Chris Sell
23 Jun, 2005

God of War Review

PS2 Review | We review one of the hottest PS2 games of the year.
Amazingly, you could count on one hand the amount of games based upon Greek Mythology. And with such an array of legendary stories to dip into it’s no surprise that someone has finally put them to good use. Headed by Twisted Metal creator David Jaffe, God of War is a game that combines the frantic combat action of the Devil May Cry series with the platforming and puzzle solving of UbiSoft’s Prince of Persia. But have Sony produced a winner from fusing these disparate sources? Or is God of War really just a jack of all trades and a master of none?

The game begins, quite uniquely, with the suicide of the main character Kratos. From here, the player is introduced to the back-story and events that have lead Kratos to take his own life. It’s not long before we learn that Kratos is in fact a warrior, enslaved by the God’s in an attempt to have his past sins forgiven and torturing memories that haunt his dreams eradicated from his head. God of War features some of the best cut-scene storytelling in gaming. It’s not only the technical beauty of them that impresses, but the style in which the whole game is presented. Using a mix of in-game engine visuals, some FMV of Final Fantasy quality and some stunningly unique 2D artwork that actually comes in and out of movement as it tells the story, there’s nothing quite like this out there.

We then move to events three weeks previous, and it’s here when you get your first taste of the actual gameplay. What makes the combat in God of War so much fun is its simplicity. You have two main attack buttons to worry about: a weak, quick slash and a slow, strong slice attack. There is also a powerful grapple you can perform on weakened foes that effectively works as a finishing move. The left analog stick controls Kratos’ movement while the right stick is used for evading manouvres, such as flips and rolls. Blocking plays an important part in God of War. Not only is it essential for defense, bt it's also good for attack. By carefully timing enemy attacks with a block, you can parry their weapon, completely opening them up for your own attacks, an essential skill to master on the harder difficulty settings.

True Fact – Hydra’s breath smells of coconuts

True Fact – Hydra’s breath smells of coconuts
Kratos’s main weapons are the ‘Blades of Chaos’. These are two swords, bound to his arms by chains. This means that they have a long reach and flexibility and have a huge amount of attacking potential as a result. All kinds of spins, grabs and slashes can be unleashed at your foes with ease, and it all looks satisfyingly rewarding as you do so. In addition to the Blades of Chaos, Kratos has access to magic abilities (accessed through the d-pad and the L1 button) which you get given to by various Gods throughout the game, all of which mesh perfectly into the fighting engine. ‘Poseidon’s Rage’ for example is ideal when you’re surrounded by multiple enemies as it swamps the area around Kratos with a destructive storm of lightning, while Zeus’s lighting bolt attack is ideal for picking off distant foes. The star of the show has to be ‘Medusa’s Gaze’. For those familiar with Greek Mythology, Medusa is famous for turning people into stone with her eyes, and that’s exactly what happens here. Once you’ve torn off your first Medusa head, you can use it to turn enemies into stone, making them crumble instantly with a single blow – genius.

Like similar games such as Devil May Cry and Ninja Gaiden, Orbs are dropped by defeated enemies, and can also be found in various chests throughout the game. Orbs are used to upgrade the strength and effectiveness of magical spells as well as adding new skills, combos and power to the Blades of Chaos. As with the aforementioned games, style is rewarded here too as by defeating enemies with high combos you are given more Orbs in return.

Something we haven’t seen from the likes of Devil May Cry and Ninja Gaiden is the use of Resident Evil 4/Shenmue-style 'QTE' (Quick Timer Event) during combat. For some of the larger monsters in the game, such as the Minotaur, you’ll be able to initiate these ‘QTE’s via the grab button once you’ve worn down the enemy enough. Once started, Kratos will leap all around the enemy with various slashes and powerful blows. Here button/stick commands will appear on screen and you have a short time to input them and providing you get them in time, Kratos will continue his assault. These are superbly enjoyable to watch and highly satisfying as a result.

Ok Mr Minotaur, say AHHHHHHHHH!

Ok Mr Minotaur, say AHHHHHHHHH!
However, it’s during the boss fights that these prove the most entertaining. Take the very first battle in the game against the Mini-Hydra for example. Here your button presses sees Kratos ducking and diving all over the place before finally landing some monstrous blows to water-dwelling beast. Once weakened he’ll then stick his blades into the creatures head and use the chains to act as a giant rope to pull the Hyrda crashing into the sharp vertical post in the centre of the screen, piercing into its face. The boss battles are truly epic to behold and what was just described is really only a taster of what lies ahead…

While God of War shares a lot with the Devil May Cry games, there’s also a strong Prince of Persia flavour throughout. Although the game features a huge amount of combat, it’s full of exploration and platforming with some genuinely enjoyable puzzles woven in. The levels are huge and full of tricks and tracks to stop you in your tracks. Players will find themselves climbing up walls, swimming underwater, swinging along ropes and sliding down zip lines. While Prince of Persia always had trouble combining combat with platforming, God of War pulls it off perfectly. While the game never tells you what you have to do, rarely do you find yourself stuck. The level design is of such quality that getting lost isn’t an issue as there’s very little in the way of backtracking. Even when you find yourself traveling a long way for an item, a secret door opens or lift activates and you find yourself back where that item needs to be used. In a game of this genre, it’s encouraging to see the developers went to some length to reduce needless wandering while others would have used it to add artificial length to the game.

Flaws in God of War are few and far between. The greatest issue worth mentioning is the camera. It’s a fixed camera and while it does a great job following Kratos for the most part, there are a fair few annoying moments when you’re attacked by something off-screen, or you fail to make a jump because you couldn’t really see the jump properly. PALGN's other main gripe with the game is that it’s not the kind of game you can replay over and over again like Devil May Cry 3 is. Whereas that game scored you after each mission with a rating, God of War is something you play to beat rather than something to play to get good at, so it’s not quite as addictive over long periods of time in the way Capcom’s game is. There are other smaller issues, though. Upgrading items with your Orbs takes far too long to actually do as spending minutes watching thousands of orbs being exchanged really isn’t necessary when they could have just made any upgrade a single second button press. And, the final boss is a little disappointing, but overall God of War is about as good as you could possibly expect, especially considering this is the developer's first attempt.

Graphically, God of War is a very impressive game and features quite possibly the best graphics on PS2 (and rivals many games on Xbox). The character models are superb, with both Kratos and his foes looking excellent, and animated with finesse. Each level has its own distinctive feel from the stormy weathered, rocking ships of the opening level, to the demolished ruins of Athens later in the game. There’s the vast, blistering deserts and fantastically designed labyrinth to enjoy. There are also some excellent special effects throughout with reflections on wooden floors, pools of glistening water and some top notch lighting. The whole thing runs satisfyingly smooth and there’s even a widescreen option too.

This could be painful…

This could be painful…
The game’s soundtrack is equally impressive. The score provides an epic, cinematic feel from start to finish, fitting each environment and situation perfectly. Sound effects are all suitably spot on with weapons clashing and magic spells cracking through enemies with satisfaction, while the voice acting is up there with the best in gaming. The cutscenes are superbly voiced, but it’s the narrator of the story that is the most professionally convincing throughout. DPLII surround sound support is the icing on the cake.

God of War isn’t an easy game, but it’s far more assessable than any Devil May Cry has been. It’s standard difficulty setting is ideal for most players, while the unlockable ‘God Mode’ provides expert players with something to get their teeth into. Though you are still restrained by a typical save point system, the save points are located evenly and are supported by about two check points you’ll restart from should you die. At around 10 hours long, it’s of perfect length as it is long enough to provide you with a non-stop supply of new weapons, levels and puzzles, yet finishes before ideas become overdone. The story too is superbly well laid out, rarely stalling from start to finish. On completion, God of War opens up a ton of extra content. There’s ‘making-of’ videos, deleted scenes, scrapped character designs, trailers, etc – all of which is actually rather interesting to watch (take a look at some of the awful Kratos designs they’ve had over the years for example) and makes up somewhat for not having the same replayability Devil May Cry 3 has.

Overall, it’s hard not to be incredibly impressed with God of War. It’s one of those rare games that, while playing, it’s quite easy to lose track of time and end up playing for longer stretches than you intended. Many times you’ll get to a save point that you planned to stop playing at, only to continue playing when you get there out of sheer curiosity and anticipation at what awaits you around the next corner. When we think of other games that have this same effect (Resident Evil 4 and Metal Gear Solid 3 spring to mind) it’s certainly in good company. We’ve intentionally spoke very little of the superb story as it’s something that’s better experienced afresh, but needless to say it fits the whole Greek Mythology theme with perfection. God of War is a game recommended to all PS2 owners and is essential for fans of the genre - quite simply, it's difficult to imagine there will be many games on any console that will match it this year. Stellar.
The Score
Superb from start to finish. With game releases quieting down now until Christmas, this should be on every PS2 owner's wishlist.
Looking to buy this game right now? PALGN recommends www.Play-Asia.com.

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27 Jul, 2005 A movie to break the trend?
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8 years ago
Don't forget, most of these button pressing finishing moves are optional. If you beat down on pretty much any enemy enough you can kill it without the finishing move.
8 years ago
^ yeah that too...

except the only proper boss i've seen (the main Hydra Head)... eventually it's health bar stopped going down and you needed to do the minigame on it a few times...

but then, this advanced the story (ie: it didn't just die and that was it...) otherwise, the minigames are quick kills, and also used to get health/mana restore orbs...
8 years ago
Sorry to bump this, are there any Australians with the PAL version who can confirm if there's a 60hz mode or not?
8 years ago
No 60Hz mode. Kind of a pain, but it's a good conversion.
8 years ago
Matt wrote
No 60Hz mode. Kind of a pain, but it's a good conversion.
Hey are you going to be resurectring the 60hz game guide anytime soon?
8 years ago
--alex-- wrote
Matt wrote
No 60Hz mode. Kind of a pain, but it's a good conversion.
Hey are you going to be resurectring the 60hz game guide anytime soon?
Not the generalised PAL one - I still work on the PlayStation 2 guide every few months - last update was May. You can get it at GameFAQs.
7 years ago
Just for the sake of completeness - no progressive scan mode in the PAL version either.
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