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Which Console Did You Buy/Receive Over The Holidays?

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Game Profile
PlayStation 2
Sony Studios Santa Monica
GENRE: Action
March 22, 2005

God of War: Origins Collection

God of War: Ghost of Sparta

God of War III

God of War Collection

God of War: Chains of Olympus

More in this Series
 Written by Chris Reiter  on March 09, 2005

Hands-On Preview: People in the olden days could just walk up to a god's house, ring the door bell, and enthusiastically say, "Helloooo neighbor!" Or, so I heard.

It's a given -- people love history. Yeah, the same factual subject that has bored many to tears in their school years. History can be a little too serious at times, but there are great ways to make learning about the past exciting too. For decades, different mediums like film and television has expressed the multitudes of periods that have shaped the way our society has been structured from into today -- from the primitive Jurassic era to the artistic roots of the Renaissance. Just the same, as movies can delve deeply into stories set in these long-remembered times, so can games. Medal of Honor? World War II. Red Dead Revolver? Westerns. Sid Meier's Pirates? Uh...pirates. Though these particular moments in history's vast clock were based on accurate figures, one time slot that's not exactly "real" (but then again, it could be) is based on the mythology of gods and the hellions that roamed the Earth. Holding very strong beliefs, Greeks religiously praised these invisible icons who were thought to have controlled the sun, the ocean, and even the tides of war itself. Opening up their texts to the tales that depict these vaporous gods and devils as fact, later this month Sony is showing us all a side of the ancient Greek myths like we've never seen before.

Humans have been given birth to with brains trapped in their skulls since the dawn of time (I think). Within these fragile minds exists a whole network of functions. A little creative input over here, some motor controls over there, and then there's the part of people's thinking caps that throw them into the abyss of complete and utter madness. No ordinary man, Kratos is a champion of the gods. His body is toned; strong. He thinks and acts with keen senses. Men tremble in fear of Kratos's name alone, and giant beasts fall under his blade. So why exactly is this warrior, this unbeatable gladiator plummeting to his doom triggered by his own psychotic will? The answer lies somewhere between the lines. On his path set out to seek revenge on the god of war himself, Ares, Kratos lost his marbles. Whatever the true explanations are that ties this unexplained mystery together, you'll have to figure out from your own two eyes reliving the recollections of Kratos.

God of War's premise isn't exactly unique from the outset, at least from the predication Sony is billing this upcoming action title as. Some PlayStation 2 owners might recall the 2002 update to Rygar, which revisited Tecmo's once 8-bit only Greco-Roman themed quest. It's not like there hasn't been a game set in the ancient Roman times before -- there has. God of War's mechanism isn't exactly groundbreaking either. Action games in general have already let you combo to death multiple foes and unravel a myriad of riddles in between. But it's not really what God of War is or isn't that's making this game so appealing to spectators, it's what the game does with these tools provided. In the one hand, God of War will have its combat. On the other hand, puzzles. What God of War does differently, is that the game aims to smash these two hands together to bring to life an action-packed, monster slaying, puzzle playing game bent on bringing to life some of the popular mythologies seen only in such films as Clash of the Titans beforehand.

Charging through action games that come accustomed with a combo system of some kind have used this portion of the game as sort of an afterthought. Inputting perfect queues of commands can be seen as confusing when what you're supposed to press becomes an overwhelming collection of useless operations. Gamers don't want to have to memorize long steps. Just give us the easy, straight to the point, hard hitting "coolness." That's exactly what Sony brings to the plate in God War...sort of. In God of War, there will be no templates to study when it comes to this game's battle station. Fighting in the game will pit you as Kratos into defeating undead soldiers, winged harpies, and even that snaky bastard Hydra. When scraping chained dual swords against these evils, remembering specific codes is not a requisite. In playing God of War, combos can be made just by using a standard attack (square) followed by a strong attack (triangle). Press either of these buttons multiple times, and it becomes noticeable that longer and more effective patterns exist. Kratos is also capable of grabbing enemies (with circle), dashing, blocking, jumping, and yes, making magic just as well. Playing the game is fun, because you can pretty much kill enemies in any order of button commands you want, and from this brutalizing derives stylish looking moves and extensive combos that can really continue to endure for some time.

Attackers continually surround Kratos, so there is definitely a feeling of intensity driving the game. But Kratos can put to use continuous thriving combos by thrusting an enemy into the air and whacking him around while he's still floating -- which is one way to repeat and defeat enemies all the quicker. Kratos can grab enemies and snap their bodies like a Snicker bar for one-hit kills, or he can spin himself around even to fly into piling groups with a deadly twirling blade offensive. Drowning the life of baddies is great, but it's not like Kratos is immortal. That's why enemies drop behind glowing orbs to replenish and further Kratos's status. A chart at the top of the left side of the screen reads off red, blue, and green charts for experience (red), magic (blue), and health (green). The red points will actually allow Kratos to upgrade his skill sets to improve his combos down the line (unfortunately, the demo excluded this option). As for magic and health, they're pretty self-explanatory. Suck up blue orbs to regain the magic that was spent, and green goes toward keeping this big lug alive for whatever hurt may come along.

Good as there's nothing puzzling about God of War's combat, there are still puzzling elements about God of War's combat. The interesting thing is, divulging riddles and tearing apart enemies piece by piece aren't a part from one another. These two aspects of the game happen at the same exact time. In one instance, Kratos comes across a lowered deck on the ship. Up above are a few archers standing on tall pedestals. Down below are a group of big crates where the crew of the ship is hiding behind. There's only one way to get up from the bottom deck to the otherwise unreachable top. This has to be done by kicking and pushing a smaller box up to where the archers wait without them targeting or breaking the box -- which is possible if you're not careful enough. Through a couple of other intriguing attack/solve examples, Kratos gets to climb up to the top of one major mast while grabbing/tossing and slicing enemies off as they approach his position. There are battles where Kratos faces off between different Hydra heads, where after evading and lunging his weapons against their reptilian noggins after a while, a mini-game mode will be initiated where buttons appear across the screen, allowing Kratos to drive stylish finishing moves with the beast. This includes grabbing its tongue and bashing its head against the ship wall. But by the end of the demo, instead of fighting one Hydra head, Kratos will face three (although, just the first two can be slain at this particular point). With the leader head up the ship's mast in the middle, and two smaller heads down below reviving their health and restricting Kratos from reaching the summit until you figure out that beating one head senseless and then pinning it to the deck with a nearby anchor is the only way to continue this one interesting puzzle-oriented boss fight, and thus concluding the demo.

Between the good and the bad, the glamorous and the decrepit, God of War's art style is shaping up rather nicely. I don't want to get ahead of myself and tell you first hand that God of War possesses the best possible PlayStation 2 visuals you ever will see. That's because they aren't the best. But nevertheless, God of War definitely holds its own right up there along side the system's noteworthy titles. Where the game's visual presentation is headed as seen in the demo is cast across a fleet of boats under attack. Rain pours down from the heavens, amidst a gloomy sky. Colorful although dismal sights lead Kratos through the broken and water-filled interiors of these sea vessels. Take one look at a giant Hydra's head popping out and splashing from the watery tides, and you'll get a glimpse of very stylistic looking greens and reds (especially the hypnotic aqua eyes). But best of all is when a Hydra snatches Kratos into his mouth. Thinking the hero is done for is foolhardy when all of the sudden, you're salivating in delight at the awesome power of Kratos lifting the Hydra's jaw open from the inside. Jumping out and sliding down the snake's side with his blade, Kratos, makes an enticing exit. Other stylistic moves can equally be seen from the smaller enemies. Kratos being a kind of skinny yet still buff enough dude, you'll watch as he lights up the party with his linked blades that glow a bright flaming orange as they cut into numerous zombie soldiers and squeeze the raspberry jam right out of their system. With a lot of camera slow down moments and close-ups too, the visuals of God of War highlight all of the action in interesting and appealing measurements.

Further instigating the goodness of God of War is the quality around its sound field. Expectancies develop well enough throughout the game's battles. Metal does clang and bodies do break when Kratos is slicing up with enemy soldiers. Water will splash and wood will bang when a Hydra's slamming its enormous skull around the hull of the ship. Along with the ever-pouring stream of rain, the fastened and dramatic orchestral score adds to all the quick work of killing progressing scene by scene. Made up of a lot of quickened drum beats and deep notes, the soundtrack is fitting of the game's particular moody style. Vocal work is also found in some parts of God of War, most of the time from soldiers who are crying out either desperately in the hopes they don't die or are in fear of the intimidating presence of Kratos. From what has been experienced so far from this array of sound design, it's pretty good stuff -- albeit nothing that's going to blow you out of the water.

Final Thoughts
Has your face been buried in the history books long enough? Wake up! Sony's doing what few companies before it have brought to table, in establishing a franchise based around the mythical monsters of an intriguing time long gone. While Sony might not be the first company to ever have staged its premise in the destructive era of the ancient Greek period, they will be the first to take their action game in a somewhat unique direction using it. Lightning fast intuitive combat combined with the solution of multiple puzzle and boss encounters in between seems to make for an attractive alternative to the only slightly tapped fold focused on this portion of history's titles. Coming later this month, Sony's God of War is cutting a new slice of action for gamers to pig out on in March.

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