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In Memory
Sean Pettibone

God of War (PS2)

By Michael Palisano

Shrouded in Greek mythology and soaked in blood, SCEA's God of War for the PS2 transports players into an incredible adventure through ancient times. This frenetic action title should please hardcore gamers with its extensive combat sequences, chaining combos and brilliant gameplay. In addition, players will have to solve puzzles, unlock items and master epic boss-battles. From an aesthetic standpoint, God of War pushes the PS2 to its limits with incredibly lush environments, vividly animated enemies and, breathtaking speed. God of War is an accomplished, immersive experience unlike any other on the console to date. It's challenging gameplay, smooth controls and beautiful graphics make it one of the most polished and satisfying PS2 titles to date.

God of War is one of the most interesting PS2 action titles to date. It's mix of tight controls, brilliant level design and amazing boss encounters make it one of the console's must-play titles this season. With a brilliant storyline overlaying the action, God of War creates a cohesive game environment that's both beautiful and terrifying. It's unique look and feel is defined by its rich source material. Based on the legends and stories of Greek mythology, God of War transports players into an evocative ancient landscape and forces them to battle armies of undead soldiers through ancient ships and even Athens itself. The storyline is involved and elaborate and has you playing as a fearsome Spartan warrior named Kratos. He's made a deal with the God of War Ares in order to save his mortal life and redeem his sins. Unfortunately, Ares betrayed Kratos and he finds himself tormented by demons that have followed him for years. In order to end his cursed existence, Kratos must do one favor for the gods and destroy the God of War himself. In order to do this, he must first defeat legions of undead soldiers, mythic beasts and massive bosses, which is no small task in itself. All the enemies in the game are incredibly aggressive and difficult to beat, especially the boss characters, who put up an incredible fight throughout.

As he begins his adventure, Kratos relies on his dual Blades of Chaos in order to slice through enemies with its' brutal whipping attacks. These powerful weapons have been permanently attached to his arms and offer both short and long range attacks to effectively dispatch foes whether on the ground or while jumping. The Blades of Chaos also allow you to grab enemies and throw them around, which is a really cool feature. These weapons are quite versatile and players can perform multi-hit attacks and devastating combo moves to wipe out entire groups of attackers in one swoosh. Players can also block attacks effectively as well, making Kratos quite an intimidating force in the game. The combat system offers a surprising amount of depth, and you can spend a lot of time learning all the different moves. In addition to real-time combat, at certain points, icons will appear over enemies where players can perform special moves and attacks on foes, usually during boss battles. Most of the enemies are quite aggressive, with even standard foes requiring multiple hits to kill. When defeated, they give off an aura which Kratos can collect to increase his energy or magic levels. Even so, players will have a difficult time surviving some of the more intense areas in God of War. The game offers players a remarkable amount of freedom in the way they use their attacks, making God of War feel quite fluid throughout making it one of the best playing games on the PS2 to date. .

In addition to using his Blades of Chaos, Kratos can earn a number of upgrades that add even more powerful moves to his attacks. As he progresses deeper into his mission, the Gods he encounters will grant him special magic powers that add to his powers. Most of these super attacks are very cool and tie-in perfectly to the Greek theme. For example, players can use Medusa's head to freeze enemies, smash through enemies with a powerful sword or electrocute foes using Zeus' thunder strikes. The intense combat is unrelenting, as enemies come at the player in all directions attacking Kratos with an intense barrage of attacks. This makes the gameplay quite difficult, even on the standard levels, with rapidly increasing difficulty on the harder settings. God of War is no walk in the park, and most players will have a hard time beating the game on even normal settings, but the experience is intensely satisfying for the hard-core player.

Controlling Kratos is a simple task that's made easier thanks to God of War's intuitive controls and interface. Moving Kratos around is fairly simple, with jumping and climbing moves very easy to pull off. In addition, he can swim underwater during certain portions of the game, where moving around is fairly simple to understand.. While he's traversing poles and other tight areas, the player needs to keep him balanced, but if he falls off the poles, he can pull himself back up easily. Most attacks are performed using the A and B buttons in conjunction with the d-pad to attack foes. Pressing these buttons in quick succession causes combos to occur, where he can hit foes with multiple blows quickly. Players block by pressing the shift buttons, which are also used to life objects, open chests and other context sensitive tasks. Using the controls is fairly simple, and the game's fixed, mostly third person perspective allows players to concentrate on the action without being distracted by camera controls. The responsive movements of Kratos and the game's responsive attack controls make God of War a pure joy from a gameplay standpoint, with a refined, smooth feel throughout.

The developers have implemented some fairly ingenious level designs that continually keep players challenged and interested throughout. The game's pacing is also quite unique, with numerous massive boss battles early on presenting players with a massive challenge almost immediately. The boss characters themselves take a lot of skill to defeat with many featuring not-so-obvious weak points, where indirect attacks might be the most effective. These make for some epic battles, some of which can last for nearly half an hour. Many of the boss creatures are taken directly from Greek mythology with the player facing off against Cerebrus, Cyclops, Minotaur, Harpes and the Hydra to name just a few. These bosses present a unique challenge to the player, though some of the attack strategies are ingenious. As in other areas of the game, players will encounter icon events, where they have to press a sequence in order to perform moves on the bosses. However, the stakes are higher here, since failure usually rejuvenates the enemy. This makes God of War's boss battles considerably more difficult than most other action/adventure titles on the market. God of War's gameplay is unforgiving, and will test even the best players, but these combat sequences don't make up the entire experience.

God of War's fierce action is going to draw in legions of players, but the game features a surprisingly extensive puzzle solving sequences as well, with many going beyond the standard parameters players have come to expect. In addition to fighting enemies, players will face difficult challenges from the environments themselves. They'll have to traverse massive levels full of traps and tricks that they'll have to escape or defeat. This definitely adds to the game's design. In addition to using Kratos' blades, players will find themselves climbing up walls, swimming underwater, gliding down zip lines to add to the challenge. From a gameplay standpoint, the game's structure is inventive and clever, with an excellent mix of strategy, combat and, puzzle solving that challenges both aspects of a player's abilities. Even better, the developers have also spent as much time on the aesthetics as the gameplay, since the title is a stunning visual achievement that reaches new heights on the PS2.

While the level of violence in the game is to be expected, many players will probably be surprised by some of the more adult situations Kratos finds himself in. They don't seem out of context in the story line, but they are somewhat more risqué than console gamers would expect. Otherwise, God of War's engaging story unfolds in a series of cinematic sequences that bring the character's motivations to life. Kratos himself is an entertaining anti-hero with a dark and sadistic side. His brutal personality and devastating moves gives the game an edge many action titles lack. God of War' outstanding voice-over acting works effectively to bring the characters to life and explain the backstory behind the events. The levels are quite elaborate and look absolutely breathtaking with massive environments rich in detail, with excellent character design and smooth animation throughout. Obviously, with so much inspiration taken from Greek myth, you can expect God of War to be saturated with the style and archetypes of its historic period.

The developers at Sony's Santa Monica studio have placed their focus on creating an authentic, believable recreation of ancient Greece and it shows in even the smallest details, such as the accurate architecture. This approach gives the player a great sense of space and perspective throughout, as Kratos finds himself dwarfed by massive, screen-filling boss-creatures that can be quite intidimating. The game's outstanding character design is excellent throughout and is enhanced by excellent animations that brings things to life brilliantly.The creatures and side-characters prevalent throughout Kratos' adventure definitely adds to the game's evocative atmosphere. The game's impressove visuals are complimented by an epic orchestral score that adds dramatic heft to the gameplay. The score is outstanding and punctuates the action sequences perfectly. Taken together, God of War's outstanding production values create a cohesive, brilliant world that's as immersive and beautiful as any seen on the PS2 and exceeds expectations in many areas. Its packs quite a punch, and is easily the most technically accomplished title in the genre we've seen on the console to date.

God of War's gameplay is fast-paced and challenging, but its unique mythological setting and brilliant level design give it a distinct feel. Hardcore players will delve right into the deep combat system offers players plenty of flexibility with a variety of cool attacks and moves to master. The abundance of cool character designs, massive bosses and, unique play mechanics makes for a decidedly different atmosphere than most action/slasher titles on the market. It's deeper backstory with different branches and multiple endings makes for a compelling exciting experience. From a visual standpoint, God of War's sleek production values, stylish visuals and setting set a new highwater mark on the PS2. However, the gameplay isn't all hack and slash, with some excellent puzzle solving aspects that add to the game's strategic depth. Overall, God of War lives up to the high-expectations and offers players one of the most viscerally exciting gameplay experiences on the PS2 to date. It's a bit harder than most casual players would like, but the challenge isn't terribly arduous, and in the end, makes for a more satisfying experience. God of War is an excellent title that deserves a place in any PS2 owner's collection.

Grade: A

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