Review by maestro_malone

Reviewed: 03/06/06

One briliant experience, from start to finish...great combat and amazing action

After three years in production, God Of War has failed to disappoint. Easily one of the best action games money can buy and something that holds such good replay value, you’ll want to play it again and again. There is so much variety in the combat and the platforming aspects that you’ll still be learning new techniques and viewing new animations on your third play through. So what is God Of War and what is so great about it? In many ways, it is similar to games from the Prince Of Persia series, with a good blend of fighting and moving. The scenery is similar, the principals are similar and the dynamics of each game are to a large extent, pretty similar. Yet whereas Prince Of Persia tends to focus on jumping, climbing and solving puzzles, God Of War is far more combat-heavy. The game is based around the fighting elements and this makes it a much more thrilling experience on the whole. If fighting is more your thing, this is definitely the game for you and even if you’re into the calmer side of the equation, God Of War has a large-scale balance that can keep anyone happy.

At heart, it’s pretty much a sword-slasher. The combat in completely unrivalled, with a large list of simple yet effective moves to pull off. It’s amazing how easy it is to pull off such “cool” looking moves, in even the most challenging of fight situations. The basic moves at the start of the game provide a mere taste of what is to come. As the game progresses, it’s possible to learn more powerful moves and develop your style. By the end of the game, the arsenal allows for levels of versatility previously unseen in any form of slashing game. No other game can quite match the thrill that God Of War provides of slicing an enemy in two or scooping him high into the air. Whilst the slashing is varied enough in itself, with two small quick blades and later on, a much stronger but heavier sword, but there is also a range of magical commands available. Whilst these might feel out of place in some hard-hitting fighting titles, they sit extremely well with the whole atmosphere of God Of War. There are literally so many ways to take care of enemies in this game.

As for the platforming elements, whilst not as in-depth as many games (including Prince Of Persia) may provide, it is still complex enough to hold the game together in-between the marvelous combat. The puzzles, whilst not particularly innovative, are challenging enough to warrant enjoyment from the player. In order to maintain the whole fight-heavy dynamic of the game, some simpler forms of combat are available throughout certain platforming elements. Whilst climbing a wall or swinging across a rope, enemies will come at you, forcing you to take care of them accordingly with the 3-4 task-specific moves available. Whilst this could get irritating and drastically slow the pace of the game, in reality it does neither. The uncomplicated nature of such battles makes for an enjoyable addition to the combat system.

Of course, it’s not all about gameplay. There are other essential gaming elements to consider, as there are with all games. The graphics certainly aren’t a problem. Cut-scenes are extremely smooth and up-to-standard with modern games. Much of the in-game animations are extremely impressive and a cut above many of the action/adventure games on today’s market. The astounding visuals are particularly noticeable on the first level, where the scenery is often quite mesmerising and the sheer capabilities of the engine in terms of character animations and boss battles are unbelievable. Things improve even more as the game advances. Some of the later death animations are particularly astounding. When an enemy is sliced in half mid-game or swung full circle into a batch of surrounding enemies, the action seems almost real. God Of War certainly holds no flaws in the visual department.

What about the story of the game? What is it all about and is it interesting enough to provide an extra-incentive for the player to push through the game? Whilst hardly the best plot ever seen in a videogame, it is somewhat intriguing and not a great distance from the standard of stories told by many movies. The lead character is Kratos – a warrior, seeking revenge on Ares: the God of War. The very first scene of the game effectively displays what will happen at the end of the tale, then transports the player back to before any of this came about. This opening manages to capture the player in, at least to some extent, wanting to know exactly what is going on. At about five points throughout the game, the story of Kratos is revealed through a series of flashbacks. Kratos, himself, is a very well designed character and one of the heroes (or arguably in this case, antiheroes) with enough depth and charisma to stand out as being particularly “cool” or “badass” characters to play as. Kratos is up there with Snake, Vercetti, Dante and others as one of PS2’s finest.

The sound, whilst unspectacular, is very fitting with the tone of the gameplay and also combines well with the scenery that Kratos moves through. Sound effects are pretty authentic and the choice of music helps to set the overall mood. This game doesn’t resort to the common theme of heavy rock to accompany the combat; everything remains appropriate to the era in which the game is set and this principal adds greatly to the general atmosphere that the game aims to create.

In terms of replay value and rewards, the game very much exceeds. Each of the four difficultly settings, whilst never really altering the structure of the game, adds a new spin to the general challenge and causes the player to develop new tactics for defeating enemies. After completion of the game, you pretty much find out everything about how it came together, with videos of the creation and development process. Plus, some extra challenges become available to keep the player occupied.

Of course, no game comes without its flaws and hence, God Of War only scores nine out of a possible ten. The major problem with the gameplay, although not a distinct hindrance for the most part, is the inability to adjust the camera and/or switch to a first-person stationary view mode. In modern action/adventure games, this is almost an essential feature and very rarely is it excluded yet not missed. Sadly, God Of War fails to account for the lack of this option and at times, movement can become unclear and combat can become obstructed. There is also no way of being able to explore the area visually without physically traversing it. This is especially annoying when it comes to finding a certain object, path etc. There really is no way of knowing where to go. Games have moved on quite a lot in the past three years and possibly, over the course of its development, God Of War missed out on what are now vital stages of production. Had the R3 button been used to control the camera, rather than for the somewhat unnecessary rolling function, then this game may have squeezed the perfect ten.

Another snag with the game, although considerably less of a problem on the large scale, is the fact that there is no targeting option when it comes to fighting a crowd of enemies. This can often cause the player to run into danger, through a mistake they never intended to make. For example, there is a section of the game where Kratos battles two giant beasts in a crowded square of pedestrians. When worn down, the beasts become open for an enemy-specific kill, in which Kratos must use the “grab” feature and then follow the on-screen commands to dissect them. However, with so many pedestrians in the way, it is often impossible to get hold of the enemies and Kratos ends up tearing apart the civilians running through the battle. Eventually, the beast re-gains his strength and the fight continues. Some form of system where Kratos automatically targets bigger enemies over smaller ones or harmless life forms could be implemented to improve the overall the combat of the game; rather like the system that was introduced into Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. As stated before though, this flaw will never ultimately ruin the experience for anyone, since it is seldom going to reduce enjoyment levels drastically. All it does is retract the level of control created for the player.

When these flaws are overlooked, as they should be in a title as impressive as this, one of the best action/adventure titles on PS2 remains. God Of War is a truly atmospheric, entertaining and rewarding experience, with arguably the best combat found on any slashing game. It probably won’t be the deepest game you’ve ever played, or the longest, or even the most challenging; but God Of War is able to balance the scales of challenge and fun – two elements that come together to represent the overall quality of a gaming product. Unless you’re particularly squeamish or have a certain hatred towards the genre, then there is no reason to avoid this purchase.

Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

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