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Review: God Of War

Posted Aug-26 2007 by ron
For PS2, optional widescreen mode, runs fine on European 60GB PS3

In just a few short years Kratos has risen to videogame-rockstardom. Not only has the character become an instant icon of the Playstation brand, but has also contributed greatly to creator David Jaffe's own infamy.
Today we'll take a look back at the first God Of War, to recount why all this attention was (and is) justified. Probably.

Say hi to Kratos, but stand back a little. He's probably the angriest Greek we've ever played.

As we've outlined recentely, God Of War belongs in the upper echelon of third-person action games. The game is all about combat against enemies of all different sizes, and groups of them more often than not. God Of War is certainly not the game that invented this style of gameplay. Indeed Devil May Cry has been named as a major inspiration and benchmark.
However, God Of War certainly does its own thing within the broader formula. Its biggest contribution is a vastly extended and polished combat system. We should probably start with Kratos's weapon.

Kratos wields a pair of short blades that are attached to his arms with chains that are miraculously elastic.

The "Blades Of Chaos" give Kratos a relatively comfortable attacking range right from the start of the game. Beyond the default "light" attack and a more powerful "heavy" attack with a somewhat shorter reach, a wide range of combos can be performed as well, and you enable more and more of them as you progress through the game and purchase upgrades with the proverbial red orbs.
It's worth pointing out that the controls allow you to turn Kratos around in the middle of a combo, to correct your aim for successive attacks and to, effectively, distribute your anger evenly around you. As the blades cover an arc, it's quite easy to hit enemies, which is good, because there is no lock-on function in the game.

Mid-air attacks are an entirely separate set of moves, though the overall swirly-whirly nature remains.

As a third form of attack, Kratos can perform grabs, though even basic enemies will be able to block against these – they must be stunned or knocked over first. If a grab is successful, it does not immediately deal damage though. You still have a choice how the move proceeds, and this is heavily dependent on the type of enemy you're grabbing. E.g. a basic soldier can be pinned down and finished off, or you might instead choose to hurl him into other nearby enemies.

Combat actions are usually context-sensitive. Grabbing this bat out of mid-air leads to a different attack than grabbing it while standing on the ground, or grabbing a different kind of enemy for that matter.

This is the first apparent innovation of God Of War: the rules of the combat system itself depend on the enemy you're facing and your relative states (i.e. you in mid-air and they on the ground/vice versa/both in mid-air/both on ground/locked in a grab move). It's not just that different encounters are best won by certain actions, but it goes so far that the availability of actions changes. The entire system through-and-through is context-sensitive and adaptive. This way, even though there are "only" three buttons directly mapped to attacks, the range of attack moves that can be produced with them is enormous.
Being able to kill enemies in many different ways is not just a cosmetic issue either. There are tradeoffs to be made here, because certain finishing techniques will cause certain enemies to drop health refills but less red orbs, or maybe no red orbs at all but instead lots of blue orbs, which you use to fuel special magic abilities. The game also hands out rewards for long attack chains and generally stuff that is hard to do, such as air-juggles.

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