adventure that boasts exciting combat, a detailed world and incredible graphics to top it all off. For those reasons, GoW is an almost essential purchase for any fan of action adventure games.
The story starts in media res as Kratos, the main protagonist, is conflicted by some mysterious deed he had previously performed. The game follows Kratos' bloody past, how he came to be this way and what sacrifices he had to make. The biggest plot points are explained by a specific narrator, and it works well to convey the almost storybook-styIe of the tale. However, what the game fails to keep up with is the pace itself. Instead of having a consistent, stream-lined narrative, every piece of the story is thrust into your face at regular intervals. Meanwhile, the story becomes absolutely nonexistent for long stretches of time, and it hinders you from becoming truly engrossed in it.
This is a shame, since the world is so fascinating. The game perfectly presents the world of ancient Greek beliefs. Grand buildings made of hardened mud, tattered pieces of cloth acting as curtains, beautiful frescoes and marble artworks; these are all things that will instantly catch one's eye and make you feel like you really are living in Ancient Greece. Well, barring the mythical creatures. You'll meet the usual suspects: minotaurs, Medusas, skeletons and more. The enemy design is very creative and it's always a thrill to see a new enemy coming at you, thirsting for your blood. The variety in the design wears a bit thin near the end, but there is a suitable amount of different foes.
In terms of character design, God of War focuses more on flash over substance. Kratos is an almost heartless character, making him someone that you won't, at any time, identify with. It's fine if that isn't the intention, but there are various moments in the game where you are meant to feel sorry for Kratos or sympathize with him, which isn't a viable option. The extra characters are more fleshed out, such as the god of war, Ares, or the various other gods. None of them really reach any mentionable depth of character, however, being conduits for the story instead of a part of it. It makes the story feel empty, and no personal investments will be made in the course of the adventure.
The aforementioned flaws are in some way alleviated by the fantastic gameplay. The story is mostly an excuse for the rampant violence present in the game, and for that purpose, it does the job nicely. God of War is in most aspects a traditional "hack and slash" action adventure game. You follow a set path destroying everything that stands in your way, dodging attacks as you go and defending against unavoidable assaults. At first, you are given a nifty set of blades that can reach long distances and is your weapon of choice throughout most of the game. You'll then be gradually introduced to new attack methods, weapons and even magic to add to your deadly repertoire. It is quite amazing how well GoW holds up in this regard, the action is fast, furious and very gory at times. Blood will splatter across the ground with every strike and once you bring an enemy to a certain point, you can kill them with special finishers.
These finishers are where you will encounter the famous quick-time events (or QTEs) of the game. By pressing a random set-up of buttons, you'll perform myriad tasks such as rip off heads and stab enemies through the heart, to name just two examples. The initial awe of these brutal finishers wears off after a few uses, but it's an exciting, and often shocking, way to end a battle. The combat isn't flawless, however, as it doesn't vary much at all through the course of the game. You get some new weapons and equipment, but the circumstances where you use them are always the same: you fight an enemy (or group of enemies) in an enclosed space, walk for a while, then rinse and repeat. It would've been far more interesting to have some change in setting or styIe to mix up the experience. Despite all that, though, GoW's combat is by far its crowning achievement, and the game's brevity keeps it from being repetitive at most points.
God of War also manages to amaze in technical prowess. It's at this point five years old, and still looks amazing. The textures are smooth, the animation is detailed and the frame rate is consistently steady. As previously mentioned, the design is incredible and the game's great technical performance helps to amplify its impact. You'll want to stop and stare at some of the breathtaking scenery; a beautiful sunset or a harrowing battlefield. If the visuals are compared to some of the finest of today, they are indeed aged in some aspects, but it is far from being a hindrance in any way, shape or form.
For a game based on eliminating mythical beasts, it is crucial to have a great soundtrack. Fortunately, this is indeed the case. It's a beautiful blend of orchestral sounds and boisterous choir. It works incredibly well in-game, turning a regular battle into a life-and-death situation with the entire world in the balance. At least, in terms of the feeling the music conveys. In the same way, the voice-acting is really well done. Though Kratos' voice is overly forced at times, it all works in terms of his overall character. The extra characters are also voiced splendidly, which is great seeing as some games forget to focus much on anyone other than the main lead.
Once the main adventure is over, there are a number of extras you can experience. There are special challenges that will challenge your skills, some very cool videos on the development of God of War and some insight into Kratos' past as well. This will most likely prolong the experience by at least an hour or two, adding to the ten hours of the storyline itself. There is also enough incentive to play through the game again via different difficulty settings which will in turn get you even more extras.
God of War makes a few mistakes in its pacing and story, but the various positives of the game outweigh them for the most part. It's an exhilarating, fast and, most importantly, entertaining experience adding up to a great game recommended to anyone looking for a quality package for the Playstation 2.
Final score. 8.7/10.0
Reviewer's Rating: 4.0 - Great
Originally Posted: 04/26/10
Game Release: God of War (Greatest Hits) (US, 03/01/06)
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