|Forget Hercules, Odysseus and Achilles, those mythological heroesí feats are nothing compared to what newcomer Kratos goes through in the God of War. This mortal imbued with god-like powers, cursed blades and a big chip on his shoulder is out for revenge against Ares, the god of war. Every once in a while a game comes out that redefines a genre and raises the bar for all others to come. Ladies and gentlemen welcome to that point in gaming history.
God of War is without a doubt one of the greatest action games ever conceived in every aspect of its making. One thing that sets it apart from the rest of the pack is how truly adult the game is. No punches were pulled and the kiddy gloves have been cast into the blazing fires of Hades. Within the first hour of God of War you will slaughter the Hydra, take part in a threesome with two naked chicks, rip the head from Medusaís shoulders and split the skull of a Minotaur in two. That just barely scratches the surface of what Kratos will be doing as he tears through mythological characters like they were thin papyrus.
Heís not noble like the Prince of Persia and heís not honorable like Ryu Hyabusa, Kratos is actually a murderous bastard and once you grab a pedestrian thatís running by you and rip them in two, youíll understand heís not your average hero. Nothing stands in his way on his quest to kill Ares and there are several moments that may make you question your own morality, like when the game forces you to provide a human sacrifice. God of War is not for the feint of heart but for those of you who are not turned off by gallons of blood, then you are in for one hell of a ride.
The life of Kratos is a tragic one and some of his history is revealed through the games plot. A Spartan warrior that was on the loosing side of a battle, he made a pact with Ares to spare his life and those of his men. Of course, Ares accepted his offer seeing in Kratos the potential for greatness.
The Blades of Chaos were seared to his flesh and equipped with the cursed weapons he was let loose on the world to do Ares bidding. Slaughtering innocents and enemies alike, Kratosí soul was soaked with the blood of others and he has lost nearly all of his humanity. After a fateful event that lifted the wool from his eyes, he realized he was sick of being the god of war's pawn and has set out on a quest to destroy him.
The gods know of Aresí treachery and he wages war against Athena and Athens. The gods may be forbidden to fight amongst each other, but that doesnít mean they canít help Kratos to succeed where they cannot. On your quest youíll stand before the visages of the gods and be given gifts of their power. From Poseidonís rage to Zeusí lightning bolt and even the undead army of Hades youíll have plenty of deity magic at your finger tips. Youíll even be able to tote around Medusaís head and turn your enemies to stone.
Itís not just the powerful magic that makes Kratos such a formidable warrior though, itís his prowess with the cursed blades grafted to his skin. You may be able to walk through the game by button mashing, but the finesse of God of Warís combo system begs to be exploited. You start off with only a few maneuvers at your disposal, but the more you upgrade your weapons an unbelievable amount of doors open up for you. There literally is a move for every occasion and each is as effect as the next. Keep this in mind too because the higher your combo total the more red orbs youíll collect to level up with. Donít be surprised to see that number go well over a hundred at times and remember that you can juggle enemies in the air if you can launch them.
The combat in God of War is just so inventive and flawless that you wonít believe how comfortable youíll feel with this system. The button layout is perfect for the style of game this is and itís the very definition of pick up and play. That doesnít mean the game is easy though, well, unless you select ďEasyĒ that is. There are different difficulty settings to choose from so right at the start you can pick your poison.
Kratos isnít just a brute without a brain either and he proves that by the puzzles that will need to be solved in order to press forward. Some of the situations you are faced with would make a certain Hyrulian in green tights stop to scratch his head for a moment, but they challenges never get so bad that youíll get stuck for too long, just think things through and youíll be ok. While I appreciate that brain teasers being a step above average action games, they basically boil down to pulling levers, pushing stones and finding handles to turn something with. A greater variety of unique puzzles would have gone a long way towards making the experience even more special.
Even though you do have a couple of riddles to solve, you donít have to backtrack to do them. Thatís another beautiful thing about God of War, there is so little backtracking that youíll only maybe visit a particular section of a stage once, if that. This keeps the game constantly moving forward and not looking back. Itís a breakneck pace that motivates you to continue on even into the wee hours of the morning, just to see whatís next.
Surprisingly enough the action in this game doesnít just involve freeform combat, plat forming and puzzle solving. Tied in with combat is a mini game of sorts that requires you to press buttons in a timely fashion at key moments. At certain points you will see an icon appear over an enemy that is one of the buttons on the PS 2 controller. By pressing that button youíll initiate the sequence and as long as you keep it up youíll get some devastating results. Its use can be as simple as using an enemies own weapon to impale them or more complex like slitting a Cyclopsís throat or twisting the head off of a Gorgon. These breaks in the action keep things fresh and provide some ultra slick eye candy.
Actually, scratch that, this entire game is eye candy! PlayStation 2 games are simply not meant to look this good; itís truly the best looking PS 2 action game youíll come across. The textures are drop dead gorgeous, the designs are phenomenal and the animation is entirely fluid. The entire way trough the game is a festival for the eyes and the cut scenes showcase some amazingly real graphics.
This is a living and thriving Greece populated with lively characters that respond to their environment and surroundings. With his pale white skin and red tattoos, Kratos stands out like a sore thumb amidst the earthy tones and grimy textures of his surroundings. Heís bald and beautiful and walks around lifelike and with purpose and once you witness his combat in action youíll just crave more and more of it.
The enemies are equally impressive with darker, more sinister designs than the mythological characters you learned about in school or seen on TV. You truly get a sense that each of these monsters is a living, breathing animalistic creature as they are summoned to stand in your path. The detail is so great you may even notice subtle things like that Gorgons have nipples and an interesting tid-bit is that the Cyclops used to have a penis before the game was finished, but they cut that out. Poor guy.
The beasts roar, screech and scream realistically as well and the voice acting here is unparalleled. Hollywood caliber talent propels the plot and character development forward in a way that is fit of an epic big budget movie. But what truly takes the cake is the vast soundtrack that grabs you from the first cords your ears pick up. Just like the graphics, the audio in God of War is amazing and truly has to be heard to be believed.
Despite all that is great about this game there are a few areas that keep it from achieving gaming perfection. For one thing it is very short and will take you less than ten hours to defeat. Granted there is no backtracking and there are multiple difficulty settings and bonus stages to topple, but a few more hours would have gone a long way. There are some minor graphical glitches like clipping and occasionally wonky hit detection, but those are extremely rare to come across. While the camera is 99% great, there are some times that having the ability to center it or control it a little bit could have helped things out some.
Before I forget there is another that sets God of War apart from the rest of the action crew and thatís the amount of stuff you unlock after beating the game. Literature on the monsters in the game, a tour through deleted stages, background on Kratos and a preview for God of War 2 barely even scratch the surface of what is available. If only all games included this much bonus material and rewarded players so greatly.
If you canít tell by now, Iím gushing over Kratos. Simply put it is the best action game I have played in a very long time and the best on the PS 2 console. Kratos truly hits the ground running with this series premiere and you can guarantee youíll be seeing a lot of him in the future. A truly hardcore experience that grabs you from the title screen and doesnít let go until itís over. This belongs in every PS 2 ownerís library and if you donít have the console yet, let this be your swaying decision. Buy this game now!
Credit goes to Digital Back Spin for the review
This is a really great game playing it once will get you addicted trust me, you can get hooked on this like drugs.