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God of War

Developer: Epic Games | Publisher: Microsoft Game Studios
Players: 1+ Player Game | Release Date: 11/07/06 | Genre: Action

Looking back on the life of the PS2, it’s amazing where it now stands. Not only is it the best selling console this generation, not only does it have the widest selection of great games out of all three consoles, but its still pumping out AAA must-have titles even when it doesn’t need to. This is where God of War, the brainchild of David Jaffe (Game Designer of Twisted Metal 1, Twisted Metal 2, Lead Director of Twisted Metal: Black), comes into the picture. Not only is God of War arguably the best Action/Adventure game on PS2, its one of the best games released in the past 5 years.

God of War follows the story of Kratos, a Spartan Warrior out to complete one last deed for the Gods of Olympus to end the visions of his past that have plagued him for far too long. You initially are treated with a cutscene of Kratos jumping off a cliff, when the screen blacks out and goes to three weeks prior, which is where the game takes off. From the get-go, it’s clear that Kratos was constructed with the word “complete badassâ€? in mind. He is out to help himself and if you get in the way there is going to be hell to pay. On the surface he may seem like just another lead character that is pissed about god knows what, and just wants to kick some ass, but in reality, by the time you reach the end of the game you will have witnessed that he is actually someone with a lot of depth. You understand why Kratos is the way he is, continuously looking forward to that next cutscene where a little more is revealed.

It’s important to note that this is an entirely original story and character created by the SCE Santa Monica Studios team using Ancient Greece as a backdrop. People familiar with Greek mythology will recognize how well God of War captures that feeling. Throughout the game you are greeted with enemies such as the Hydra, Minotaurs, Cyclops and Cerberus, captured through the eyes of the Santa Monica team. Seeing some of these enemies come after you will make you crap your pants in fear, but with Kratos’ great selection in weapons you will enjoy taking them all down.

You start off with only the Blades of Chaos (uniquely shaped blades attached to long chains wrapped around his arms), and gradually receive 4 magic abilities (given to you by different gods) and one more weapon, all of them upgradeable. At your defensive side is the ability to evade in four directions (using the right analog stick) and block. When fighting, it’s important to keep combos going if you want to receive more red orbs which are used for upgrading your weapons and magic. There are a variety of different moves you can pull off with the Blades of Chaos, light attacks, heavy attacks, spins, juggles, etc; all of these will help you keep a steady combo going. The moves are not hard to pull off, so there is no need to memorize long sequences of buttons to pull something off, this comes as a blessing if you are anything like me. Magic attacks are mapped to the L2 button, with more abilities and power added the more you upgrade them.

But the depth of the combat doesn’t end there, as God of War offers something unique to its own, context sensitive attacks. These can be described as small button pressing sequences where you must follow on-screen prompts to press a certain face button, or move the joystick in a certain way. To go along with each button that is pressed, is a beautifully animated attack that Kratos pulls off, like pulling the head off a Gorgon, or swinging around the front of a Cyclops and stabbing them in the eye. These normally occur once you’ve beaten down your enemy enough; the circle button appears above their head, which then starts the sequence. There are no context sensitive attacks for the smaller less powerful enemies, but you will run into it a lot through out the game (including boss fights).

There is more to “Action/Adventureâ€? then just action of course. God of War has a heavy focus on the Adventure aspects of the genre, and it’s done just as amazingly well as the combat is. God of War can be compared to Zelda in this sense, as the action is usually broken up by puzzle solving. Without giving anything away, there are some elaborate puzzles constructed with a great use of the environment. Platforming is also nicely used as you’ll be tip-toeing across beams, jumping across gaps, swinging on ropes, and side-stepping cliffs. The platforming is done surprisingly well, though I could have done without a particularly frustrating part later in the game.

Where would an action/adventure game be without beautifully crafted environments and characters? Luckily the art direction and graphic quality is so top notch that the team could write a book on it. Ancient Greece is beautifully re-created through the eyes of David Jaffe and the development team, with a feeling of scale that is spectacular. A storm on the Aegean Sea, burning Athens, Kronos the Titan in the Desert of Lost Souls and more, all created so beautifully that you’ll want to take pictures just to hang them on your wall.

As you can imagine, the character designs are just as great. Kratos himself is wonderfully animated with attention to detail such as his clothes blowing in the wind and the Blades of Chaos glowing on his back as he walks. The enemies do their purpose, making you shiver in disgust or tremble in fear. The first time you see Centaurs galloping towards you, you’ll want to grab a nearby loved one and hold them close. This is also probably the best time to warn you that this game is rated Mature, not just for the violence, but for nudity as well. When you see a Gorgon it’ll be quite clear what sex they are, unless the vision of your uncle Frank in the pool without his top is seared into your head. Without giving anything away, the boss fights are incredibly massive AND detailed, a feat that is not successfully accomplished by too many games on the PS2.

Unbelievably, all of this is accomplished with little or no load times. Just like Jak 3 and GTA: San Andreas, most of the work is done from the streaming off the disc, so load times are short and very rare. There is only one minor graphics-related issue, and that vertical-tearing. Unless it’s a calm screen, it’s not very noticeable and doesn’t happen often, but it still happens. It’s an inevitable issue when you are dealing with visuals this good and no load times. Infact, Jak 3 which uses the same kind of technology to read off the disc, also occasionally suffered from this problem.

Not only does God of War do just about everything right, it also masters the sound and music. Music is so well composed that it could have been placed in a major motion picture, and be nominated for an Oscar. I’m sure Sony realized this themselves, which is why using a special code found on the back of the God of War booklet, you can go download the entire soundtrack from Sony Connect for free. You’ll definitely want to check it out as it’s one of the most epic and great sounding music found in a game. Sound effects are also very well done, and just add to the overall feel that the game gives off.

When it comes down to it, God of War is simply one of the top games on PS2. You’ll not only want to play through it once (lasts about 12-18 hours the first time through), you’ll want to beat it again on God mode just to unlock the last bit of treasures (in addition to the truckload of stuff you unlock for beating it the first time). If you, for some reason, don’t already own a PS2, God of War is a reason to pick one up. David Jaffe and the SCE Santa Monica Studios team will forever be remembered as the people who put together this masterpiece.

By Ryan Schaefer - 11/26/06
ESRB Details: Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Strong Language

Screenshots for God of War

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