The god of action games still sits on his throne.
Oct 17, 2009 – The Santa Monica division of Sony Computer Entertainment has done a fantastic job at crafting a game that screams high production values while delivering excellent gameplay all set in a thoroughly designed world.
The game begins with Kratos committing suicide off of the highest cliff over the sea out of despair. With this powerful first image, the game is told through an extensive flashback that tells the story of what has brought Kratos to this. Flashbacks are used as a narrative device throughout the tale, and despite the fact that the game sets flashbacks within flashbacks, the way it is presented makes perfect sense, never careening off into inscrutable territory. The narrative is clear and strong, even if it is not terribly detailed.
The story itself is a tale of revenge and sadness. For all that the story glories in violence and occasionally sexually charge scenes, themes such as the power of family and the price of war are intrinsically tied into Kratos’ tale. The idea that violence begets violence, or that war begets war, is also a pertinent part of the finale. All told, it is a tale that sits proudly alongside the original Greek stories. Much as the Illiad could be seen to both glorify war and condemn it simultaneously, so too could it be said of God of War, and the game is all the deeper for it.
The setting strengthens the narrative, filling in the background details and giving the mythological tale context, and a suitably believable stage. The scope is epic, with sprawling cities, huge temples and towering enemies and background characters. The visual trickery that leads the player to believe in the size of Kronos is especially impressive. Also, look for a desert setting that, while not that large in reality, comes across as far more expansive and barren because of the limited visibility caused by the sandstorm.
All of this is made possible by some of the best graphics the PS2 has to offer. While there are some prettier games (such as the sequel,) God of war still stands as an achievement of Sony’s last generation capabilities. There were occasional hiccups however, only very occasionally in the frame rate, but more noticeably when the scanning would get out of sink and a bar of offset pixels would run up the screen. I do not know if this was caused by the game itself, as I have no other copy of God of War to compare it to, but it would kick me out of my immersion in the experience whenever it happened.
The game is presented very simply with a compelling title screen, and there are almost no menus in the game at all. There is an upgrades screen that is well crafted in design, even if the orb level system seems a bit awkward in how it all ties together (there is no rhyme or reason to the experience orb levels that I am aware of, why even have them?) There is also a menu screen for game options. There are no other menus in the game that I can think of.
The music is suitably epic and memorable with lots of brass work and percussion. It adds to the exotic feel of the game, and aids immersion. The voice work is similarly well done, though Athena and Kratos can come off as fairly one note (on the plus side, Athena is supposed to be a distant goddess and Kratos does angry really well.) Kratos has some despairing and sad moments, but before the audience is given much time to watch and listen to this side of him it is all swallowed up in the vengeful proceedings.
The Gameplay consists of environmental puzzles, platforming and combat. Lots of combat. The puzzles, while grand in scale and with stylish (and fascinating) design, are still ultimately fairly simple, when they are not merely slightly more complicated versions of “find the right key-card” that are too often the standard puzzle design. Just exchange skulls for keycards and you have it. That said, they were enjoyable puzzles for their scale and design all the same. The simplicity didn’t take anything away from the game, even though I don’t know that it added much.
Combat is the games real strength, and this comes in the form of numerous combos and intelligent and varied enemies. There is a nice sense of progression in the game as to how you level up compared to your opponents, and though it never becomes less of a challenge, you do feel like you are growing better equipped to deal with that challenge. That being said, there are some combos that are simply more useful than others, and most players will keep coming back to these standbys in just about every situation. The quicktime events can add a sense of cinematic flare to the game, but they can also be incredibly frustrating, and it is nigh impossible to concentrate on hitting the right button at just the right time at the same time as enjoying the cinematic experience, so ultimately I do not think they necessarily add that much to the overall experience.
Platforming is the game’s weakest portion, and thankfully it isn’t used overly much. The cleverest platforming sections come across mostly as a cheaper Prince of Persia, while other sections are beyond frustrating, such as the bladed turning columns in Hades. I can’t count how many times I was knocked down because my character’s hand touched the bottom or back of a blade. The hit detection was wretched in those sections.
There is no multiplayer to keep the player coming back, but this is one of those classic games that will always be replayed just to experience it all over again, and that is high praise for any single-player game.
God of War is the definitive game for the Playstation 2. Kratos gave Sony what it always needed: a mascot. A blood-drenched mascot, to be sure, with massive anger-management issues, but all the same, a symbol to carry the idea of quality gaming on Sony’s console. There is depth, scope, and a sense of grandiose mythology in God of War that set it apart from the general action titles of its time, and it still shines as a fantastic action game to this day.
Rating out of 10 Description
9/10 Presentation: Simple but compelling title screen and menus are
nice but the overwhelming quality of the artistic design in
game is what really makes the presentation of the game
shine. Oh, and the cinematics are very well directed too.
8.5/10 Graphics: They weren’t HD, and they don’t live up to today’s
standards, but for its time these graphics were terrific, and
they still look good today, despite next gen standards.
8.8/10 Sound: Powerful, memorable music, with some well-done if one-
note voice work.
9/10 Gameplay: Simple puzzles and serviceable platforming are
sideshows to the excellent combat.
8/10 Lasting Appeal: This is going to be one of those oft-revisited
classics that stay in most people’s permanent collections.
10/10 The Spark: The touches of humanity seen in Kratos serve to lift
the story up, and carry it past being a heartless tale of
revenge. The glimmers of Kratos’ love for his family are
small but significant in connecting the player to the action
on screen. While the epic scope, music, and setting are
excellently done, it is these moments that made the game
truly special for me.
OVERALL: 8.9/10 (Not an Average)