Review by HEMIstation

"This game takes Castlevania's cake and eats it too."

Well, apparently Sony took advantage of Konami's ineptitude to produce a 3D Castlevania-esque action game. Not only does God of War have a better fighting system set-up, it has beautiful levels that have NO redundancy whatsoever. Pretty much, everywhere Castlevania Lament of Innocence failed, God Of War succeeds. Let's get into the detailed review:

*FYI, I played God of War on “hard” mode.

STORYLINE: Your name is Kratos. You are a Spartan warrior, and one of the best war leaders in all the world. Kratos is a mortal, in case you were wondering. This is the only part of the review I will leave un-detailed because your character will be FULLY explained in the game's cut scenes. How he got the Blades of Chaos attached to his forearms, why his skin is ash white, and what is the motivation behind his long, arduous quest.

GRAPHICS: Excellent. This game did a good job of keeping things fluid. Kratos, and all of the enemies are finely crafted. Their faces are smooth and realistic – not clunky and polygon looking. The level design is fantastic. Attention is paid to every detail, whether it's realistic looking lava flowing in Hades' Lair, all the water graphics, even Pandora's Box is finely detailed and very creatively done in my opinion. They took a great idea and really squeezed every ounce out of it—not like “Pandora's Box” in the movie Tomb Raider II, which looked like a broken toaster from the 60's.

GAMEPLAY: This is where the game outperforms every other game in its class. Where Rygar is clunky, God of War is silky smooth. Where Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver throws in a cut-scene practically every 3 minutes, God of War PERFECTLY spaces out the amount of free-willed action with an appropriate number of cut scenes (interruptions). Where Castlevania LOI locks the doors to a room and dumps in enemies, essentially forcing you to kill them before you can progress, God of War gives you an incentive to do so--- you can gain health orbs, magic orbs, or increase your “Rage of the Gods” meter. But GOW doesn't lock you in some ordinary room like LOI, there is usually a puzzle piece slowly, but surely, getting closer to ending your life—hack them enemies up quick and find a way to get to safety! Also, you earn “blood money” as I like to call it. As this accumulates, you can then exchange your stock pile of “blood money” to learn new combos, enhance the strength of your blades, or obtain more powerful magic moves.

The Blades of Chaos (the chain/blade thing on your forearms) are awesome. You will find a very welcome “symmetry” to wielding two chains than you could Never feel cracking a lone Belmont Vampire Killer whip. You can learn over 20 different combos that are all radically different and very unique to each situation. In some instances you may NEED to do a specific combo to break an enemies shield. Don't worry, the combos are not difficult to learn. Usually they are no longer than 3 buttons in a row, and can be easily remembered throughout the game. As you progress through the game, you will be faced with occasional enemies that are Gigantic in size and health, and as you hit them, eventually they will be dazed for a second or two. A giant Circle will appear around their head. When this happens, Kratos licks his chops and has an opportunity to REALLY wreak some havoc with his chains. The circle button over the enemy head will then turn to a different button, say X –--then it quickly turns to a Box---- etc, etc. Follow these prompts on your remote and watch as Kratos acrobatically slashes at his enemy. It is really a thing of beauty to watch. Again, these are not hard combos to pull off. Personally, I hate Mortal Kombat games because I think some of the combos are too difficult to pull off. God of War will challenge you, and sometimes a stray enemy hit when you aren't looking will put a screeching halt to your attempted combo, but all in all, it is a PERFECT system. The combat NEVER feels dull or drudging. It never feels like you are just button mashing your way through a worthless horde of enemies that have no pizzazz for trying to kill or sucker-punch you. Make no mistake, EVERY enemy in this game wants to engage in combat. There are no enemies waiting in the background for “their turn.” They come in organized and strategically timed “waves” at you. There are also no glitches in the system where you can just run in circles around your enemy and sneak in a hit whenever you feel like it (*cough* Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance *cough*) Blocking and Dodging are an intricate part of the system, but dodging/blocking are not the same as running in circles or tucking your tail between your legs when you see a difficult situation. Listen carefully to my tip of the day: STOP RUNNING AWAY LIKE A SISSY AND FIGHT!!!

SOUND: I like the music in this game. It is always appropriate to the situation. When you are in a “life or death puzzle” the music definitely picks up and gets your pulse moving. You can tell the attitude of a situation coming up just by the music as you approach it. When you are swimming underwater, the music is extremely tranquil and calming. The boss music is very suiting. Kratos' occasional grunts or emphatic rants are not annoying, out of place, redundant, or cheesy. If you've played Prince of Persia Warrior Within, you know how annoying it can be when your character has two “grunts” and he vocalizes them every 5 seconds. Kratos does not over-use his “grunts”, but when he does grunt, it is very manly and loaded with testosterone. When he opens boxes (treasure chests) you can hear him strain. It is very realistic, and when you play you will actually strain along with him when he opens boxes! It's true!

BOSSES: I'm not sure if you can count Medusa as a boss or not, she was moderately difficult, but I will go ahead and call her a “mini-boss” since she is not overbearingly hard to beat. The first true boss you come to is a Hydra. The graphics and sound of the Hydra are jaw dropping. Hook up a Bose surround system to your TV when you fight the Hydra boss and you will quake in your boots! Difficulty of the Hydra is moderate, but it took me a few times to beat them (there are 3: 2 soldiers and 1 big boy). There is more to the bosses in this game than you hacking and slashing, however. There are always parts of your surrounding environment you have to pay attention to, because as the Boss' HUGE SIZE will indicate, your “tiny” chain/blades will only cause so much damage. And when I say HUGE, I mean the Hydra/Minotour are at least 20x as big as you.

The second boss is a Steel-armored Minotour that has probably been using Steroids since birth! He is above average difficulty. Usually what you will learn is that as the Bosses get more difficult, you will have to do 3 things: 1st, you have to block more often. 2nd, you have to have some kind of strategy or plan as to when the best time would be to use your magic spells, and 3rd, you have to FOCUS and learn from your mistakes. The Minotour killed me countless times, but each time I got marginally better and eventually beat him.

The last boss is Aries. He is difficult to beat. You have to have a strategy to beat him. Running straight at him and using all of your attacks won't get it done. So if you are into games where you “hold” all of your power-ups for the last boss, sure that's a start, but it won't cut it vs. Aries. I will not spoil the last battle for you, but FYI, if you think Aries' initial attacks are hard, well, just you wait and see what else he's got in store for you! By the time I finally beat him, I had cursed more times in an hour's time than I can ever remember. I was yelling curse words at the top of my lungs. Make no mistake, Aries is a very, very good last boss fight.

GOOD DECISION: To make Kratos bald. After seeing all the GRAY haired Castlevania heroes as of late (get some “Just for Men” hair coloring would ya!), and the red-headed punk from Chaos Legion (makes me think of “Problem Child”)—Sony did a good job and said to heck with picking a hair color, just make him bald and give him a big red jagged tattoo on his face and chest. Nice decision, it works perfectly and is a testament to just how original and unique this game really is. Imagine your character as a cross between 70% Scorpion from Mortal Kombat, 15% Richter Belmont from SOTN and 15% Tyrant from RE1.

RE-PLAY-ABILITY: High re-play-ability. You can step up from Hard mode to an even more difficult setting from the get-go, or once you beat it, you unlock “God Mode” which I am told should be re-named “Impossible mode” There are not too many “hidden” areas such as Castlevania SOTN….. but GOW maximizes everything it has. There are no wasted spaces or “hidden” parts that would otherwise CRUCIALLY enhance the game (such as the Forgotten One in Castlevania LOI, whom you have to go OUT OF YOUR WAY to find and fight… and either way, you can still beat the game without giving it a second thought—what a stupid idea Konami)

CONCLUSION: God of War basically took Konami's cake and ate it too. Castlevania developers should be ASHAMED after saying it was so difficult to apply the SOTN formula to the PS2. Sony Entertainment has another HUGE stud video game (first was Midevil…great game btw) After playing God of War, I have a humungous feeling of satisfaction. You MUST BUY this game, and make sure you KEEP it once it is in your library of games. To put things in perspective for you--- if I were trapped on a desert island for the rest of my life and could only bring 3 videogames, God of War would definitely be one of them! In fact, I'd probably only bring 2 games with me, and say “Hey--- for my 3rd game, can you just FedEx me God of War 2 when it comes out?”

This game is so dog-gone good I can't stand it. Kratos is the perfect character for this game. His attitude and outlook on life are perfect. THANKYOU to Sony for rating this game M-Mature, I thoroughly enjoyed all of the rough and bloody combat. The puzzles in this game were fantastic. They always challenged me and made me use the ol' noggin. The storyline was great. The character design and combat system are the best on the PS2 to date. It is easy for people not used to using “combos” to learn it, but GOW will reward you if your thumbs are that much quicker. During the end credits, you will also get to see a picture reel of your combat escapades (similar to the credits for PS1's Resident Evil) a VERY nice touch.

In God of War, it's the little things that make it one of the best games I have EVER played or owned. But it is also important that Sony didn't forget the big things—like an addictive combat and upgrade system, original combos, and beautifully crafted puzzles and boss encounters. I look forward to God of War 2, and seriously hope it comes out for the PS2, not the PS3 (which would FORCE me to buy a new system---yes, this game is THAT deserving of my dollar!)

Reviewer's Rating:   5.0 - Flawless

Originally Posted: 11/21/05

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