God of War
|FIMP: God of War [PS2]|
I'm so far almost halfway through God of war, and for the most part, the game satisfies. It's got almost everything that some finnicky gamers like to keep a checklist of. Epic story. Appealing protagonist. Great graphics and design. Authentic soundtrack. Violence, action, ability upgrades and leveling-up. Hell, it's even got ladies with perky nipples. (I kid you not.) As we all know, except for the mammary-gland mention, most games strive to have all of these elements. It's the quintessential grocery list for the modern Playstation gamer, and as with many-a-Playstation game which I have scoffed at, in my opinion most of the games that follow this checklist forget that "fun" is the most important thing.
Well. God of War is fun.
To sum up what I've experienced so far, God of War feels like a mishmash of Capcom's own greats - add the combat of Devil May Cry plus a helping of Resident Evil 4's context-sensitive button-play, cook out the obscure puzzles so that only intuitive block-and-lever pushing ones remain, and sprinkle a dash of Marvel vs. Capcom's "aerial raves" (air combos for the uninitiated). Like Devil May Cry, God of War's combat is predicated on stylish-looking moves stringed together in combo fashion (though here you're graded on combo length, not necessarily style). You can raise your enemies in the air and continue to pound on them as they descend to earth, or in a fit of MvC-ness as mentioned, you can actually follow them up into the air and pummel them for more hits numbering into the double digits before they even hit the ground. You can also grab some enemies with the Circle button and hurl them around into other enemies, Final Fight style.
Even juicier, some enemies who are weakened display a Circle button icon above their head. Grab them correctly, and depending on the enemy, a unique series of input commands - here's the Resident Evil 4 seeping in - appears on screen. Follow them to the letter and you're granted an instant kill, which is both gory and rewarding. The gorgons, for instance, will succumb if you perform the correct analog-stick sweeps in an ode to Jet Grind Radio; whenever they are killed this way, they will always release magic-meter replenishment. The minotaurs require a different button input to die, and their death gives you the gift of health-meter recovery. It's all very fluid and put together well. The only weird thing is when executing these moves, you wonder why the other enemies are content to just stand around, but I digress.
The puzzle elements of this game are, so far, satisfactory. There are no dumb old-style Resident Evil "put the medallion in the medallion hole" abominations. Perhaps better yet, there are no brain-draining Myst-style "Pull the lever a specific amount of times, an amount which is revealed when you find the corresponding color to the jewel that I hid in the unmarked space on the map which is associated with the light of the sky during the time of day that is indicated by the sound that the magical whistle makes when you travel in the right direction in the space ship that has to make 30 turns which are all based on the temperature of your hands as they hover over the keyboard" puzzles. The ones I have encountered are mostly of the "push this here and then do something else to orient it in the right spot" variety. One had me stacking two immensely tall pillars on top of each other, and then pulling the *whole* thing over to the right spot to provide a spot for you to jump to a previously unreachable ledge. Of course it sounds simple now, but when I saw the layout of the area at first, it wasn't 100% obvious. These puzzles serve to break up the otherwise blisteringly fast pace that the action portions of the game have to offer, and they're welcome chances to catch one's breath.
I say the pace is blistering sheerly out of gut reaction. In three and a half hours, I really felt I traversed a LOT of ground in this game. I hopped across numerous ships and defeated a Hydra, then docked near Athens where I made my way to the gates of the great city. I gazed upon the all-out war that was raging below in the city, then made my way from the gate to a side route into the town. That burning ash that I observed from my vantage point up high? Yeah, I fought just on the outer edge of that, making my way through temples, rooftops, bridges, and then through a sewer that took me all the way underground back to the gate I came from. From there I went the other direction and then pushed my way through the harsh sandstorm that I mentioned in the opening for what seemed like eternity, finally making it into the temple where I saved.
When you look at it in absolute terms, you'd think it wasn't that much. I went from a ship, to a port, through the town, through sewers, and then a desert. But the key here is that God of War has, so far, been almost entirely contiguous. I encountered two spots with loading time. The first spot was after the first stage, which takes place on a series of naval vessels, after which you dock in at Athens and the next "stage" begins. The other spot was while running up a set of stairs late in the Athens portion. And it didn't seem like a, "Here's a new level!" load screen. It just needed to load a little somethin' somethin'. So considering that - again like RE4 - almost every single area in the game so far has come one after the other in terms of proximity and time frame, I'd say a lot was seen and done.
To touch lightly on what everyone else drools over, the aesthetics are second to none on the PS2. Aside from a scant few atrocious NPC character and enemy models, the characters are well animated and well rendered. The environments are absolutely gorgeous, occasional blurry texture be damned. There are a multitude of surfaces eerily presented almost to perfection (eerie given the PS2's hardware) - reflective, grainy, stone, liquid, smooth, rough, sandy, vine-ridden - you name it, and it looks almost real. The sound is no slouch either - the music sounds authentically Mediterranean and for the most part the voice acting is appropriate. The visuals and sound come together for some really awesome pre-rendered cutscenes as well as some in-game ones which, thankfully, can be skipped if you have neither the time nor the patience, or you've seen already.
Gripes? Sure. This game ain't anywhere near perfect. The computer-controlled camera angle phenomenon has *got* to go. Either that or at least give me a first-person option. Trying to make sense of all of your surroundings in this game is a chore. If you just concentrate on the path given to you, it's all good. But if you want to play smart and curious, and explore nooks and crannies, scout out ambush spots, or just generally want to know what you're dealing with in the scene, good freaking luck. While the camera pans to give you the coolest, most cinematic view, it just really annoys me. Chalk another one up for comparisons between this and Devil May Cry.
Also, Kratos must balance himself when walking across beams. Um. Yeah, so the shifting camera angles REALLY make this more trouble than it's worth. You'll be tiptoeing just fine through half the beam, and then the camera will shift and before you realize that you're holding the analog stick in the wrong direction, Kratos is hanging for dear life having slipped off the beam.
Finally, and this is small but, I have to say that without the context-sensitive button aspect, battles would get a little boring after a while - similar to how Castlevania: Lament of Innocence does. It just plays too easily. I only died as a result of camera angles changing on me during a jump, and when gorgons turned me into stone while I was in the air. After my stone Kratos hit the ground, he shattered. Note to self: do not jump when fighting gorgons. Otherwise, I haven't died at all.
Given those gripes, I'm still glad I picked this title up. I haven't even touched on the magic spells given to you by the Greek Gods, or the ability to upgrade said spells and your weapon. Thus, while I don't feel that it's done anything spectacularly new or different so far, what it does it mostly does well. What it gets right, it gets *really* right. Maybe I'll even finish it by this weekend - that'll be a first, finishing a console game within a week of my purchase. Stay tuned for more when the review comes.
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