reviews\ Mar 21, 2005 at 7:00 pm

God of War - PS2 - Review

He desired strength; he desired power and his bloodlust led him to the ultimate ruin. Greek tragedy is rife with tales of gifts from the gods corrupted by the desires of man for more, or gifts that were corrupted by the gods for their own amusement.

Caught in this purgatory of desire and power granted for devious entertainment purposes is a Spartan known as Kratos. Once a commanding officer of great power, he thirsted for more, and Ares made him a deal – but Kratos foolishly followed the path offered him, and even as God of War begins, Kratos is standing at the edge of a precipice, driven there by the pursuing madness. He steps from the ledge of the high peak and plummets toward the rocks and water far below the clouds.

Poseidon's combat gift is shocking!

But what led him to that place? God of War skips back three weeks earlier, when Kratos was on a ship on a storm-tossed sea, besieged by harpies, undead and hydra.

God of War is a PlayStation 2-exclusive title from SCEA that is a combat- and action-heavy vehicle that takes gamers back into the mythology of ancient Greece, effectively combining the pervasive and intrusive – at their convenience – pleasure of the gods against a violent background. It should be noted that this game has extreme violence, as well as some sexual overtures, which includes scenes of nudity.

The combat of this title is rather amazing, and the game does feature a fixed camera position that can be slightly annoying in certain situations, as when Kratos is trying to walk across diagonal beams, and the camera is not behind him, forcing players to guess at the directions to make the journey without falling. (Not to worry, though, for Kratos has quick reflexes and is capable of grapping the rails should he fall, and with a quick button push, pull himself back up.) The right thumbstick controls evasion moves that display the incredible animation of the title.

To thoroughly understand the depth of the game, one needs to begin with the story. The plotline of God of War reveals a character that hungered for power, achieved it, teeters on the edge of madness because of it, and yet, seemingly, has little remorse. That the gods favor him is taken in stride. That they imbue him with great power is a recourse he accepts casually. Each god-power is one step closer to reaching his objective, which is to kill Ares. The reasons are told in cutscenes as you progress through the game. You will be several hours into it before these unfold in, and by that time, it is akin to offering water to the thirsty man in the desert. The story is so well done; you lap up each droplet of back-story and thirst for more.

Kratos is a killing machine. His principle weapons are axe-like chain weapons. The blades extend at the end of chains, and he can create a weaving dance of death with this extended reach. He also has the ability to grapple, a skill particularly useful when enemies come at him while he is climbing walls. There is some satisfaction to grabbing an enemy while hanging from vines on a rock face, smash it repeatedly against the stone, and then tossing the limp rag doll down from the heights. Or you can go hand-over-hand across a chasm on a rope line, using your chain weapons to slice and cut enemies who would engage you in half as they approach.

(Remember, it was mentioned this game has extreme violence, but it all seems to fit perfectly into the context of the game.)

Each of Kratos’ skills can be improved upon as he progresses through the game. Kills will release elements from newly deceased, which in turn fill an experience-type bar with points, which can be used to level up skills. Also, at points in a fight, Kratos will be able to unleash a series of combination moves, which are dictated by matching on-screen hot-key prompts. Some button mashing also will help you produce finishing moves.

The game does have a fair amount of the “Wow!” factor working in regards to the graphical elements. The first time you see Ares standing and hurling fire bolts down on Athens is truly impressive.

Open mouth, insert foot ... and one very ticked off Spartan with nasty weapons

Overall, the graphics of God of War show the PS2 at its finest. The textures are incredible, the animation amazing and each setting, whether in the ships on the storm-tossed oceans, or in the ravaged city of Athens, or out in the desert leading to Pandora’s box, is superbly crafted. God of War is, visually, the game that resets the graphical standards, but while the images are impressive, one cannot fail but recognize the nuances of each setting; how the lighting and shadows convey moods and carry forth the game’s theme. The violence is not watered down, nor are the moments of ruthlessness that mark what Kratos has become.

A guard, shaking with fear, will not extend a bridge because of the prospect of terror looming should he release the lever. Kratos needs to get across. He cares nothing for the guard, and when he acquires the power to use a ranged attack, one of the first to fall is that terrified man. He worried about the monsters running throughout the town, when he should have been afraid of Kratos.

The game’s soundtrack is magnificent with a terrific musical score and great voiceovers. 

If there are any drawbacks to this title, they lay in that the game is only 12 hours – or a little more – in length, the fixed camera angle can create some nuisances, and the puzzles are not overly complex. But these are merely incidental to the grandeur represented by this title.

God of War is a phenomenal bit of storytelling, immersive and a truly incredible videogame in terms of graphics, sound and gameplay.

Review Scoring Details for God of War

Gameplay: 9.7
The fixed camera position can make some of the tasks a little more difficult. Rather than lining up behind Kratos while tightrope walking along a beam, it is off to the side, which can make the angle of the path harder to discern. However, the general control scheme makes this game somewhat intuitive with a short learning curve.

Graphics: 9.8
For the PlayStation 2 console system, it really does not get much better than this. The animation is terrific, the environments are stunning, and there is a lot of the “woah!” factor coursing through this game. The first time you see Ares raining devastation on Athens, you will be daunted, impressed and anxious to see how you will defeat him – as much as a mortal imbued with godly powers can defeat a god.

Sound: 9.6
The sound plays second fiddle to the graphics but does a very nice job, both in the voice acting and the musical score.

Difficulty: Medium
The challenge can be tailored in the difficultly scale presented, and the puzzles are not that innovative, though you do have to think about your course of action as you progress. 

Concept: 10
The combat elements are very well done, and the mix between the story elements (told through cutscenes) and game play is perfect. This game had a brilliant concept carried through in an excellent manner.

Overall: 9.7
Simply gorgeous graphics, with an immersive and challenging storyline that incorporates ancient Greek mythology in a manner to draw you further into the game. The camera angles can be a little off at times, and the game is rather linear, but those are minor players to the superb cast of elements represented in this title. This is one title that should be in the library of any PS2 owner.


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