The original God of War launched at a time when the PlayStation 2 had come of age. We were entering an era when developers were beginning to push the limits of what could truly be achieved with the hardware. Those that shall be forever mentioned when the industry bods discuss a console’s life. Resident Evil 4 marked the entrance on the GameCube, while the Xbox 360 launch was looming. God of War was seen as PlayStation’s argument for sticking to the PlayStation 2 despite the impending arrival of the next generation. And a convincing argument it surely was.
God of War: Where Logic and Violence Meet
The title is a fighting and puzzle based adventure. The action is paced superbly between areas of extreme hack-n’-slash and thought-inducing puzzle elements. The game moves through continuous “episodes”, and the player will progress from start to finish without ever having to revert to a menu or loading screen outside of play (with the exception of saving or levelling-up). The story progresses slowly at first, inviting you upon your quest with minimal knowledge of your character. Kratos’ profile opens itself after you get used to doing the dirty.
The title has an Ancient Greek setting and feel to it. Kratos dips heavily into Greek Mythology – both as it stands and the developers twisted ideals of fantasy. Playing as a Spartan on a hell-bound warpath, vengeance is always at the top of your list.
God of War May Cry
The combat featured in the title is very reminiscent of the early titles in the Devil May Cry franchise. The Square button used for light and Triangle for heavy attacks. Circle performs grab moves and Cross executes jumps. Numerous attacks may be stringed together in order to execute devastating combos which aren’t easily countered. The variety of attacks and combinations available is astonishing. To the extreme that even after playing through the title the abilities you have will continue to impress. Upon besting your enemies you may collect coloured blobs: green, blue or red each representing additional health, magic and experience respectively. Progression through the twisting corridors, traps, puzzles and beasts will grant you with further weaponry (although limited) and magical abilities. Each of your weapons or abilities can be levelled-up by spending the experience points you have collected.
The enemies and arenas play takes place in are very well constructed. Kratos travels from the ocean to Athens, to the desert and then to Hell. All while being stalked by all manner of creatures including Skeletons and Harpies, Cyclops, Medusa and a huge iron-clad Minotaur. Each of the enemies is instantly recognisable and has distinct weaknesses, whilst the puzzles often correlate with the surrounding environment and never seem out of place.
God of Mind Games
The puzzle sections of the game are often just that: puzzling. For the most part, the hidden corridors and timed-switches, although entertaining, provide little challenge and are rarely taxing. But with some progression, towards the latter areas the title begins to prove the ability of its design team (previously having worked on the Twisted Metal series). One area in particular sees you rotating the inner-circle of a corridor to line-up the exit with the entrance to other rooms. Each of which lead you in a big circle back to the inner-corridor with only a single new option. A few later puzzles certainly have the ability to stump players for a small amount of time. And towards the end of the game the difficulty ramps-up and forces you to be not only quick of finger, but quick of thought also.
God of War’s Technical Achievement
The graphics sported by the title are clearly remarkable, even if dated by today’s standards. Pushing the PlayStation 2 with incredible textures and an amazing amount of full-detail enemies on screen at any one time, God of War also manages to render some beautiful cutscenes. The game can easily stand alongside the GameCube and Xbox releases of the same year, despite being on a technically inferior system.
The sound featured in the title isn’t exactly too shabby either. When using a digital connection, the PlayStation 2 achieves a standard similar to that available from the Xbox and GameCube. The eerie screeching from the harpies or that distant screaming sounds just as good as you’d expect. The soundtrack is also satisfying; never becoming an entity of it’s own yet perfectly complementing the action.
At the time of it’s release, God of War represented the pinnacle of videogames. Everything action games strived for during the founding days had now been perfectly realised thanks to better technical specifications, bigger budgets and the same amount of imagination. The development team created an entire world a playground for you. And in a way that very little else in the generation had been able to. God of War is undeniably a work of genius, and even 17 years later stands as a testament to the quality of PlayStation 2 gaming.