God of War


Review by Matt Paprocki



Graphics: 9

Sound: 8

Gameplay: 9.5

Overall: 9.5

There has never been a video game character like Kratos. Sure, there have been numerous anti-heroes over the years, but none have come anywhere near the frightening brutality of this "God of War" hero. He slaughters innocent people for his own benefit, has sex with two women in the midst of a war, and provides more decapitations than any "Mortal Kombat" game. This is the backdrop that develops one of the few "real" characters in a game, and it does so better than most major films.

Taking bits from various other action titles, "God of War's" three-year production cycle allowed director David Jaffe and his team to meticulously iron out the combat that dominates the game. Kratos carries dual extending swords strapped permanently to his arms that unleash devastating combos and buckets of blood. Those combos are numerous and pulling them off not only feels great, but also produces the expected winning results.

When not jabbing on one of the three attack buttons, Kratos can perform some insanely graphic fatalities. These are done via a mini-game if you will in which players must press the button that corresponds to the one on the screen. The analog stick also plays a role in a few of these. Not only do these produce satisfying impalements, repeated stabbings, and the always brutal throat slash, they also can deliver specific power-ups you need in a pinch.

Almost every enemy slaughter provides some orbs. These serve various functions including health regeneration, magic power, or the ability to upgrade either your weapons or that magic. More moves are earned via these upgrades and those spells increase in their devastation.

Though the game starts with a rather beautiful and flowing weapon, Kratos later takes hold of a vicious, powerful, and downright nasty sword. Where his initial blades sliced through enemies with relative ease, this new steel creates impact the player can almost feel. It takes a small nanosecond for the move to finish with this new (and ridiculously large) weapon and offers up a fantastic sense of power. Both weapons are perfectly suited for the games combat and depending on your style, you'll feel right at home.

Boss fights are sadly few in number. The ones included are not typical brawls however. Each one requires a little thought process as not even Kratos' power is enough and he'll need some assistance from the room. The armored Minotaur brawl late in the game is nothing short of programming genius.

Through this ten-hour adventure, you do wish there were more battles like that. Combat can be repetitive, just basic wailing on the attack button will likely do enough damage to get you through on the basic difficulties (the god level is unlocked after beating it and that strategy will not work here). Mingled in with the constant fighting are some inane puzzles, most of which seem out of place here.

It's obvious that the attention went towards the action engine. Most of the puzzles require boring block pushing and even fewer require any real thought. It almost seems like the development team knew just how annoying these can be as Kratos can kick these items to move them a little faster. Still, some of these are just way out of hand requiring backtracking, platforming, climbing, swimming, and little common sense. That's just not entertaining. If you manage to avoid getting hung up on one or two of these, expect the playtime to drop to around six hours total.

Another ugly issue crops up and that's this games "cinematic camera." There's nothing wrong with giving your game a movie like feel, but make sure that doesn't interfere with gameplay. Certain sections require rough jumping and if it's not the camera taking you down, it's the off screen archers. Numerous segments require the player to traverse thin beams and when the camera shifts here, the controls go with it, usually resulting in a death. You have no control over it as the right analog stick allows for some fancy defensive maneuvers.

What that camera does provide though is an effective look at the exotic locations in ancient Rome. Detail in the backgrounds is without a doubt pushing the hardware to the limits, especially when combined with the crazy after glow of a weapon swipe. Enemy design is top of the line and the animations to go along with them give each a small personality. There's no slowdown, fog, or polygon drop out either. It's as solid a 3-D engine as you can find on today's hardware.

The audio presentation is brought to life with a booming, epic soundtrack. It changes depending on whether you're in the midst of a brawl or wandering around the world solving a puzzle. Whatever the situation, there's proper musical accompaniment. Voice acting is fair, though not outstanding. Kratos has a great gravely voice, but his lines are spoken rather monotone and seemingly without much effort. The sound effects pick things back up a notch with a gruesome audio of the weapons tearing through flesh.

The only thing that should stop you from playing "God of War" is a weak stomach or your age. This is NOT a game for someone who is sensitive or a child. There's nudity, gore everywhere, body parts lying around, and some of the most gratuitous violence you'll ever see. Unlike some other games though, it all has a purpose and it's not included just to be there. The first time you see Kratos stab a panicking citizen repeatedly in the stomach, you know just who he is. That's enough to carry this revenge story by itself, but add in pick-up-and-play combat along with some epic battles, and "God of War" becomes one of, if not the, best title on the Playstation 2 to date.


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Last updated: Sunday, May 01, 2005 08:46 AM