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God of War

Developer: SCE Santa Monica | Publisher: SCEA
Players: 1 Player Game | Genre: Action

Release Date: 03/22/05

Instead of vehicular mayhem this go around, the creator of Twisted Metal: Black is bringing us an epic adventure from Ancient Greece. While other games claim to be epic, God of War promises to deliver. The action is brutal and over-the-top, and it manages to draw the player into the thick of the action so that it feels like you are playing a movie.

I lucked out and got my hands on the demo for God of War, and that little taste of what the final game will offer is like giving a man dying of thirst a sip of water. You play as Kratos, a Spartan hero who reminds me a lot of Sagat from the Street Fighter series. The game opens with him leaping from a cliff to escape from madness and promptly steps back three weeks into the past to let you solve the mystery of what has driven him to this point. Scarred and battered, Kratos is portrayed as an anti-hero along the same lines of Wolverine and the Punisher.

In an adventure game of this sort, you expect to see some amazing combat, but I wasn't fully prepared for what I found in the game. Wielding two over-sized knives called the Chaos Blades that can extend themselves in fiery whip-like attacks; our hero can perform a number of jaw-dropping attacks and combos. Whirling, spinning, and lashing out with deadly effect, Kratos knows how to bring the pain in an almost anime-like style. The types of attacks that you link together into combos causes different rewards to appear when something is defeated or sometimes simply hit in the case of boss fights. Attack one way and the reward might be health; attack another way and earn your magic power back.

If his weapons don't seem to be getting the deed done as brutally as you'd like, Kratos can also grab his victims (er.. I mean enemies) and snap them in half. Now don't get too excited by thinking that move works on everything. Some things are just too darn nasty for that, but it'll lay the common troops down fast enough. You can also attack your shipmates which I didn't care much for. I suppose it is up to the player to avoid hacking up the �innocent bystanders�, but it was too darn easy to kill the idiots as they go running by. Being further rewarded with some health upon my shipmate's untimely demise and not being punished for failing to protect them did not sit well with me. Just remember: Heroes don't let heroes do shipmates! (Okay, that just sounds bad, but you get the point.)

From what I experienced with boss battles, a new word beyond epic needs to be coined to describe these fights. In the demo, you face off against various heads of the mythical hydra. When these puppies strike, it is a very good idea to block. At key moments in the fight, a symbol corresponding to one of the controller buttons will flash on the screen. Hitting that button triggers a scripted attack, like driving your blades into the hydras snout and slamming its head into the bulkhead of the ship. In a fight with another head, it snaps you up into its jaws. If you repeatedly tap one of the buttons fast enough, you slowly pry the mouth back open and counter-attack with a vicious sequence of moves. For these amazing displays of agility and strength, Kratos must have had a membership to the same gym as Hercules.

Not all of the game turns out to be about combat either; using your wits from time to time is also called for. In one instance, Kratos must maneuver a crate into place so he can climb high enough to reach some undead archers that have the crew pinned down. The crate can only take so much abuse before it is destroyed and you have to start over trying to slide it around the obstacles again. You can also use the environment to your advantage in tougher fights. In one of the latter fights in the demo, it's possible to pin some of the hydra's remaining heads to make the fight easier. While there is no need to worry about this game slipping into the puzzle genre, the change of pace keeps things from becoming boring � not that there's much time in between busting heads to get bored.

With its hard-core action and amazing fights, God of War looks like a sure hit. At first glance, the insane combat might look like a recipe for a simple button-masher, but it takes a good deal of finesse to employ the Spartan's attacks to the fullest. The only drawback that I saw was with the ambivalent manner that the careless slaughter of innocent bystanders is handled. There are rumors circulating that it might be possible to avoid Kratos's splattered ending that is hinted at in the opening scenes, and it would rock if this was somehow tied into the avoidance of killing innocents. Look for more coverage once the game releases!

By Greg Meadors - 03/10/05
ESRB Details: Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Nudity, Sexual Themes, Strong Language
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Screenshots for God of War

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