When deciding on my next review to write, I had to consider multiple options – do I review a style of gameplay, a single game, a series? Do I review a retro game, a game that makes me nostalgia all over the walls or a new game with newfangled graphics and about as much heart as a brick?
Eventually I decided to settle for a series of games that is often regarded as having the best action games of all time. Gratuitous violence, boobs, violence, gods, more violence and more boobs are all rife in this series – the God of War series.
For anyone that isn’t up to date with the state of God of War, the first game was released in 2005. Some said it revolutionised the Playstation 2 gaming community – sadly enough I wasn’t playing it back at release.
God of War made a statement on it’s release, a big statement. You know that a game doesn’t care about social convention when in the very first level you brutally murder a famous beast of the sea by impaling it’s head on the mast of a ship, watch children cut down right in front of you and most importantly, there’s a sex minigame.
Yes, a sex minigame.
It quickly becomes evident upon playing God of War in 2011, that the game is past it’s prime. The controls are a bit imperfect, the fighting is trying hard to be smooth but not quite at it’s peak and the graphics are… in today’s standards they are appalling. However, God of War exceeds expectations even today in just one single area that most games still manage to forget – it’s criminally fun. The boss fights are – whilst still fights, they’re more of an interactive movie than anything, with pleasing masochism all throughout every fight. There’s something extremely enjoyable about ripping a hell beast limb from limb, about breaking a sirens back. It’s just plain, easy fun. That is if you play on easy however. One of the things this game does well is that easy is just easy enough that you can virtually button mash through the entire game, however, up your difficult to normal, titan or heaven forbid, even GOD, and you’ll find yourself in a game that takes itself a lot more seriously, where it’s vital to pull off insane slashing combinations, counters and dodges just to kill the first monster in a series of 30.
The puzzles in this game are refreshing – they’re a stop from the blood and gore that can be somewhat tiresome in large doses. And they’re refreshing in 2011 terms in that they are absolutely brilliant. Never do you leave a puzzle room and think “that wasn’t very well thought out.” – They’re always amazingly clever. It really begins to dawn on you near the end of the game that throughout it, you aren’t just solving a whole bunch of little puzzles simply to progress, but the whole game is a massive puzzle with each room a different mechanism in a grander puzzle.
God of War’s incredible soundtrack is augmented with an iconic riff known throughout the gaming world. This soundtrack adds to the intensity and experience of playing the game and really assists in indicating the absolute odds that are stacked up against you.
The storyline and characters of this game are somewhat lacking. Granted, it has a great story, but the story really takes a backseat. I’m never one to skip cutscenes; however they scarcely entertained me in this game simply because I wanted to kill more of Hades minions. It’s worth noting, also, that this game is based on Greek mythology and uses this prewritten mythology extraordinarily well. Connecting some key ideas together in ways that make so much sense you wouldn’t believe it! The characters are merely there as a medium of the story. You do not feel anything for Kratos (your main character) in this game, given that he is a self-indulgent, arrogant douchebag that killed his own family. Every other character is irrelevant as only really Kratos and the final boss appear more than once.
In 2007 a sequel to God of War was released, and this new game quickly attracted much attention. Most expected it to fail abhorrently, based on the fact that most sequels cannot stay true to those classic nuances about the first game. Is this true for God of War? No it isn’t. God of War II is almost identical to God of War!
The controls are somewhat improved, but still pretty mediocre, oftentimes I found myself falling to my death or failing a quick time sequence merely because the controls left something to be desired.
However everything else is drastically improved, drawing on the increased technology being brought out of the Playstation 2’s engine. The action is smooth and amazingly, even more fun. A return of the monsters from the first game, combined with new monsters – shows us that even after killing 100 Minotaurs, there’s still something sickly sweet about watching the blood spill from one’s throat as you force both of Athena’s Blades down there.
The boss scenes in this game (and I’ll continue to use the word scenes, as they are truly still an interactive movie) are even more badass, even more acrobatic and amazingly, even more violent. This game forces you to kill some people that – when knowing that God of War III is out and God of War IV is scheduled for release – you know that shit is about to go down. More mythological beasts emerge from the dark in ways that leave the player shivering with fright and Kratos laughing with joy. Kratos is greatly improved as a character also, with a bit more relatability and a hell of a lot more reason to give him a chance as a guy worth following. For those who don’t know, the game follows Kratos’ fall from grace as a god and attempt to claw his way back to the moment he was killed, his attempt to claw his way back to the temple of fates to change his fate.
God of War II’s soundtrack is again improved on the soundtrack of the first, with higher sound quality, better orchestrations and more intensity. While in the last it effectively outlined the odds Kratos is up against, in God of War II it helps to exhibit the helplessness of Kratos against the gods and the lack of hope in the slightest.
This game is and always will be a classic. It doesn’t try to be anything it isn’t, and most importantly it’s a classic (or rather it has no class) action game that never ceases to amuse with its puzzles, insane action, boobs and violence. Oh, so much violence.
2008 came and went. 2009 soon followed with no mention of a God Of War III release. The new Playstation 3 system that had been released in the meantime boasted greatly improved graphics, capabilities and controls, yet still the cries from the God of War lovers seemed unfounded. In 2010 however, the light returned and it was announced that the final game in the trilogy was to come in epic scale. And come it did.
Right from the very start of God of War III, you are thrown right back into the action. And I’m not meaning the opening level; I’m meaning the opening credits! A silhouetted depiction of Kratos’ journey leading you straight back into the chaos of the battle between Titans and Gods. The graphics are stunning, the controls are exemplary, your blades easily carving their way through enemies with more grace than ever before, and when you reach the first boss, you can’t help but let yourself die a few times, just to enjoy the insane graphics and violence.
As the game progresses you begin to get an understanding of just how improved the Playstation 3 system is to the Playstation 2 system. The bosses are phenomenally awesome, with crazy sequences resulting in deaths in epic proportions. I won’t spoil anything, but the sheer scale of those bosses that you fight makes these fights more intense and more desperate. This is compounded by a greatly improved combat system and eventually, a multitude of new weapons and skills to play with. Those weapons are – excuse my greek – fucking awesome. They all have their own skillsets and they all have amazing feel to using them, you never get bored of any of them.
Near the start of the game you hear a haunting melody float through the air of Hades, and I’ll be honest, I stopped my playing and sat listening for nigh on 10 minutes to this 15 second melody. It’s augmented relatively quickly with a note stating “When the voice sings of anguish and pain, I can cope with it. I’ve dealt with plenty of anguish, plenty of pain. However when the voice sings of hope, that is when I feel depressed and helpless.”
About a quarter of the way through the game is where you see the first new thing – a slight glimpse that quickly turns into a shining bright light by the middle. The emergence of a story! If you are eager to look you can see little nuances hidden throughout the game, however when it really becomes obvious is when for the first time, Kratos changes his goal. Kratos shows so much evolution as a character in this game, and it’s not just him. God of War III boasts many more great characters then the first two and ALL of them have individual stories that tie in to the main story.
While the story takes a frontseat for the first time, all throughout the game are scattered those small puzzles that are so integral to a God of War game, and might I say, they haven’t lost their spark. The puzzles are still showing up those of other games, are still important and some of them are still important to the story. As ever I was astounded at the fact that each individual puzzle unlocks just one more mechanism in the big puzzle that is God of War III.
And then comes the end.
I came up with many ways of explaining the end of this game in my head, none of which could quite explain it appropriately. The closest I came to it involved “Total mindfuck” “equivalent to cancer of the brain” and “WTF².”
My lord. I can not even begin considering how to start even the first part of possibly slightly understanding the very beginning of the end of this game. Nor how they can make a sequel, but hey, I’m excited.
Kratos’ journey is a long one, And while sometimes it leaves something to be desired in God of War 1 and 2, by the end of God of War 3 the first 2 games are just that more important, as with the addition of the story you now understand more clearly the arduous journey he has undertaken. The evolution of the games is phenomenal whilst still including elements that can be called “God of War-esque.”
The soundtrack is ever epic, incorporating both one of the most intense and fiery themes I’ve ever heard, one of the most haunting and atmospheric melodies I’ve ever heard, and brilliant use of dramatic interludes to increase the absolute tension that rides through all three games. It’s interesting how the developers managed to not only keep you entertained through such an arduous and arguably repetitive journey, but they managed to make you crave more with the intricate puzzles, exhilarating gameplay and tendency towards the violent. Of course the ample opportunity to see bare boob played a part in that also.
This series is renowned for revolutionising action gaming and even gaming itself, and after playing it, it’s definitely not hard to see why. I eagerly await the fourth instalment and will certainly play it through to completion very quickly, Because I like killing things. And I like boobs.