Developer: Santa Monica Studio
Played on: Playstation 2
Picture this, if you will. On one Friday evening, Dr and Mrs Giggles decide to give this Playstation 2 game God of War a try. Ten hours later, we are still at it, each of us taking turns struggling through the game while the other person read aloud the walkthrough FAQ found on Gamefaqs to the other person who is trying to complete a level in the game. This RPG/fighting game is insanely addictive. Both of us end up cancelling our plans and calling for pizza delivery instead because we have to finish the game. Thank heavens that this game isn’t that long – only fourteen hours of play time, folks, with the aid of detailed walkthrough FAQs! – or the house will go under around us while we argue over whether the FAQ must be wrong because we keep getting our character killed trying to do what the FAQ suggested.
While loosely involving Greek mythology in the sense that the name of the deities and monsters in this game should be familiar to those who know about it, this game is about our hero, Kratos, who is bald, grey-skinned, and has some red-gashed tribal tattoos on his strapping torso. Kinda like Vin Diesel’s John Riddick character, only more bad-ass. Once a bloodthirsty warrior general of Sparta who lived only for war and carnage, he sold his soul to the god of war, Ares, in exchange for Ares saving his life when he was about to receive an ax into his skull. Over the years, Kratos ends up trying to escape Ares’s dominion over him by serving Zeus and the other deities. They promise that after he helps them defeat Ares, who is right now attacking Athens in a style inspired by too many Godzilla movies, he will finally be free of Ares and his tormented past. Naturally, in order for Kratos to do this, he has to battle all sorts of monsters while running around places like a ship that is being attacked by the giant Hydra to the war torn streets of Athens to the ridiculously labyrinthine Temple of Pandora looking for magical items that will help him defeat Ares.
This game isn’t just blind fighting while running around catacombs, there are all sorts of puzzles to solve and maze-like working my way through the level that without a walkthrough FAQ, I’m sure hubby and me will still be wandering around the Temple of Pandora after a few months have passed, especially when some of these levels often require backtracking to some place one could have passed by hours ago or to go through secret doors that only be discovered through thorough exploration. The RPG puzzle-solving and working through maze-like passages are more difficult, if you ask me, than the actual fighting of monsters because there are many chests containing lifebar-refilling orbs all over the place to ensure that Kratos will never die. Fighting monsters involve button mashing in all combinations involving even the L1, L2, R1, and R2 buttons and while everything seems complicated at first glance, it’s easy to remember things once the game starts. There are also powerful magical skills that can be obtained as favors from the Olympian gods as the game progresses as well as weapons and these can be upgraded to become more powerful using red orbs that Kratos will obtain from breaking things, opening chests, and killing monsters. While small potato monsters are straightforward “slash them dead while rolling and blocking to avoid being hit by them” types, the big bosses however can only be defeated by knowing their attack patterns and repeatedly pulling off a pattern of counterattacks against them. This is where the walkthrough FAQ comes in handy again. EVen then, fighting bosses is still a boring and monotonous chore because their pattern is repetitious, they do shockingly little damage to Kratos even on higher difficulty levels, and since they have very long lifebars, it takes a long time to hack them to pieces.
The truly breathtaking graphics of this game is awesome and truly a spectacle to behold. For example, I have a fear of heights so I have to hand the game over to hubby and can’t even watch when Kratos has to balance and walk across narrow beams in the Temple of Pandora because the graphics are so life-like that I feel nauseous and too terrified for words just watching hubby struggling to get Kratos across narrow beams while trying to jump through deadly obstacles thrown his way in the process. On the other hand, parents should take note that there are female nudity as well as gratuitous gore in this game.
Oh yes, the gore. This is another reason why God of War is fantastic. Forget the cartoonish fatality moves of Mortal Kombat because here Kratos can rip apart the bodies of minor zombies, grabs gorgons and sirens in his arms and tear off their heads, and stab a fiery sword into the mouths of minotaurs before twisting the blade hard to send blood spurting all over the place. Kratos also stabs cyclops in the eye before ripping the sword downwards. The cutscenes and cinematics have all kinds of carnage involving blood and gore. Adding to the perverse delight factor is Kratos being a complete antihero: in one stage, the player has to actually help Kratos work his way in pushing a cage with a screaming and struggling Athenian soldier prisoner inside it while fighting off zombies; once the cage with the prisoner is delivered to an altar of Poseidon, the player has to make Kratos pull a lever to barbecue the prisoner as a sacrifice to Poseidon in order to get an item necessary to continue playing the game. In the stage set in Athens, Kratos can kill innocent people running around the place to get back his health. This game is so adorably sick and twisted! The only disappointing thing here is how the game puts in a bizarre menage mini-stage early on in the game where the player has to control Kratos by moving the left analog button so that he can pleasure two naked women in a bed in order to get some red orbs – the game cuts away from the sex stuff to show a vase rattling on the bedside table while all this is going on, which strikes me as a ridiculously lame cop-out. Why put in this kind of thing and then not go all the way?
God of War is twisted and dark when it comes to Kratos the delightfully unheroic main character (who is also quite sexy if you go for pixels) and the breathtaking graphics. Except for the fight with the bosses which go on for too long, gameplay is fun and addictive, especially with a walkthrough FAQ by one’s side to minimize the frustration of getting lost while running around catacombs and tunnels while wondering what to do and where to go. Really, this game is fun all-around and it makes a great movie of sorts to watch too.