Friday, November 2, 2012

God of War

If you've been playing games long enough or have have done enough research into them, chances are you've heard of David Jaffe. You may have heard that name through his best known creations Twisted Metal and God of War, both of which remain exclusive to PlayStation. While he's been involved with the majority of Twisted Metal games, including this year's reboot, he has only been involved with the first two God of War games, the first one more intimately. While there is the upcoming God of War: Ascension early next year, that is not the reason why I'm reviewing the first game right now, since the new game is another prequel; rather, it is a combination of boredom (due to any new games that interest me not coming out for a while), my recent acquisition of God of War Saga and the fact that the only God of War reviews on this blog are of handheld and mobile games. Surprisingly, even 7 years from its initial release, this highly-regarded PS2 classic still holds up after all this time.

The story of the game seems simple enough: Kratos is a Spartan who has served under the Gods for ten years. Tired of his servitude and experiencing visions of his past, he seeks to kill Ares, the God of War, with help of the other Gods along the way in order to finally be free of his contract with him. While this appears simple on the surface, there is more depth to it revealed as the game progresses. This is actually made very interesting, since once every layer has been revealed on what set Kratos on his (lengthy) act of revenge against Ares, you begin to feel a bit of sympathy for him.

Though this game is from 2005, the graphics aren't really all that bad. They don't hold up to today's standards of realistic graphics, but for a later PS2 title the visuals still look pretty good and hit all the right marks. There's still a great amount of detail for the limitations of the time and everything can be easily made out thanks to a good balance of light and dark colors. While the in-game graphics are good, by contrast the cutscenes are animated beautifully. Each one uses an amazing blend of still art and amazingly detailed realistic animations and each one transitions and flows very smoothly. The animations have an incredible amount of detail, with hair, fur, and clothing moving very realistically. Even the various forms of cloth in the game, including flags and particularly Kratos' loincloth, have a good deal of this animation, which is still amazing for the time.

The combat system of the game is simple, which may or may not sound familiar to you. Kratos' pimary weapon is the Blades of Chaos, which can be swung at an incredible distance to slaughter anyone who stands in his way. As you kill enemies or destroy breakable objects, you obtain red orbs that can be used to power up your available arsenal to open up a whole slew of new combos with each upgrade. As you progress through the story, the other gods, including Zeus and Hades among others, grant you special weapons and magical abilities they posses in order to help slay Ares as he goes on a rampage against Athens. Opening chests gives you orbs to increase your health, magic, and red orb count, as well as Gorgon Eyes and Phoenix Feathers that can upgrade your health and magic meters respectively. In addition, when prompted, you can perform a Quick Time Event on an enemy in order to deal a finishing blow and gain an extra reward, such as increased health.

On the audio side of things, I don't really have any complaints. The voice acting, I felt, was solid. TC Carson's role as Kratos continues on from here, and while it does evolve somewhat over the course of the franchise, it's interesting to revisit the roots of his performance after so many games. Though the other characters change voice actors over time, some performances that stood out to me were Steve Blum as Ares, Nolan North as Hades (he surprisingly doesn't do a bad job voicing the God of Death), and Paul Eiding as Zeus, ruler of the Gods. Linda Hunt's voice is perfect for the narrations, becoming a staple throughout the rest of the franchise (save for Betrayal, which didn't even have voice work). The music also works perfectly well with the game itself, including the talents of a massive choir to create the game's epic atmosphere.

While God of War is an excellent game all around, I do have only one complaint, a nightmare that can be summed up in a single word: Hades. And I'm not talking about the God here, I'm referring to the location that is the ancient Greek version of Hell. When Kratos gets sent there during the game, you are almost immediately faced with what is guaranteed to be one of the most frustrating experiences of your Mature gaming career. While the environment is appropriately totally disgusting, there is a large section where you must traverse across spinning ledges (covered in blades), after which you must climb up a pair of spinning columns (covered in blades), and by the end you must create your pathway out by fighting off a group of Satyrs (wielding blades). Even when I took the opportunity earlier in the game to go down to Easy, this section was the source of the majority of all of my deaths and I nearly wanted to throw my controller in rage. However, given that it's Hell, the difficulty is probably appropriate.

After so many years, the original God of War is still a great game. It has an interesting concept and executes it extremely well, earning its rightful spot in gaming history. If you still own a PS2, are of age, and have not yet played this game, I suggest you look for a copy and play it as soon as you can. You will not be disappointed. And don't worry: On this blog, Kratos will return.

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