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When it comes to Greek Mythology, there’s a few games that come to mind and God of War is definitely one of them. God of War is an action game about a very angry man who basically goes on a rampage, slaying any being in his way. The development was led by David Jaffe. The same guy who brought us Twisted Metal. Developed by Santa Monica Studio and published by Sony Computer Entertainment, God of War was released for PlayStation 2 in March, 2005. A remastered version along with its sequel, God of War II, was released for PlayStation 3 as part of the God of War Collection. For this review, I played the PS3 version.
Set in ancient Greece, you take on the role of Kratos, a former warrior of the Spartan army. After being defeated by a barbarian, he calls on Ares, the God of War, to spare him and his men in exchange for his servitude. Ares agreed and bonds a pair of chained blades to Kratos. In an effort to turn Kratos into the perfect warrior, Ares deceives the spartan resulting in Kratos committing an act that would haunt him for the rest of his life. Kratos swears vengeance on Ares and sets out on quest to kill the God of War. The game is based on Greek Mythology but many of the myths are modified. The voice acting is decent and Kratos’ backstory is fleshed out as you progress.
I guess I would consider God of War to be a character action game. I would also say it’s an action adventure game. It’s also a violent game. The combat in God of War is brutal and it’s accompanied by exploration and puzzle solving. Kratos can walk, run, jump, double jump, grab things, block, and evade or roll. You start out with the chained blades known as the Blades of Chaos and acquire the Blade of Artemis later on in the story. You can swap weapons at any time. You can perform standard and heavy attacks and link attacks together to form combos. You can perform different sets of moves with each weapon and they can be powered up with red orbs which are acquired from chests and enemies. Big combos result in more red orbs. You can also power up your magic abilities which are acquired as you progress. There’s also green orbs which replenish health and blue orbs which replenish magic. When a weapon or magic is powered up, it becomes more powerful and you’ll even unlock new moves and abilities. At a certain point, you’ll unlock the Rage of the Gods ability. A meter fills up as you engage enemies and when full, you can activate Rage of the Gods to do more damage for a limited time.
While the camera is great most of the time, it can be problematic. The camera is positioned in specific spots based on where Kratos is located. You can’t rotate it manually and sometimes the angles are not ideal which proves to be a big problem during certain encounters and makes trying to navigate through some dangerous environments more challenging than it should be. During combat, you may move or roll to an area where the camera angle changes and it can throw you off. As mentioned before, most of the time the camera is fine but having no control over it can make some parts of the game frustrating.
God of War does include quick time events. In most games, I don’t like them and find them to be poorly implemented but in God of War I think they’re implemented fairly well. They don’t make up entire battles. You can perform finishing moves on enemies and some of these moves require you to press specific buttons or rotate the stick in certain directions when prompted. Failing to press a button in time, pressing the wrong button, or rotating the stick in the wrong direction will result in failing to complete the move and usually losing health. While I think the quick time events work well for the most part, they do come with their share of problems. All the bosses come with quick time events and if you fail one, you’ll have to do it again and again until you get it right. It can be tedious. Another issue I have is some events and actions require rapidly mashing a button and it gets tiring.
There’s two things I really love about God of War; the combat and the bestiary. The combat is brutal, gory, and satisfying and powering up weapons and magic actually makes you feel more powerful. More powerful weapons and magic do more damage and enemies become easier to take down. You’ll get to stab, slice, throw, and decapitate foes. You can launch them into the air and slam them onto the ground. I think God of War puts up a good challenge and it does get more difficult as you progress. You need to know what you’re doing or you’re going to die, especially on higher difficulties. You may win battles by randomly mashing the attack buttons but you’ll do a lot better if you know what moves are at you’re disposal. You’ll need to know enemies are capable of and know when to block and evade. You’ll engage minotaurs, centaurs, legionnaires, harpies, and other creatures on your journey and more powerful variants appear later in the game. During many encounters, you’ll be attacked by multiple foes at once and more spawn in as you kill them and sometimes you’ll have to avoid hazards at the same time. God of War is always throwing new and tougher challenges at you to keep things fresh whether it be in the form of combat, environmental hazards, or puzzles.
The magic abilities you acquire throughout the game can be a big help during combat and certain abilities are great against certain enemies. For example, I find the archers to be the most annoying enemies in the game but once you acquire Zeus’ Fury, you can hurl bolts at them from long distance. Poseidon’s Rage is my favorite ability because it allows you to summon lighting, damaging any enemies surrounding you. Medusa’s Gaze allows you to turn enemies into stone and the Army of Hades lets you summon souls that will attack foes. Each ability is useful in some way and using them does drain your magic meter. Luckily, orb chests seem to be everywhere and are often placed before and after major battles, even in areas where big battles take place.
God of War will take you to various locations including Athens, temples, cliffs, a desert, and the Underworld. The environments are primarily linear with some branching paths here and there. It would be hard to get lost but exploration can lead you to secret areas which usually house goodies. You can find items like Gorgon Eyes and Phoenix Feathers housed in certain chests. Acquiring enough of each will increase your health and magic respectively. You can only save the game manually at certain points but the checkpoint system is forgiving. There is a good amount of platforming, you can break through certain parts of the environments, climb walls, and swing on ropes. You will have to solve puzzles to progress through areas and if you don’t pay attention you can get stuck. Enemies aren’t the only danger you have to worry about. You’ll have to be careful not to fall off platforms to your death and be mindful of crushers, spikes, and other hazards.
Beating the game unlocks additional content like a making of video, you can see deleted levels, cut characters, and additional cut scenes, among other things. You’ll also unlock the Challenge of the Gods which consists of multiple challenges to complete. Completing them rewards you with bonus costumes.
I think for a PlayStation 2 game, God of War doesn’t look half bad. The environments are well designed, the character models look good, and environments are detailed and convey a nice sense of scale. Dead bodies and blood are littered around the environments and every now and then you’ll see battles going on in the background. The brutality and gore effects are excellent and and are what make the combat so much fun. Enemies will bleed when you attack them and the executions look awesome. For example, you can shove your blades into a Minotaur’s mouth and rip the wings off a Harpy. As for this HD port, it’s okay. The game is basically identical to its PS2 counterpart but presented in HD. However, the pre-rendered cut scenes are a bit blurry. The soundtrack consists of a lot of orchestral stuff that fits the action and events and the sounds of strikes, slashes, and enemies getting torn apart sound great. On the technical side, I did notice the frame rate dip a few times when things got hectic but most of the time, the game ran smoothly.
I had a great time with God of War. I do think it can get frustrating at certain points but overall, it puts up a decent and fair challenge. I enjoy its take on Greek Mythology, the bestiary is awesome, and I really love the combat. God of War takes you on this awesome violent adventure through ancient Greece. I, personally, can do without the puzzles because if I get stuck I just get annoyed after a while. But that’s just me. I do love the exploration and finding secrets feels rewarding but it’s the combat that kept me going. Brutally executing these mythological creatures never gets old and there is some depth to the combat. The camera can sometimes be problematic and the quick time events can get annoying but the good outweighs the bad and, ultimately, God of War is an extremely fun game.
I would absolutely recommend God of War to anyone. It contains a nice mix of brutal action, exploration, and puzzle solving. While I think they could have done a little more with this HD version, if you buy the Collection, you get the first two games on one disc so that’s pretty cool. No matter which version you play, you’re in a for a violently fun time. Definitely check out God of War.