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

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.




Blogger samhain said...

god of war is a good game but you might want to rent it first.i do not suck at games i consider myself a hardcore gamer.ive been playing games since the Atari 2600.i was able to beat the game in less than 10 hours on normal mode.sparton mode was hard but i was able to beat it after much mental anguish.god mode well do yourself a favor and just forget it.the god challenges are fun till you get to the last challenge then i found it unbeatable no matter how many times i tried i was thrown off the platform.i probably tried over a thousand times to complete this mission only to be met with defeat every time.i dont see the point of making it that hard to unlock the alternate costumes.i think they really screwed up on the difficulty level and made an awesome game only soso.

May 17, 2005 3:36 PM

Blogger Adam said...

I understand, the difficulty of the challenge of the gods is daunting, but not impossible. You need to employ very specific strategies and abilities to complete them, and not just any strategy will work.

May 18, 2005 12:03 AM

Blogger anonymous said...

GoW is an overrated piece of trash.

February 02, 2006 10:03 AM


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