Review by Xodyak
Dark, Gripping, and Fun, a Staple of Sony's Library
DISCLAIMER: This review is based off of gameplay from the version included in the PS3 God of War Collection.
There are always certain games that come to my mind when thinking of the systems released over the years. Games that defined that system's existence by the sheer presentation or reception received, and being able to back it up with solid gameplay. God of War is that game for me on the PlayStation 2. Released later in the systems life to rave reviews, God of War kept PS2 owners happy, and started a series that many associate more with the system than any other game. What made God of War so special, and eight years later, does it still remain as good as people remember it?
God of War has a story set within ancient Greece, where the Gods still rule over Olympus and manage human life, along with mythical creatures and constant warring. We're introduced to Kratos attempting to take his own life, and then taken back to earlier within the time frame to the events leading up to his assumed demise. The game goes through a series of events and we learn Kratos is a violent, tortured soul who longs to end his servitude to the Gods and end his nightmares. It is at this point that the Goddess Athena informs our protagonist that he can obtain his goal be assisting the Gods in defeating their pain-in-the-butt brother Ares, who is currently laying waste to Athena's city of Athens. Kratos assumes the duty of killing a God, despite being a mere mortal, to finally bring peace to himself. In all, it's safe to say the plot isn't as epic as the Odyssey or anything, but what is provided is still a very entertaining tale. In fact, the game strings you along enough through gameplay alone that I often found myself not minding that there are really long stretches with out any real plot development. There are no real silly twists or developments that require in depth thought, which I feel is perfectly appropriate for an action game like this. I want to kill bad guys, a lot of them, and I just need enough of a reason to know why I'm doing it. It could be said that Kratos is somewhat of a arrogant donkey and can be an un-likeable character, but since the game does it's best to do nothing but brood darkness and bad-assery, I found it to be forgivable for this game (especially at this game's release, consider the demographic as well).
Where this game really shines is doing what I just mentioned: killing bad guys. When it comes to combat, this game is, in essence, a true hack n' slash/beat-em-up. There's nothing too deep here, and as you develop your skills, you gain access to more abilities and moves that I learned to apply to various battle conditions. Nothing seemed to difficult to master and felt natural and satisfying as I hacked through to hoards of Ares.
You have two different types of attacks, light and heavy, and you can use those attacks to stream combos effortlessly and look great doing it. Kratos can also guard, evade and (almost obviously) jump as well to assist you in getting through. As stated, you earn different abilities, such as magic, a new weapon, and new moves for you skill set, keeping the game fresh and providing you with different foes that will require you to learn the best method of attack for maximum killing efficiency. I only can say I had two issues with the combat, one of which was that some of your moves required a button combination that included the guard button, and coming out of a guard and into an attack often resulted in a move that left me vulnerable to enemy attack. The other would be that almost ten years after "Z-Targeting" there was no way to lock on to enemies. The latter is more forgivable as there are times that locking on to an enemy when there's a swarm of them would actually cause more problems, but I still would have enjoyed that as a feature.
This game isn't just about combat though. You'll find loads of puzzles strewn throughout as you progress from area to area, each varying in simple to moderately difficult. Honestly, the puzzles here don't take too much thought to get through, and if you ever get stuck you'll probably kick yourself if you look up the answer as most of the time it was sitting right there in front of you. The major gripe here is that there are times where you feel like you are doing a lot of backtracking and fetch quests for these puzzles, making one area seem longer than it needs to be due to all of the puzzles that need to be completed. While the action provided made my feelings subside a bit, and the relative ease of which they could be solved kept me from getting frustrated the aspect of another puzzle, it almost became too much after a while. In addition, not being able to control my camera was something I needed to get used to, as the camera can sometime put you in a bad position. I know that not all games had camera control back then, but I realized how much I use it now for 3D platformers, and how much I missed it.
Even with the camera issue and the button combo issue, this game controls like a dream. I did have my share of deaths in this game, but when I did die I could pretty much look back on what I was doing and fully know it was my fault. I could see how people could argue this game provides for cheap deaths, but in my case I found that I often died when I was rushing it or not being careful in the situation. With the controls provided, nothing here was hard for me unless I allowed it to be.
From a presentation standpoint this game is nearly flawless. Graphically speaking, the game pushed the PS2 to its capabilities, and playing it in HD on the PS3 makes it look even better. Characters have a lot of detail and animations are smooth. Facial animations are well done, lighting effects, magic effects, everything looked like there was a lot of time put into making this game come alive. While there aren't a lot of different environments here, there are a lot of details provided with what it shows. The sound track kept me pumped up and ready for the next area, waiting for the next battle and whatever was going to come through at me. Even after you got done with a puzzle, the soundtrack had a way of making me feel like I had just accomplished something great, even if nothing is incredibly catchy, memorable, or varied, it fit perfectly with the action. Even the voice acting was spot on, all the way down to having the motion capture match near perfect to the audio. The presentation of both audio and visuals carry this game really far and probably left the longest impression for me from this game.
This game is short though, as it only took me around eight hours to complete on Normal. Even with that being said, the game tries its best to provide you with additional content to keep the replay value you up. There are different costumes that are unlockable, different game modes, and a host of bonus content. In addition, if you're playing this in a PS3 update there are trophies that can be earned for additional accomplishment, and the trophies here are quite attainable. Normal mode isn't really that difficult either, and you get unlimited continues that usually put you someplace that wasn't that far from where you died.
God of War to me is a game that fully defines the PlayStation 2 experience for me. A dark, gritty, violent action game with tons of polish with satisfying and fun gameplay. While it may not take you very long to complete it, what is here is truly a classic that at the very least all action/platformer fans need to play. There are plenty of ways to play this too - either you can get it for your PS2, or you can get it with one of the PS3 HD rereleases (suggested method). While I can't give this game a perfect score due to some control miscues and camera functionality, the rest of the game is solid and warrants a purchase.
Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Product Release: God of War (US, 03/22/05)
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