God of War (PlayStation 2) review
"A man can only get skewered by spikes in the same damn room so many times..."
Once upon a time in the long-ago year of 2005, God of War came out for the PlayStation 2 and was considered a revelation. The sort of game that got so many perfect scores attached to it that it ranks as one of the best-reviewed titles of its era, acquiring all sorts of praise and recommendations in the process.
Is God of War a fun game? No doubt. Is it some elite "Game of the Year" monolith? Not unless 2005 was a fairly crappy year in gaming, which a bit of research says was definitely not the case. I enjoyed a good deal of my time with it, but it never really hooked me to that "this game is my new addiction" level. Not in 2005 when I was introduced to it, not in the ensuing years when I twice tried and failed to get through it and most definitely not in 2019 when I finally succeeded in that endeavor.
In a way, I'm not all that shocked that this game got near-universal love. It does include some stuff that really made it stand out in comparison to the average PS2 title. God of War is one of those games that stretches the capabilities of a system so far that one could easily envision it fitting in with the next era of consoles with only a minor face-lift. Characters are large and well-animated and the backgrounds often are stunning in an otherworldly sort of way, with all the large statues, massive temples and other attractions to find in and around the besieged city of Athens. And the being doing said besieging is a gigantic god who appears so overwhelmingly powerful in his early-game appearances that one could be pardoned for wondering how overcoming him could even be conceivable.
Also, this game didn't scrimp on the brutality, as Sony seemingly was determined to create a new template for adult themes in games. For any of us who grew up playing games on the 8- and 16-bit systems, this is a positive, as we remember how strongly Nintendo of America felt about their games being family-friendly. They'd go to great lengths to remove religious references, while trying to mask death with any number of vague euphemisms. In God of War, protagonist Kratos is a brooding, scowling anti-hero only deserving of the "hero" part due to how adversary Ares amazingly is even worse. In the game's opening level, after Kratos brutally slaughters a fearsome Hydra, he'll rip a necessary key away from the helpless captain of the ship attacked by said Hydra before sending him to his demise and then retire to a cabin to enjoy the company of a pair of virtually naked women. Enemies can be dispatched via brutal animations and neutral (or allied) NPCs often fare no better. In one battle, fleeing innocents can be butchered to restore his life. Later on, he'll remorselessly sacrifice a pleading prisoner in order to open a door. He is the embodiment of bloodlust and the camera's unflinching eye is there to witness it all.
The final ingredient in God of War's success simply was amazing publicity. If you've read and written reviews for a couple decades, give or take, it does get hard to notice that certain games designed by certain companies seemingly get set up for success, with reviewers serving as de facto PR honks. I've read a lot of stuff written about this game and the issues I have with it seem to be downplayed, if they even are mentioned. It's not the first game I've seen get this treatment and it won't be the last, but it's hard to not notice when my opinion diverges so much from the norm, especially considering how regularly my tastes at least somewhat line up with the general consensus.
Community review by overdrive (December 19, 2019)
Rob Hamilton is the official drunken master of review writing for Honestgamers.
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