The wrath of God

  This Greek tragedy is a triumph
By  |  October 24, 2005

 God of War
Published by Sony Computer Entertainment. Developed by SCE Studios Santa Monica. For PlayStation 2. Rated M for Mature.

By now you've probably seen commercials for God of War for the PlayStation 2, or you may have even seen a review in the Boston Globe or Herald. It’s all good press, and for good reason: if developers look to call their games "epic" in the future, God of War redefines the term. There's so much goodness crammed into this game that I’ve decided to break things down bit-by-bit, just to let you know why you should – nay, must – own this game.

You play as a Spartan named Kratos, a mortal in allegiance to Ares, the Greek God of War. At the start of the game, you see Kratos doing a little cliff-diving in an attempt at suicide. The story/game that follows is a long flashback that shows the events leading up to Kratos's conclusion that he'd be better off as a lemming. I won't spoil the story (there's just so much of it), but I will add that because of some tragic occurrences in his past (plus the fact that Ares and his minions are tap-dancing all over the city of Athens), the rest of the Greek Gods themselves have given Kratos one more job to absolve him of his past mistakes: Destroy Ares, the God of War.

I played on the Normal setting (one of four levels of difficulty) and was presented a satisfactory challenge. The game plays very well, with a number of combat styles: from special attacks to simple button-mashing, you'll have a wide range of moves to learn controlling the God-given weapons and magic Kratos will carry or earn throughout the game. You'll also utilize most of the buttons on your PS2, and the control layout is elegant.

Loading times are next to nil and times waiting between zones were in matters of seconds. The most I had to wait was 5-10 seconds, when I had to wait at all. Initial loading of a saved game takes all of 25 seconds at most.

Kratos's fighting styles and special attacks can be described simply as pretty, which actually isn't surprising: some of God of War's developers worked on one of the greatest games in history, Street Fighter II. You'll start off with the Blades of Chaos Ares has bestowed on you, which function similarly to Spawn's chains (or that shield ... weapon ... thingy in both versions of Rygar). You can swing them around, attacking at range, or stab with them close-up. When you wear an enemy down, grappling him allows you to deliver a brutal fatality (or increased damage, in the case of larger enemies). This shakes out extra Experience, Magic, or Life energy orbs per attack, and a hit counter totals up your hits – all of this provides the player an incentive to explore the many combo attacks available. Expect multi-enemy battles, and challenging mini-boss and full-boss fighting.

There's a decent mix of puzzles within all the fighting as well. You'll be spending a good chunk of the game dealing with them as you lead Kratos on a sub-quest to find Pandora's Box, which is supposed to help you against Ares. I will note that many puzzles can be likened to the Resident Evil series Door and Switch quests (first you find something you'll have to fight for, and put it someplace you'll need to fight something to get to), but there are a couple that require actual thought.

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