keskiviikko 1. syyskuuta 2010

REVIEW - God of War (2005)

Genre(s): Action
Released: 2005
Available on: PS2, PS3 [God of War Collection]
Developer(s): Sony Computer Entertainment, Santa Monica Studios
Publisher(s): Sony Computer Entertainment, Capcom
Players: 1

Before taking you on the lengthy RPG ride I promised earlier, I will take you on a little trip back to late 2004, when I first heard about an upcoming PlayStation 2 title by the name of God of War. The game was promoted as "Devil May Cry set in ancient Greece", and since I was somewhat of a Devil May Cry fan back then, I was absolutely sold and found myself following every step of the game's development. What Sony Computer Entertainment promoted as their newest flagship game looked so ridiculously epic and deliciously brutal that I couldn't help but to save some money for the release date and go buy the wretched R-rated thing as soon as it hit the shelves. God of War turned out everything that Sony's Santa Monica Studios promised, and more: no less than one of the most essential action games of the decade. So essential that it was brought back on the PS3 four years after its release along with its 2007 sequel, in promotion of the third and final part of the God of War trilogy.

Homicidal suicider on his way to kill a god

Linda Hunt : Narrator
TC Carson : Kratos
Carole Ruggier : Athena / Aphrodite
Steve Blum : Ares
Susanne Blakeslee : Oracle of Athens / Village Oracle
Paul Eiding : Zeus / Grave Digger / Greek Soldier
Christopher Smith : Undead Soldier / Greek Soldier
Gwendoline Yeo : Lysandra / Town Square Woman
Fred Tatasciore : Poseidon / Greek Soldier / Fisherman
Claudia Black : Artemis

Ares, the god of war, has gone berserk and is taking the great city of Athens down piece by piece. Since the other gods cannot take any direct action towards him, they hire Ares' former right hand man - the sorrowed and reckless mortal Kratos, for the job - with the promise of ridding him of his haunting visions and nightmares forever. Kratos sets out on a journey through Athens to find the means to get his revenge on the god of war and finally set himself free of his dark past at the same time.

Yep. It's THAT epic.
No words are enough to describe the graphical proportions of the game. The fixed camera makes sure that you see everything, even the biggest landmarks, just like the developers wanted you to see them like: huge, ridiculously epic. The game looks incredible, however there's a notable graphical twitch throughout that kind of takes away from the grandeur. The cutscenes vary in quality. Some very minor designs like that of the textboxes looks poor and low-budget, but everything else - top-notch on the original platform. You must've noticed that I just need _something_ to complain about the game's look...

The music? Four different composers worked on this game, including Ron Fish, who went on much later to single-handedly muster up the soundtrack to Batman: Arkham Asylum. Epic, epic stuff, clearly influenced by war and fantasy. The main theme is more than a little reminiscent of the Lord of the Rings movie score. The voice actors are OK, however it's the script itself that counts here. Once the amazing plot starts thickening, it totally overshadows the occasional overacting. The cast features such names from the TV and movie screen as TC Carson and Linda Hunt, and voiceover staples Paul Eiding, Steven Blum, Claudia Black and Nolan North in much lesser roles.

Before going into gameplay, I really want to take an extensive look at the game's surface design from all aspects. The game is set in ancient Greece, which is a surprisingly rare setting in videogames, surprising because there is so much fine material for action games. In the late 80's, there was Battle of Olympus on the NES, but since then, no one really got into the subject... not until 2004 when David "Twisted Metal" Jaffe officially came through with the concept of a mortal man on a mission to kill a god. The developers, led by Jaffe, took the Greek theme to its very limits. Even though it's hinted in-game on several occasions that the game is the first part of a trilogy, I don't think many people believed that a sequel could've really brought something new into the picture; the game is like an encyclopedia of Greek mythology. The locations, the enemies that range from minotaurs to centaurs to gorgons, the gallery of gods - name any element of ancient Greece and it's probably here. In an epic, breathtaking form. However, sequels did come, they did bring in something new, and they turned out better than the first game - all this seemed impossible when God of War came out. Like David Jaffe himself says in one of the interviews that come along as unlockable bonus content: God of War is fucking rad. Still can't disagree on that, even after the sequels.

Our anti-hero wondering who to brutally murder
The epic proportions of the game take their toll on everything - so does the script. The surprisingly deep game begins with a bombshell that will leave the player with his/her mouth open before they even really know what's going on. Yet, that view from present time, and then the little timewarp three weeks back, immediately hook the player. Like I said, the voice acting isn't always quite on target - some of the actors have a tendency to get a little carried away - but in the most important key points the actors handle the script well, with delicacy and precision. It's made clear quite early on that Kratos isn't very loveable, and he was never supposed to be loveable, at least not in the traditional sense. He's selfish and uncaring beyond belief, the man does not know jackshit about sympathy or empathy, and calling him violent would be a sheer compliment. He's here to finish a job, only for the benefit of himself - he couldn't care less about what the gods want or the wellbeing of the citizens of Athens. The more the plot advances, the more most players will hate to love the guy, for his efficiency in combat above all else. Which finally takes us to gameplay.

Kratos starts out as an ordinary warrior... if you disregard his snow-white skin and his only choice of weapons at the time, a pair of giant knives on chains - welded to his wrists. As Kratos begins his actual quest after the extended intro sequence - that already demonstrates the game's visual proportions in the form of huge environments and an even more spectacular boss - he will soon slowly begin to develop into an angel of death with the potential to actually hold his own against a god. New abilities, key items and equipment are gradually handed to Kratos by the nicer gods up on Mount Olympus, who want to test out their little mortal tool of destruction before letting him take on their deranged brother. Just some of the abilities you will be mandated to acquire and use to get to the end of the game are the ability to turn enemies to stone by using Medusa's severed head - which you, of course, will have to sever yourself - and summon the souls of the dead to aid you in battle, by using a power bestowed upon you by Hades himself. Epic. I know.

After the mentioned intro sequence which takes place on the Aegean Sea, Kratos begins his quest in the city of Athens to find the means to stand up to his former master and kill him, as ordered by the gods. The journey is filled with hordes of monsters, a couple of tactical boss fights, occasionally fiendish puzzles, and traps and obstacles classified way beyond extreme. The basic gameplay's very similar to Devil May Cry, only a hell of a lot better if you ask me, and not mission-based in any way: Kratos' one single mission is literally a journey. You get orbs by killing enemies and from chests scattered all around Athens. The red ones are used for upgrading your equipment and divine spells, green ones are for your health and the blue ones replenish your mana meter. In addition, there's a number of (semi-)well hidden Gorgon Eyes and Phoenix Feathers, which raise the maximum of your health and mana meters, respectively. Dante's Devil Trigger from Devil May Cry is replaced with Rage of the Gods, Kratos' very own godmode, which becomes available after your first blade upgrade. Unlike the Devil Trigger, Rage isn't controlled by any additional items. Instead, it has a meter of its own which replenishes each time you hit something, be it an enemy or a breakable object.

A Cyclops gets some unwanted eye surgery.
As mentioned, combat in the game is nothing short of epic. You can't quite get "epic" by just swinging the Blades of Chaos all over the place by using different beat 'em up-style button combos, that's why QTE's have been thrown in for good measure. Almost all enemies have a specific kill animation which follows a Quick Time Event, and it's not always just for the sake of animation - you can get certain type of orbs by quick timing certain enemies, and more orbs in general, as well as from executing impressive combos. In all of the boss fights, the QTE's are mandatory. It's fine until the rotation of the left analog stick comes in as a mandatory part. The quality of the response varies in these sequences, a lot.

There are two kinds of puzzles in the game: those which demand physical action, and those which demand moderate logic and visual perception. Not much from the between. A lot of people wouldn't probably even call the first ones puzzles, but I can't think of a better word. You need precise timing in these, and the ability to calculate and estimate your actions before taking any action. The puzzles are written as magnificently as the game. Some of them just don't work as well as they probably did on paper, but the "cool factor" of being able to fiddle with ancient technology overshadows the occasional suicidal thought brought on by the more action-oriented puzzles.

General progress also has one small problem: narrow walkways, ranging from wooden planks to fallen masts etc.. You have to keep Kratos in balance at all times, or else he'll fall, usually to his death. This is fine until the camera angle starts changing in the middle of your little stroll - more about the camera in just a sec - and obstacles start haunting you, forcing you to carelessly jump into the air. Sometimes, Kratos just refuses to climb back up no matter how much you keep abusing the X button, and the analog stick's X-axis movement is a bit oversensitive at times.

In addition to these minor peeves related to all of progress, combat and the puzzles, I have a few others. First of all, the game is linear as heck. There are not too many places you can wander off to, and you absolutely need to scan most of the environments thoroughly to get to your ultimate goals in each "stage". Sure, there are secrets, but they're quite easy to come by. Secondly, the fixed camera works both ways. It makes the game look better and obscures some of those secrets meant to be obscured, but it also obscures the player's vision of things happening around Kratos, and makes certain spots in the game way harder to conquer than they really need to be - for example, one action-oriented puzzle requires you to jump "towards yourself" through a chain of fatal obstacles, step on a button, and then jump all the way back, and run as fast as you can to the door you just temporarily opened by stepping on the button. The first part, jumping towards yourself, is actually harder than the climax of the puzzle due to the camera angle. Luckily there are a lot of checkpoints.

Engineers in ancient Greece whipped up traps
that would make John "Jigsaw" Kramer proud.
The game is basically quite challenging, but like I said, there are many checkpoints and they make it a whole lot easier to eventually conquer. The last fights are pure hell and they demand the player to give everything (s)he's got. They're notably the most difficult parts of the whole game, just like they should be. PS3's God of War Collection version brings in HD graphics, which make the game look a little less of a prototype of its sequel than the original (why they didn't remaster the cutscenes is beyond me), slightly better controls, a precise time limit to rescue the Oracle of Athens, and of course, a set of PS3 Trophies. There's an impressive amount of Gold Trophies in the PS3 version, as well as a Platinum, and browsing through the list, I can't find anything that would be next to impossible to accomplish. Probably a sales point. Yet, they are very challenging; beating the game in under five hours and conquering the Challenge of the Gods aren't really the easiest feats around. A Challenge Mode is indeed unlocked after the first playthrough, along with promotional bonus content, and it will give even the seasoned God of War player a tough bone to chew on.

Minor issues, worst places - as in hellishly difficult - that you could imagine to wander into in a modern video game, contrasted by magnificent violent fun, mostly brilliant gameplay, great balance between brains and brawn, a surprisingly fine script, a few couples of bare female breasts, and an EPIC moment every two minutes, in the very core sense of the word. That's what God of War is all about. It was outdone in many ways by God of War II, but it's still not, by any means, an experience you can afford to miss out on. Alongside Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty, Grand Theft Auto III and Uncharted: Drake's Fortune, God of War stands as one of the most important and influential third-person action games of the decade.

Graphics : 9.0
Sound : 8.9
Playability : 9.1
Challenge : 9.0
Overall : 9.1


GameRankings: 93.55% (PS2)

Ei kommentteja:

Lähetä kommentti