God of War (PlayStation 2) review
"So I was playing God of War the other day. I’d reached this one room inside the labyrinthian Temple of Pandora where you have to use a lever to knock the the world out of the hands of a model of Atlas. The world will roll down a hallway, destroying a locked door at the other hand. Sounds simple, right? But I’ll be damned if I couldn’t get that lever to pull. I moved all around it, I jammed the buttons on my controller, I checked gamefaqs and still the damn thing wouldn’t cooperate. ..."
So I was playing God of War the other day. I’d reached this one room inside the labyrinthian Temple of Pandora where you have to use a lever to knock the the world out of the hands of a model of Atlas. The world will roll down a hallway, destroying a locked door at the other hand. Sounds simple, right? But I’ll be damned if I couldn’t get that lever to pull. I moved all around it, I jammed the buttons on my controller, I checked gamefaqs and still the damn thing wouldn’t cooperate. Slowly it dawned on me that I’d encountered that bane of console gamers everywhere.
I’d encountered a glitch.
There was no other way out of the room. This was no PC game where I could turn clipping off and float on through the door to destiny. Faced with the equally uninviting options of endlessly wandering the room forever or restarting the game from the beginning, I hung my head in despair. There was only one place I believed I could find solace. I reached deep into my soul and asked myself the all encompassing question...
“What would Kratos do?”
From within me, I heard the gruff voice of my idol answering. “Jump off the highest cliff in Greece,” Kratos said.
Alright, so maybe a man who murders children and has blades grafted into his arms isn’t the best guy to turn to in times of despair. But you know... something in his voice steeled my heart. If this life sucks, there’s always the halls of Hades to gallivant around in. What Kratos was really saying was, “stop being a pansy and restart the game already.” Once I picked up on this message I realized I wasn’t actually all that upset. So I’d have to re-defend the besieged Athens from the attacks of a mile high (and very pissed off) Ares. So I’d have to re-wander the storm ridden deserts of Greece, following the voices of Sirens to find my way. So I’d have to re-navigate the halls of the dead, tossing enemies into the fiery pits of hell and ripping off the wings of harpies who tried to impede my progress. Who wouldn’t want to do these things over and over again?
These are moments that would define the explosive endings of most action games. Not God of War. It holds a gamer’s attention all the way through with heated battles and situations befitting a warrior of the gods.
The game starts you off by pitting you against a nine-headed Hydra on the heaving Aegean seas. You know from the moment you take your first swing at the beast that you aren’t playing some novice Spartan soldier who may, through hard work and dedication, see himself become a great warrior by the end of the game. You’re playing an already celebrated hero... a Perseus... a Heracles. Though I’d like to think Kratos is a bit grimmer than those two.
After slaying the Hydra by repeatedly slamming its head into the jagged remains of the ship’s main mast, Kratos hears a plea for help emanating from within its mouth. Venturing into its maw and advancing down its throat, he comes across the captain of the vessel, desperately clinging to the Hydra’s slimy throat above a massive pit that drops into the beast’s still active stomache.
“Thank the gods you came!” the old man cries as Kratos grabs him by the key-chain he wears around his neck and lifts him above the pit. Kratos grabs the key from the chain and stares the old man in the face.
“I didn’t come back for you,” he growls and releases his burden into the darkness. Then Kratos goes to his chambers to have his way with the naked women he left there.
In a word, Kratos is a bad ass. He’s also a terrible husband and father, the enemy of feminists everywhere, and a very good candidate for anger management classes, but it’s all part of the surprising appeal of his character. More than anything, it’s Kratos’ inherent brutality that keeps players moving through God of War. You just want to see what this guy will do next.
When told to retrieve the head of Medusa for Aphrodite, you might expect Kratos to use his supernatural blades to do the nasty deed. But he doesn’t. He rips the Gorgon’s head off WITH HIS BARE HANDS. Shortly after, Kratos encounters a Minotaur. The Spartan is not impressed. He HEADBUTTS the beast and then jams a knife down its gullet. You can only imagine what he does to the lesser zombies and demons that try to get in his way.
Or rather, what YOU do to the poor saps. That’s the other appeal of God of War. Though Kratos may be a bigger bad-ass than Hector, the link between player and character is never broken. Instead it is reinforced by the fact that Kratos can’t fulfill his murderous tendencies without you at the helm, jamming buttons in impromptu quicktime events. Need to rip a foe apart? Jam that “O” button. Need to climb up a Cyclops’ head and stab it in the eye? Pay attention, you’ll need to hit the right combination of buttons to achieve this glorious feat.
Kratos isn’t an incredibly bright man. But he doesn’t need to be. Whereas most heroes have to use their intelligence to survive deadly traps and navigate the trickiest dungeons, ignoring his cranium never seems to get Kratos in any trouble. He makes it by on brawn alone. Sure, there are traps and tricky mazes in God of War, but Kratos doesn’t spend time getting stuck in them. He’s not a passive kind of guy. There’s no such thing as being stuck when you can punch holes through walls. That’s part of what makes him so incredible. You’d think his muscles would have their limits, but they don’t. If it’s bigger, Kratos aims higher. If it’s stronger, he hits harder. If there’s a thousand of them, he swings faster. Whether he’s climbing the back of the Titan Cronus or pitting his will against the gods themselves, Kratos never fails to overcome with nothing more than his blades and a lot of rage. There will never be a video game hero quite like him.
It’s been several years since God of War was released and it’s still hard to find an action game that hits players with the same level of intensity. From the historical streets of Athens to the mythical temple of Pandora, it’s an adventure that can’t be rivaled and one that is proving to be as enduring as any Odyssey. Having to replay it is like being asked if you want dessert twice.
Community review by zippdementia (August 10, 2009)
Zipp has spent most of his life standing in an open field west of a white house, with a boarded front door. There is a small mailbox there. Sometimes he writes reviews and puts them in the mailbox.
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