God of War is a story about deceit, revenge and redemption. It is the story of Kratos, a man driven by his thirst for blood and desire to conquer all that was laid before him. He was brutal in his quest for domination and feared by all. Now, a man haunted by his violent past and the demons in his mind, he is destined to destroy the god that he once served: Ares, the god of war.
There is one thing about God of War you need to know right away: You can’t control the camera. Once you accept this, your life will be much easier. When I first learned this, I thought I was going to have a very hard time with the game; one of my biggest complaints about third-person games is usually the camera. But I have been pleasantly surprised with how few problems I have encountered with the camera. Sure, there are some areas where I would growl with frustration, but there are far fewer than I anticipated.
The camera is actually quite intuitive and knows just where to be for each situation. There are some tricky balancing acts that need to be performed throughout the game, but as I played through them, I found that the camera was angled right about the spot I would have put it. The nice thing about the camera is that you know up front that it is out of your control. It doesn’t tease you by letting you think you are in control, only to swing around to a terrible angle in the middle of a life-or-death battle.
I don’t usually pay a lot of attention to the in-game menus, but the one in God of War caught my eye. It is simplistic yet stylish and works very well. The font really captures the feel of the game, and there are some cool sound effects as you scroll through your items. You have six slots in your inventory that hold your weapons and the powers given to you by the various gods. Each weapon/magic can be upgraded by using the red power orbs that you collect from fallen enemies and treasure boxes. You can scroll through each item, and the menu shows you how many orbs you have, how many you need for the next upgrade for that weapon, and what the upgrade will give you.
The actual upgrade process could have been done better though. To upgrade your weapon, you need to drain the number of orbs needed from the meter that holds them, so you have to keep holding the button down as it empties the “holding cell” and siphons them into your weapon meter. For the higher upgrade levels, this process can take a while.
At times, God of War plays like your typical button-mashing hack-and-slash, but there are other times when the combat requires you to use some skill. While the weaker enemies can be disposed of with just a few taps of a button, the more formidable foes will require a bit of finesse, learning to block and counter. Once you drop an adversary’s defenses, a button will appear over their head. Pressing this button will take you to a mini game, in which you will need to follow the sequence shown on the screen. Success in mimicking the pattern will result in their being finished off in some gory manner. Failure gives them the window of opportunity they need to escape your grasp.
God of War is one of the best-looking games I have seen, which says a lot, given the sheer number of graphically impressive games that have been released over the past year. The environments are rich and full of texture and detail. The mythological beasts you encounter on your journey are nothing short of stunning, and the game does an excellent job with the scale of some of these massive creatures. The cut scenes are amazing to watch, presented in a way that is stylish and cinematic. The game runs remarkably well, even when the screen floods with a massive amount of enemies.
The soundtrack in God of War does well to set the mood for the game, and coupled with the environmental sounds help make this game a truly immersive experience. Even though there isn’t a lot of dialogue, the voice acting is done well. The narrator really fits with the game, almost as if the game was made so she could tell us the story of Kratos.
The level design is top-notch, and while the game may be linear, it doesn’t feel restrictive. There are plenty of mazes and dead ends to be found, and when faced with several different paths, it is nice to know that you can explore and not miss out on the important stuff. For the most part, the puzzles are easy to solve, though there are a few that take a bit of thought. Some of the puzzles will be sure to test your patience, as there are a lot of high beam balancing acts, and several “here, push this big heavy rock 200 meters to that spot over there” kind of stuff. The save points come at just the right time, and there are plenty of checkpoints in between.
This is not to say that the game is easy. Even on Hero (normal) mode, I found it to be challenging at times. God of War entices you to play it more than once, by offering a veritable cornucopia of content to unlock, including “making of” videos and secret messages. Going through the game once will keep you busy for a solid 12 to 15 hours.
It isn’t often a game comes along that is so breathtaking in scope, so outstanding in all areas of production, that you are actually saddened upon finishing the game. There is a very short list of games that have been able to completely pull me in to their story; Halo, Beyond Good & Evil and Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time are a few that come to mind. God of War is now on that list and holds a place as one of the best games I have played. With beautifully imagined landscapes, cinematic cut scenes and near-flawless gameplay, it is a truly remarkable experience.
- Gameplay: 9.8
- Great level design, solid controls and some of the coolest weapons around.
- Graphics: 9.8
- Absolutely beautiful. Some of the best graphics around.
- Sound: 9.7
- A fantastic soundtrack and good use of ambient noise really puts you in the game.
- Replay: 8
- I can see myself playing this again, just to open up all of the bonus content.
- Overall: 9.8
- This game is beautiful and stylish with an engaging story line.
— J. Paradise