Rants and raves about all the latest in video games and other forms of mindless entertainment.

May 21, 2005

Microsoft limbo...How low can you go?



Most people know by now that Xbox360 and Playstation 3 have been officially announced. This comes as no suprise, since Microsoft officially unveiled it's Xbox360 live on MTV. Live as in pre-recorded and aired later...ummm, wait; no thats right. In any event, Microsofts underwhelming unveiling did tell us one thing: the next generation is here. It's starting this fall and Microsoft wants to be the daddy. No one really cares either way, but Microsoft seems to think being first is best; time will tell.

One thing that isn't up in the air (like most everything after the paramount event E3), is that the Ps3 outclasses the Xbox360. Spec for spec the Playstation 3 is the dominant console. Here are the specs for the Ps3 and Xbox360.

SPECS: Xbox360
SPECS: Ps3

Whatever the case may be, you will more than likely stare at the pretty and distracting numbers and think "It's the games, so who the f*ck cares?". You'd be right, but having a powerful console also makes those games pretty, and both Sony and Microsoft have ensure that the future is bright. What I'd like to dwell on a little more is the fact that Sony's press conference was a dominant force at E3. It was an hour and a half of Playstation 3 tech demos, game demos and real-time and pre-rendered game footage. It was awe inspring. Perspiring fanboys fainted at the thought of Playstation 3 fulfilling their every desire. Microsoft on the other hand managed to rehash their MTV unveiling, and provide very little new information on Xbox360.

When it comes down it though, Microsoft is jealous. They don't like being the weakest, and they are. Their console is outclassed by Sony's Ps3, and in arrogant Microsoft fashion, they set out to fix that.

The following link leads to an article that Microsoft published about the Playstation 3 specs. Containing a few cold hard facts, it's nothing more than organized corporate damage control. It's a sad day we live in. Below the link, is also a full debunking of Microsoft's classic and depressing comparison.

Microsoft's Pathos

Microsoft's desperate and false attempt to degrade the Ps3 has failed. Anyone with a shred of intelligence can see through the utter crap MS has spewed. Not only does MS not have a Ps3 to base this knowledge on, they clearly ignore several points against them as well spew a few numbers that mean nothing.

Microsoft claimes the Xbox has three times the processing power of the Ps3. What they don't realize is that the Cell is comprised of 7 processors with an 8th core (inactive 9th). Sure, they admit it when dealing with floating point operations, but fail to realize each SPE is it's own working entity, much like the three individual cores of the 360. The comparison is ill conceived. Seven weak processors and one strong, is more efficient than 3 strong processors.

There's no question that Xbox360 has more internal memory bandwidth. However, when your console still uses the primative DVD9 format, 250 GB/s of bandwidth is overcompensating in a large almost comical way. The Ps3 uses Blu-Ray which can hold a maximum of 54 GB thus far (practically speaking). Even the Ps3's 48 GB/s bandwidth is overkill (again almost comically) in terms of necessary bandwidth. It's like saying "Look, I have 159 sports cars and you only have 30". Both people have ridiculous numbers, yet neither will ever use or need to use that many cars. The same applies here. The comparison again, supercedes it's use as far as a numbers game. Both will run exceptionally fast, and anyone else who doesn't think Revolution won't run just as fast with even a bandwidth slightly lower than the Ps3 is kidding themselves.

Again, what I enjoyed most was that MS seemed to have more intimate knowledge of the inner workings of the Ps3 than most developers working with unfinished (gasp, just like Xbox360) hardware. Making boastful claims of processor inefficiency when every developer in sight will tell you the polar opposite. In fact they go as far as to out and out lie when talking about the 7 SPEs. Claiming they have no direct access to memory when each is equipped with 256 Kb of SRAM over and above the 512 MB of XDR and GDDR RAM.

Microsoft also claims to have the advantage by simply adding up their 3 x 3.2 GHz processors and comparing them in bar graph form by making the Ps3's bar only one third of the Xbox360's bar. Again, who do they think they're kidding? The Ps2 has 3 internal processors, each running at about 300 MHz. The Xbox has a 733 MHz processor at it's core. Do we simply add up the Ps2's inner 3 processors and call it a day? No, because in actual fact, the Xbox ends up being the monster of the day. They use the same math most fanboys use to proclaim the Xbox360 God's gift to gaming. A very poor tactic especially when they're filling their lies with useless hardware jargon.

The best part is when Microsoft goes as far as to invalidate their own specs (or even lie about them) in order to make Ps3 seem weaker. Claming their console can now produce on demand 2.4 TFLOPS and the Ps3 only 2.2 TFLOPs, when Microsofts official spec sheet clearly states a mere 1 TFLOP for Xbox360. Either they're lying about Ps3, or they're lying about Xbox360. Either way, they're lying; again.




While Microsoft clearly has the advantage of consolidated RAM with it's single memory storage of 512 MB GDDR RAM, they cannot ignore the fact that the Ps3 is using 256 MB XDR RAM, which is 8x faster than normal RAM. This is where the Ps3 gets it's power from. XDR RAM is designed for graphics processing, and is the reason why the Ps3 is more powerful than the Xbox360. This is the one key thing MS decided to ignore in it's little report.

Another thing they conventiently left out of their "special" report is the fact that the total memory of the Xbox360 is shared between the CPU and the GPU. What does this mean? Since the Ps3 has dedicated XDR RAM for the CPU, the GPU only needs to concern it's self with it's own job and a dedicated 256 MB of GDDR RAM to do it. The Xbox360's CPU will require most of the shared RAM, giving the GPU very little to work with. What does this mean? Ps3 gets 256 of XDR RAM which is about 4x faster than MS's little 512 of GDDR RAM, and still managed to have plenty of room to spare on the RAM-front for it's GPU, out performing the Xbox360. Go Microsoft, avoid the most important matters!

Ask any developer, any publisher, and they will tell you memory is of the utmost importance. Which is why developers struggled with the Ps2. Now, the Ps3 has a clear cut advantage over the Xbox360 on that front, which is ironically the most important.

The caveat Microsoft failed to mention, was that out of the 270 GB/s of the internal memory bandwidth in MS' new fangled Xbox360, 250 GB is confined to a paltry 10 MB of EDRAM frame buffer. Again, this gargantuan bandwidth will assist this EDRAM cache, however the cache is not an integral part of the processing. Analogously, it's same as a 2 meter diameter PVC pipe being used to funnel 3 drops of water into some sort of resevoir. Collectively, the bandwidth of the CPU in the Playstation 3 runs at approximately 45 GB/s, with the Xbox 360 only 22 GB/s. Truth be told, the Ps3 has it's memory divided so it's VRAM and GDDR RAM run at separate bandwidths, but exclusively each is still faster than the inferior Xbox 360.

It ironic since Microsoft does have an impressive system. In fact, it's beyond impressive. It's down right jaw dropping. Yet when Microsoft witnesses a competitor out doing them by a very noticeable margin, they go on record and blatantly lie. Unfortunately, this sad move has officially removed Xbox360 from my list of purchases. I refuse to support a company who will lie about their competition in order to make themselves look better. Playing the smoke and mirrors game while boasting about yourself is one thing, but lying about your competition is a sad sad thing. For this, I sincerely hope Revolution trounces Microsofts console. It would be for the best that Microsoft exit the gaming industry for good. Sony has been known to overblow their specs in the past, yet nothing like this. Not even Nintendo, who pretty much damns Microsoft and Sony on a daily basis would ever do this.

The entire press release is a joke. Microsoft lies about theirs and Sony's specs, and manages to convince no one that they have the most powerful console. The only people who would care to even finish reading that check point list of techno bleeble blabble, are the people who will see right through it. It's pathetic. The pathos of Microsoft, utterly pitiful.

We all knew this war was going to get rough, but no one expected this Faustian retort at such an early stage. Microsoft has sincerely dug it's own grave. If Ps3 manages to launch with Killzone 2 as the must own app, and manages to run the footage we've seen in real-time, consider it the final rusty nail in the coffin, and Microsoft's death blow. Microsoft has a very large expectation to live up to now. Experts, developers and analysts all agree that Playstation 3 out performs the Xbox360. In fact, it seems to be a clean sweep with everyone other than Microsoft themselves that Sony has the clear performance advantage. One way or another, by Spring of 2006, we will know who the real winner is in this mini-duel of "Who wants to beat the billionaire?".

Microsoft has diminished the significance of the Xbox360. Rather than say 'Yeah, Playstation is a flippin' power house, but we aren't far behind', they attempted to belittle the Ps3 into a puny mess of metal, with the Xbox being marginally more powerful. The terminology chosen managed to convey the message that they're slightly more powerful than a weak console, rather than give us the truth, which is that they're almost as powerful as super computer. Props to Microsoft on that brilliant move. Now only if inflection were a conveyable thing on the web...

May 14, 2005

No School like the Old School Vol. 1

This is the first installment of "No School like the Old School". It's a look back with quick hit reviews on games we knew and loved, and have for some reason or another been lost in the spacetime continuem of gaming enthusia. Some of these games are timeless, and some are forgotten for good reason. The festering pot of crap that managed to be approved back when gaming was a cheap gimmick is appauling, but generous game developers, devoted to their hobby, managed to take the job seriously and give us a taste of what gaming can and will be like. Regardless of how far we advance the sexual appeal of polygons, or how many gigatexels, teletrons, and techno-babble we manage to cram onto a single disc, there's no forgetting the hidden gems and buried treasures of the past. Some such games include the Gradius series, Final Fantasy, Super Mario, and a little known tactics game known as Bahamut Lagoon.



Bahamut Lagoon





This little known tactics RPG, in the same vein as Tactics Ogre and the more recent Final Fantasy Tactics and Tactics Advance games, was a suprisingly deep RPG with an intricate plot, plenty of gametime, and managed to incorporate a few sim aspects too. You play as Byuu, an man who flies the skies hopping from lagoon to lagoon. The game is set in a post apocalyptic era, where every remaining human colony has taken to the skies inhabiting small airborne islands, and dragons are the primary means of travel. You team up with an army of air pirates, demi-demons, wizards, warlocks, and mystics who aid you in trying to unlock the sleeping dragons of lore. While the plot is suprisingly thin at th surface, there are quite a few back stories for each and every character in your party (up to 30 different party members and characters) and you can go through many many sidequests to further the back story and gain additional items and experience.




As you travel from city to city, you'll get a chance to peruse the shops and inns for items and artillery, and engage in conversations which further the storyline of the game. In between these city hubs, you'll find yourself on a large map, laid out in a grid like fashion with enemies strewn about all over the field. You and your fellow parties (up to 6 per battle) advance up the map to engage in battles. There are no random battles here, and you can easily head up the boss of the map, but battling the peons he sends to fight you will yield more experience and hence make your parties stronger. It's a true tactics game, and aside from JUST party members, each party is also armed with a dragon you can raise to become stronger and bigger. Feeding the infantile dragons greens of different elemental properties, or special items like rare weapons and armour will increase the HP, strength and defense of the dragon, aS well as increase it's ability repetoire, thus making the dragon more deadly. You can raise dragons of any elemental type, including dragons who heal party members. During battle, dragons will attack targets randomly, and you have no control over them, however they tend to be incredibly useful assets when fighting strong enemies, as they weaken them enough for your normal parties to take them out manually.

The down side to this dynamic is that as you raise your dragons, they all eventually plateau at the strongest dark form. Every dragon, while initially diffuse in their ability sets, end up being one and the same later on once you've fed them enough food. It's a slightly disengenuous development point, however there are other dragons that will aid you in your quest. You can find and summon the sleeping dragons, including working your up to the coveted Bahamut from Final Fantasy fame. True, this game could stand alone without the Final Fantasy tie-in, but this is in a day when you were lucky if your game sold even a handful of copies, so anything to draw the attention to this superbly fun adventure tactics game was worth the investment. Bahamut Lagoon is a genuine RPG, with a lot of charm, not to mention was one of the fore runners for the tactics genre.

Verdict


8.5




Super Mario RPG (SNES)





Super Mario RPG is one of those games you love to hate. It was never anything special, and was a desperate attempt to cash in on the RPG craze set by Squaresoft's Final Fantasy series. It's amazing to see how much influence the Final Fantasy franchise has had on the gaming industry. Suprisingly enough, Nintendo pleaded with Squaresoft to transform their coveted Mario franchise into an RPG. It wasn't easy, and the end result is definitely less than sub-par, however the main focus of the game and the overall transformation is somewhat well done.

Mario and his compadres, Mallow, Geno, Yoshi, and even Bowser join Mario in attempting to retreive the Seven Stars. Creatively enough, very similar to Nintendo's first outing with Wario. Where Squaresoft went wrong with this game is in the combat and exploration. Simplistic puzzles and pseudo-3D lanscapes were nothing to drool over. The puzzles and environment layout were clearly designed for children, and with simplistic gaming in mind. However, the battle system consisted of an insanely cruel enemy AI. Boss battles were annoying and difficult, oftentimes acting as swift kick in the nuts after navigating through a laughably easy maze with isultingly easy random battles. The fact that everything Final Fantasy is was mimicked through and through, except renamed so that no one's the wiser, was also slightly aggrevating. Your party members were oftentimes useless compared to you, the main character Mario, and the items and weapons you could equip to them were just as disappointing if not more so. Items and armour were ridiculously expensive compared to the little money you actually made, and leveling up merely once required upwards of over an hour to do most of the time.




In the end, the plot is nothing short of typical for a Mario game, and the combat is clunky and clearly has far too many kinks to be worked out. The game itself is short, up to only about 10 hours even with the mind numbing difficulty of the bosses, and the strategy in battles is next to absent. This game is a classic example of "if you can't beat 'em, level up until you can". What the game does right is cleverly attributing the RPG fare to common items and elements from Super Mario. Potions become Mushrooms, magic potions become honey syrups, weapons consist of turtle shells and Mario's patented hammer, and the special abilities of Mario and his buddies relate to their side-scrolling platformer attributes like Jumping and casting "fire" with fire flowers. It's clever to witness, however the execution is severely flawed.

Verdict


5.7




Gradius III (SNES)





Konami is known for producing great titles. They're probably right next to Square Enix, Nintendo and SCEA for being publically known for making hit after hit. While the title of quality developer has only just become a universal constant for the latter three, Konami's pedigree of games goes back, way back. Starting with the Metal Gear series, then Contra, Castlevania, Ninja Turtles, and then there was Gradius. Gradius is a hardcore gamer's game. You play as the space ship: Vic Viper; now a Konami trademark name. You fly through space for no other apparent reason other than killing aliens...lots of aliens. Gradius III is the first installment on the SNES system from Konami and Gradius, and it ended up being a phenomenal hit. Perhaps not financially, as the game performed slightly below expectations, however the world was wowed by the intense action, and challenging yet extremely balanced and fair difficulty.




Gradius III involved you maneuvering the ship up and down across the screen, shooting your very uninteresting and lame laser at the enemies. To overcome this, Gradius III comes equipped with a sweet customization system, where you customize your ships sequence of upgrades to make combat as easy or difficult, or obscure as you see fit. Each upgrade has 5 different forms, and there are a total of 6 different upgrade classes. You can first upgrade your speed, which is essential, and any gamer worth their salt will upgrade their speed twice before they even begin upgrading further. Secondly, you can upgrade the laser into a modified laser shooting in two simultaneous directions, and the third upgrade allows you to upgrade the laser into a super laser, which also has 5 different forms, and the player gets to chose which laser is used. Keep in mind, that the upgrades chosen carry through the entire game, so chose wisely. The last upgrade is known as the "Gradius Option". You get to chose an option, and you can have up to four options. The name is slightly confusing, so let me elaborate. An option is simply a small orb, or clone of the Vic Viper which mimics all of the same attacks that you currently have. As mentioned earlier, the player can have up to four options at any one time, meaning up to 5 different "Vic Vipers" attacking. This turns you into a astro soaring tank, capable of taking out anything coming your way. Keep your eyes on the screen, since the game ramps of the difficulty mighty quick and you'll have to nimble with the joystick and fast with your fingers, since the amount of enemies on screen at one time can reach upwards of twenty, and they all want a piece of you.

Attaining upgrades comes from collecting special orbs that certain enemies relenquish when you destroy their mortal bodies, but the only disappointing thing is, if you collect all of your upgrades and you happen to perish you will restart at a checkpoint, but you won't have any of your upgrades. Considering most of the later stages of the game will collectively require most of your upgrades, getting through the game dying is near impossible; you'll have a much more fluid experience by getting through from start to finish without dying. As daunting a challenge as it is, it's entirely possible but it will take practice. The game is only about an hour long from start to finish, and there is no save points, but overall the game offers supreme customization, and is one of the best and most fluid side scroling shooters of the SNES generation of games. Among the ranks of the R-Type series and even surpassing it in some instances, Gradius III is perhaps one of the best games no one played.

Verdict


8.8




The next installment of No School like the Old School will consit of reviews of every Final Fantasy game from Final Fantasy game from the first through to the sixth installment. From the NES to the SNES, Final Fantasy has dominated and it's the perfect candidate for a spotlight in a montage of old school game reviews!

May 11, 2005

Review Round-Up: April 2005

This month has been slow, but a lot of reviews were posted in juvenile glee since the previous month saw the release of the PSP, and many reviews just had to be written. This month should see more articles than reviews, but old school game reviews should be going up shortly. Short but sweet to wax nostalgic and remember the good ol' days of gamings infantile generations.

Chose from the reviews linked below, and enjoy. Technically God of War is an early May review, but it's been in the works since April, and I promised it then, so I'll include it for the time being.



The only hardware reviewed for April was the PSP...



Thats it.
We out.

May 04, 2005

Review : God of War (Ps2) - Olympic gold...




I don't say this often, but This game is quite possibly the greatest game ever made. I say possibly, primarily because its so hard to discern if the one flaw God of War has is actually worth bitching about. More on that single flaw a little later, but it's reasonable to say that the rest of this game is worth playing over and over again, until the frail digits on your hand disintigrate from overuse due to extreme pleasure receival from the feast known as God of War. Don't take this lightly: Few games ever deliver the perfect and fluid experience like God of War does. It's perfectly paced, and thats what mostly makes it so pleasing. You play as Kratos, the fallen Spartan, whose past haunts him day and night. According to Athena (clearly the person in the know on the manner), no amount of sex, food or bloody combat can subdue Kratos' depression and moral outrage against his insipid crime against humanity. Even though I hardly believe that, since copious sex and food would clearly erase any memory of any mean and nasty thing I've done (maybe not so much the bloody combat though), the motives behind Kratos are vividly portrayed, and you're led to believe this man's story and his reason. Without question, we're introduced finally to a true and tragic hero, with no gimmicks. This mans life is hell, and the game does an incredible job of bringing the player to wanting to see the end of Kratos' suffering. As the first true and effective story of a tragic hero, God of War stands to being called a masterpiece, and almost worthy of cinematic and theatrical audiences.

The game opens with Kratos ominously gazing over the cliffs above the Aegean Sea, awaiting certain death after submitting to the betrayal of the Gods. As he tumbles downward after throwing himself from the highest mountain in Greece, we're privy to a predictable "3 weeks earlier" prologue. How enticing! I know I know, I'm mocking it, but at first it seems cheesy. Within 10 minutes, you'll be pleasantly amazed, and reconvinced that yeah, this game does take itself seriously. You're immediately shown Kratos taking on the leagues of undead that rampage a fleet of ships along side the mythical Hydra. Given that this game takes place in ancient Greece, none of this is any less normal than McDonald's selling cheeseburgers to fat kids. Up until the climactic battle with the Hydra, the first half hour or so serves as a tutorial, introducing both the action and the story telling elements. The combat is fluid, creating a truly deep combo system. Typically, Kratos' moves are divided into strong and normal attacks. As per usual, strong attacks have huge delay but deal tremendous damage. As you defeat enemies, you gain red orbs which in turn can be used to upgrade your weapons and the magic spells bestowed upon Kratos by the Gods of Olympus. Utilizing these upgrades yeilds new combos and abilities. The game divides the combo system into smaller, easy button sequences, which require very little skill to perform. They include mashing the square button, or comboing the strong and weak attacks together, but also using combo modifiers like the R1 and L1 buttons. The better, more devastating and longer combos require a little more finesse.




There is no end to the number of hits you can land with combos, so long as you can string them together. In similar style to the Devil May Cry games, you can cancel mid combo and begin a new one, in a pseudo-create-a-combo combat system. The difference here is that a simple block cancels a combo in God of War, where as in DMC, performing certain moves during certain combos were required to continue the string of combos. While there is no dismerit to this simplification, it just isn't as complicated, yet ten times more fluid; which is next to impossible to acheive considering the pedigree of complex and innovative combat systems Devil May Cry is known for. When the blood slicked staircase to Olympus is cleared, you'll find that God of War offers some of the most cohesive combat ever. Precipitating from the hack and slash roots, and combining it with the complex combo linking, God of War offers a combat engine that everyone can adapt to. Newbies will easily topple Easy mode with basic combos and some button mashing, but game masters will easily find uses (and needs) for complex combos and intricate links, and precisely timed cancels.

Where this comes into play is the boss battles. While the bosses in this game tend to be simple dodge/attack enemies, you'll quickly learn that you'll need to engage in the mini-game-esque attacks, which times a sequence of buttons or analog stick rotations in order to deal significant chunks of damage or in some instances required to deal a finishing blow to the boss. Not only does it change up the strategy of the boss battles, it makes combat a constantly fresh thing, and these mini-game attacks permeate into the rest of the game, but in less significant ways. While not innovative in any way, as these sort of Parappa the Rappa style things have been done before, Sony Santa Monica implimented it in a new and original way. For example, as you battle the Hydra, you'll occasionally get it on the ropes, and knock it out cold. You engage it by pressing circle and continuing to press circle as the screen prompts you, and you'll deal astonishing amounts of damage to it. After a few times, you're prompted with a similar sequence where you conclude by engaging in a tug of war to bring the Hydra's head crashing down onto a giant wooden skewer, which pierces it's skull causing instance death.

Whats most appealing, and probably places second on the "impressive scale", is the dynamic camera angles. The camera angles are always perfect. They always show you what you need to see, and then some. Finding a problem with the camera in this game is like finding a mature rated game developed by Nintendo. Never gonna happen, and if it does, Hell (or should I say...Hades) has frozen over. During combat the camera manage to follow you around nicely and give you a great perspective of the enemies you're fighting (mainly due to the fact that Kratos battles in a semi-drawn back camera view); the cinematic camera angles during the adventure and exploration are superb. Often doing magnificent swoops over entire landscapes, and cascading around Kratos during a long stretch of sprinting. What should be pointed out, is that this highly polished cinematic presentation is only part of the in game action.

The cut-scenes exhibit the moxy of even Oscar winning directors. Flying over the desert of lost souls, panning up the gargantuan body form of the titan Kronos, and pan back to the cliffs overlooking the desert where Kratos confronts Athena about Pandora's Box. This type of presentation is common throughout all of God of War. Even more impressive are the flashbacks Kratos' occasionally has regarding his tainted past. In the best instance, the camera pans over a fully 3-D landscape, with what appears to be an army of cardboard cutouts , when suddenly they spring to life in full 3-D, pre-rendered awesomeness, as if a stagnant image were to jump right off if it's canvas. What goes hand in hand with these cut above cut-scenes is absolutely incredible voice acting. One would be easily convinced that the voice work in God of War stands to surpass even the quality of the Metal Gear Solid series' voice actors. Even though both share common actors, the ancient greek accent adds that certain je ne c'est quois that most brits seem to possess, as they woo our women with their royale diction that seems to impress all female forms regardless of what the words actually are. Though that isn't to say God of War is masked trash. Quite the opposite. The dialogue is well written, and oftentimes not enough.




It's easy to see the wordyness of games like Metal Gear Solid was avoided in this game, though the presentation and depth of the plot is so intriguing, a little more would have been welcome. God of War has a very violent and graphic story, and manages to tell it in a very adult fashion. To say that the story of Gof of War is not for the faint of heart is a drastic understatement. The nature of God of War is very risque, treading on new ground for videogames. The best part though, is that the games dark and iniquitous plot is a common theme making the graphic content suitable and not merely a tack-on to make the game feel adult, yet artificially so. Nudity, while present in some sexual forms, authenticates the primative nature of the ancient greek culture and done in a very tasteful manner (save for a sex mini-game where the camera swiftly pans away as you aid Kratos in pleasing two ladies simulatneously...oh la la, manage a trois).

Speaking of graphic content, God of War is with no doubt, wholely an adult game. Clever camera cuts, and startegic loin cloth placement prevent this game from receiving an AO rating, yet you'd be hard pressed to find any differences between this game, and the constituent content commonly found in adult only games. For starters, you'll come to expect to see the soldiers of the undead impaled with Kratos' Blades of Chaos. Brutal killings and human sacrifices are fair game when playing God of War. Not only are the cut-scenes designed to display such exruciating pain in realistic detail, the victims of this pain are oftentimes innocent women, while Kratos' sin is by far the most disturbing of them all. To disinguish this game from just another mindless gore fest, the violent nature of God of War is an integral part of the plot. You need to see these things happen to understand why Kratos does what he does, and why the end of the game is the way it is. In the intense wrath you witness, you sympathise with Kratos, making the difference between Hero and villain; it's a brilliant dynamic.

Along the same lines, the in game graphics engine is a beast. Crystal clear, 60 FPS resolution is only the price of admission. As the Ps2 gains clout, flexing the graphical muscle is becoming easier and easier, and it's now becoming clear why the Ps2 still competes graphically with Gamecube and the Xbox. Water effects are second to none, and the large scale environments are maticulously detailed, given lush and organic life. Just witnessing the scaling of Pandora's temple while on the back of a 20 000 foot high titan, all in real-time, with no slow down, you'll be deeply engaged in this game, just off of it's physical (sexual) appeal. The fabulous rendering behind God of War is best witnessed in the mano-a-mano boss fights, err Mano-a-hydra, or mano-a-minotaur whatever your poison may be. The scaley and mucous layered skin of the Hydra is authentic in visual feel, and manages to animate fluidly just as you'd expect a Hydra to move (though I wonder how many people actually pondered the idea of how a Hydra moves before this game). There are very little comparisons one can make when describing God of War. Sure, there are other games that match or surpass GoW polygon for polygon, but you can guarantee that God of War manages to pull it off in the largest scale environments possible, without alluding away from the intricate detail in the textures of both the enemies and the environments.




As a note to copycats and wannabes, please look at what God of War offers for extras and unlockables. Completing this game gives gamers incite into the making of and development of every aspect of God of War from the artwork, to the environments, to the enemies to the modeling and evolution of Kratos himself. Not only that, but you're given a look into the secret past of Kratos in an unlockable cinematic, which promptly sets up the premises for potential sequels, as well as offers you a quick glance into the part of Kratos you don't witness in the actual game. Furthermore, you can unlock a series of challenges called the Challenge of the Gods, which when completed, unlock further surprises for use in the game. You'll also unlock the God mode difficulty for completing the game once, which also when completed unlocks two extra cinematics that also set up further sequels. Not only did Sony Santa Monica cover all of their bases when packing this game full extras and unlockables, they managed to set up future sequels. DVDs cry in envy with their tails between their legs at the thought of this games special features. Clever easter eggs never implimented here, and more unlockables than you can shake a rotting harpy corpse at.

Overall, God of War manages to capture both the look and feel of ancient Greece. Taking up arms with the God of Olympus and doing battle with the demons that were rumoured to walk the earth - like minotaurs, harpies, gorgons, cyclopses, and cerberus - has never felt more real, in the minimalist attempts that have occured in the past. Utilizing the thunder of Zeus, or the petrifying gaze of the Medusa really doesn't feel forced. You as the player are fully immersed in this coalition with the Gods, and nothing has ever felt more satisfying. The ONE downside to God of War, which is hardly negative when you take into consideration just how many times this game could and should be replayed, is that God of War is a very short game. We're talking 10 hours short. God of War will take seasoned gamers 10 hours, or just under slightly depending on skill level. Now, I say take this with a grain of salt. Ten hours, while abominably short by most standards, God of War is a relentless and non-stop thrill ride. Never has a game offered a non-stop 10 hour action sequence, ever. You'll find more to do, more to explore, and more game to play in this 10 hour game, than you'd find in any 25+ hour action adventure game. God of War isn't just a great game, it's easily the leading contender for Game of the Year. It's a feat in and of itself, and is without the question the future inspiration for imitators and clones alike. From the depths of the Aegean Sea, to the peak of Mount Olympus, God of War is a deep and mature look at ancient Greece, and never fails to please. It will manage to catch the attention of both hardcore and casual gamers, and make sure they're satisified to the n'th degree.

Verdict


9.9