God of War follows the story of Kratos, a fierce warrior in servitude to the Greek gods. It begins with the apparent death of Kratos as he jumps off a cliff. Subsequently, the rest of the story is then told via flashbacks and begins at sea, on a ship that is under attack by the hydra. And so begins a dark journey filled with mythological beasts and larger-than-life gods.
The most enjoyable feature of God of War is the action. Not only does God of War have tons of it, but the fight sequences are visceral and absolutely brutal. It’s not uncommon to find yourself surrounded by six to seven enemies, only to defeat them all by sending them flying across the screen with an awesome array of bone-crunching and blood-splattering moves. For these reasons, the Hades level and The Challenge of Poseidon are particularly fun. Also, the boss battles are amazing. Bosses such as the Hydra and the Minotaur of Hades are more than five to six times the size of Kratos and move at an incredible rate, all with very little slowdown from the game.
Furthermore, the quick-time events really make you feel like part of the action. After an enemy has been dealt enough damage, a series of button presses or analog stick movements can be performed, initiating an in-game cut-scene. Then Kratos will finish off the enemy execution-style. These cut-scenes are brutal, particularly when you’re beheading Medusa or impaling Guardsmen. There are also elements of strategy in God of War, as certain attacks work better in certain situations. For example, it’s better to launch enemies into the air when you’re surrounded so that you can isolate your target. Also, defeating enemies via the quick-time events restores your health or magic.
Additionally, the action is nicely broken up by a variety of levels that will have you shimmying across ledges, scaling walls, swimming underwater, and even dodging flaming boulders. The variety of activites is a nice change of pace. As a result, you aren’t constantly button-mashing. Furthermore, the activities get tougher as the game progresses. For example, early in the Ship level you have to “tightrope walk” on a wooden plank between two ledges. In later levels there’ll be archers shooting at you or spinning blades coming at you while you attempt to walk on similar wooden planks.
Another great way God of War adds variety is through its puzzles. Most are simple enough to figure out in two or three tries. However, puzzles such as the Oracle’s temple are challenging, and may take more than a few tries to figure out. Overall, whether you’re solving puzzles or surrounded by enemies, the game does a nice job of making you use everything available.
Although the action and puzzles are the best features of God of War, the battle controls are also very good. Not only are battles brutal and bloody, they’re smooth and fluid. Typically, enemies come at you from all angles and are then sent flying every which way. You will have very little difficulty executing most moves. The challenge in God of War comes from fighting enemies and solving puzzles, not from figuring out the gameplay, and that’s the way it should be. From the moment you start playing it until the moment you stop, God of War grabs your attention and doesn’t let go.
In addition, there’s a ton of unlockable content when you beat the game. Features such as increased attack power, increased health, and unlimited magic make the game worth a second playthrough. There’s also a trophy for completing the game in less than 5 hours on any difficulty. Overall, the unlockable content gives you a reason to play through the game multiple times.
For all its glory, God of War does have a few flaws. For example, jumping and grabbing ledges in the Architect’s tomb is pretty frustrating. If you’re not extremely precise while jumping from platform to platform, Kratos falls to his death and you have to start the whole sequence over. Additionally, the camera is frustrating in parts. One that comes to mind is when you have to move stone pillars as part of a puzzle. While moving the pillars, you can’t see Kratos. As a result, it was more difficult to move the puzzle pieces. Lastly, the voice acting can be annoying. For instance, when you’re trying to rescue the Oracle she repeatedly screams out “Help Me! Help Me!” until you figure out how to reach her. If you can’t figure it out, she will keep screaming “Help Me! Help Me!” until you do. However, all these flaws are minor and don’t take away significantly from the game.
All in all, God of War is an edge-of-your-seat thrill-ride that will keep your attention from start to finish. Not only are the battles brutal and fluid they’re filled with over-the-top action which really adds a lot of fun to the experience. Additionally, the variety of gameplay presented by the puzzles and levels breaks up the action nicely. There are a few flaws with the controls, but they don’t detract much from what is an overall enjoyable experience. God of War is definitely worth playing through multiple times, and definitely worth owning.
This review is based on a retail copy of the Playstation 3 version of The God of War Collection by SCEA