Review by Herugrim
A great game, though it tries a little too hard.
What happens when you try to make a game that is the best at everything? Well, you get a game thats decent at everything, but not quite as good as the games that specialize at being the best at one thing. God of War was a game that tried to be good at everything and while it was the best combination of so many elements, it was still lackluster compared to other more focused titles. However, its still a solid title on its own.
God of War delivers a high degree of presentation sold partially by its top-notch score. Background music consists of large orchestral music and vocals laced by grand choirs all building into an epic feel. The voice actors all play their parts with a theatrical edge that makes you feel like you are indeed viewing a tale weaved in ancient Greece about a powerful mythical Spartan named Kratos. Terrence Carson delivers a solid role as the angry, anithero protagonist Kratos who will make Conan seem like a sophisticated and cultured warrior and Hercules look like a wimp. The sound is solid all around.
Most gamers will tell you that God of War pushes the Playstation 2 to new heights, but you wouldnt know that the system is even at its limits. The animations are smooth, the load times are short to non-existent, and the high resolution cut scenes are breath taking. The environments that Kratos will traverse are both awe inspiring and beautiful. Deserts, cities, an ancient temple filled with traps and puzzles, and even the realm of Hades itself are all fantastic to behold. The scale of this game really conveys the sense that you are playing the part of an ancient and epic tale. The only real downsides to note is that the game is clearly an early attempt as the enemies you come across are rather stiffly animated and lack a certain amount of aesthetic detail. They look okay but they appear really bland after awhile.
One of the biggest draws of this series is the storyline itself. Kratos history is the main focus of this specific game as he is sent on a quest by the Gods of Olympus to slay the God of War, Ares. This quest will take him through the Dessert of Lost Souls to the Temple of Pandora, and even to Hades before the final confrontation with the God. The story unfolds much along the common lines of your typical Greek Tragedy and everything comes around full circle to the opening scene. Its a great title as a self contained story as well as part of the ongoing series which has hooked so many fans to this day.
This is where the game shines and rusts, in different places. As I mentioned in the beginning of this review God of War tries to be good at everything at once. Its part action/adventure game, its part plat forming, and its part puzzle game. All these elements combine surprisingly well, but still a bit underdeveloped. The puzzles are generally pretty low tech. Most of them tend to revolve around basic levers or using your spells to overcome specific obstacles.
The plat forming elements are what starts to hurt the game. It starts off with some simple but tedious balancing beam segments and climbing sequences where you have to fight off wave after wave of stubborn enemies who only serve to slow you down more. It doesnt really start to spiral into frustration until you reach the Temple of Pandora filled with traps that require precise timing, and failure often means death. Dodging rotating blades while suspended a hundred feet in the air is bad enough, but to have to balance on beams at the same time is overkill. And anybody whos played a game with underwater levels before knows how frustrating it can be but in God of War it is frustrating for a very different reason. You dont have to fight underwater and you dont have to worry about holding your breath, but you do have some of those traps that require perfect timing to succeed or death if failure. It doesnt help that the traps generally move much faster then Kratos can, forcing you to adopt a trial-and-error strategy until you get it just right.
The combat system in God of War is just as varied and balanced as the other aspects. It combines a simple set of combos (one heavy, one light), a small selection of special moves (that can be used to juggle enemies in the air along the lines of Devil May Cry), and a basic grappling system (basically just a finishing move button that is often very brutal and sometimes starting a special quick-time-event). To add a little more depth to this system Kratos can acquire a new weapon known as the Blade of Artemis which functions a lot differently then Kratos default weapons. Still youll find yourself relying on the trusty Blades of Chaos throughout most of the game since they have better range and more varied attacks.
Also Kratos has a powered up mode he can go into called Rage of the Gods. In this mode a blue electrical aura envelopes the Spartan and forms what appears to be a set of armor. In this temporary transformation Kratos attacks change up distinctly and he become invulnerable while it lasts. You can perform Rage of the Gods when your meter for the skill is full, and it fills as you attack enemies. Once activated the transformation cannot be shut off. Instead it drains the meter which fuels it until gone and then the mode ends.
The biggest feature of God of War would be the quick-time-event (QTE) system it uses (also called Context Sensitive sequences by the game itself). These are basically interactive cut scenes that occur throughout the game that require the player to press a specific button that appears on a prompt on the screen in time. Failure can mean death, or that Kratos simply takes some damage and has to try again. QTE events have been around since the days of Dragons Lair, an arcade title published by Sega years ago. They allow for some really dramatic and gory fight scenes. However you are so focused on catching the button prompts that you arent really paying attention to the action so in the end you feel as though you are missing out. Also the window of opportunity to press these buttons is fairly small and the sequence in which they appear is random. You cant simply memorize the pattern to get it right, you just have to wait and see.
The enemies seem very easy at the beginning of the game but they quickly become frustrating. They never come at you in a single wave and always respawn at least twice. The area also seals itself off, forcing you to fight wave after wave of the enemies. There actually arent that many creatures that you fight in the game and they recycle themselves in every new area. The only differences are really aesthetic ones. The monsters in hell appear to be made out of smoldering lava with a fiery aura, while the ones in Pandoras Temple usually have golden bits of armor on. Some of the enemies at the end of the game are really frustrating as they simply dont care if you hit them, on the rare occasion that they sit still to let you hit them, or they do a cheap throwing type move that will often plummet a defenseless Kratos off the edge of a cliff and to his doom, over and over. Gorgons will attack you in groups and force you to constantly dodge their petrifying gaze or be turned to stone and risk instant death if hit. With more then one they can cycle their gaze almost infinitely and force you to do nothing but roll around. All enemies are capable of interrupting Kratos attacks at their whim with their own which can often stun him for an easy, powerful follow through. These are all fairly cheap tactics to try and add challenge to a game.
God of War is an excellent game with a really high grade of presentation that proved to gamers and designers alike just how epic a video game can be. It was, however, not without its flaws. The game would be considerably more polished in future incarnations, but rough start aside it was still a great title.
Rating: 4.0 - Great
Product Release: God of War (US, 03/22/05)
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