Few games-if any-have managed to perfectly blend so much into a single action game. God of War's cinematic flair, masterful storytelling, awe-inspiring art direction, and excellent gameplay make it one of the best action adventure games this generation. Its a nearly flawless tale of revenge, sorrow, hate, honor, and the tortured anti-hero who you will get to know very well over the course of 15 hours or more. In the midst of dozens of Playstation 2 action adventure games, GoW stands tall and proud above the rest, and boy, does it deserve to. The game starts with our friend, Kratos, atop the highest mountain in all of Greece, staring out towards the horizon. "The gods of Olympus have abandoned me" Kratos say's. "Now, there is no hope". And with that, Kratos falls from the heavens, casting himself off of the cliff and towards the rocky sea below. Just before the water rushes up to meet him, the screen goes black, and Kratos' story truly begins. The entire game itself is basically one big flashback; you play as Kratos three weeks prior to his supposed demise atop the cliff. Throughout the game, Kratos will experience his own minor flashbacks that reveal to the player major events in his past, which will eventually unveil what motivates Kratos to reach his only goal: Kill the God of War. Its a depressing story about a desperate soul, and how he lost everything to supreme power...and it's presented in a ridiculously skillful manor. Everything about the presentation itself is top-notch; from the incredibly cinematic camera angles, to the invisible load times, everything about God of War simply screams style and class. Better yet, the game doesn't just drop the story when things start to get heated up later in the adventure. Rather, it stays true to its form, and expertly unveils the story, piece by piece, in a smooth and crafty manor. As a result, you become more and more intrigued by this brutal anti-hero and the secrets of his foggy past. of course, all of these accomplishments would be put to wasted if the game just wasn't fun to play...fortunately, it really is. Now, lets not beat around the bush-God of War's combat engine isn't the deepest you'll ever see. However, that doesn't stop it from being ridiculously entertaining and satisfying. Using a pair of blades chained to his arms, Kratos tears through the legions of Aeres with skill and precision...or, rather, YOU tear through his legion. Kratos basically has his own sandbox of combat techniques and moves that he can link together to form some very fluid and amazing combos. Kratos also occasionally has access to another combat feature that pops up here and there among enemies. When a monsters health lowers to the certain point, an icon will appear above it's head, which represents the "O" button on the controller. When pressed, you will be thrown into a mini-game. A series of icons-once again, representing the buttons on your controller-will appear on the screen, and you must press those buttons as they appear. Its pretty simple, and you'll immediately understand when you see it in action. If successful, Kratos will butcher the enemy in a variety of ways, depending upon the enemy itself. However, this is a risk, as you can take heavy damage if you make a mistake. However, if you succeed, the end result is a hefty reward of "orbs", which we will move on to right now. An RPG element has been thrown into the core gameplay components. As you kill enemies, you recieve orbs, which come in three different flavors: green for health, blue for magic, and red for upgrades. As you progress, new skills-or magic, if you will- become availabe to you, courtesy of your friendly neighborhood greek gods such as Zeus, Hades, and Posiedon. These abilities prove to be very useful throughout the game, and each have their own advantages. These skills can be upgraded via the "start" menu, which will enhance their power, and give you access to new features they have. This feature also affects your chaos blades, and can be upgraded up to 5 times, which will increase power, and give you new and more powerful moves. You recieve orbs simply be killing enemies; however, certain creatures, such as the minotaur and gorgons, can be killed via the mini-game that will guarantee a specific type of orb. For example, if you use the icon mini-game to kill a gorgon, you will always recieve blue orbs for your magic. So, when your in a tight spot, and there aren't any health or magic chests to go around, this could very well be saving your ass time and time again. The action in itself is very fluid and rich...and also very fun. There are moments where one could come to the conclusion that this is a mindless hack-and-slash, but its much more complicated than that, especially when you're fighting some of the more challenging enemies. Simply pressing the square button over and over again will only get you so far. There will come a time when you'll have to watch your enemy closely and anticipate their moves, and strike when the time is right. Overall, the game gives you alot of freedom when you're fighting, in which you can chain all kinds of different moves and combos together-some of which earn you more orbs if you get it right. The PS2 isn't exactly known for its ability to pump out great-looking graphics, seeing as that many of the best-looking games on the system are still inferior when compared to xbox or gamecube titles. However, you probably wouldn't have ever believed that the PS2 would be able to deliver a title as beautiful as god of war. Quite honestly, it wouldn't be obvious from the screenshots that this game is truly one of the best looking PS2 games of all time, but its true. The framerate almost always runs at a super-smooth 60fps, even when things get heated up or a little cramped. Kratos and the enemies all animate very well and realistically, and are quite meticulously detailed. However, the real highlight of the game is it's art design, which is just dazzling to behold. Massive stone giants loom over you; a giant battle erupts in a vast valley at dawn; a somber titan wanders in an endless and merciless desert; all of these can be seen in God of War, and they are all artistically gorgeous. As usual, its best for you to see it for yourself, as my words cannot really describe how great-looking this game is. I also found the musical score to be one of the best aspects of god of war itself. The cinematic presentation and the epic, operatic score go hand in hand, and each compliment one another. It fits very, very well with the greek atmosphere the devs are trying to create, and is surely high-enough caliber to support a AAA-film like Lord of the rings. The sound effects are just as satisfying, as well, especially during some of the boss fights. Not only that, but even the voice-acting is top-notch. Simply put, I really cant think of any other way in how they can improve on God Of War's audio. God of War is a relatively short game-only about 12 to 15 hours in your first play-through. Fortunately, there are a slew of secrets that can be unlocked that are actually quite good. Some games give you a costume or two after you finish, maybe a half-decent mini game...but not God of War...it gives you SO MUCH MORE. tons of secrets and little addons to the main story itself can be unlocked after you finish the game once, and even more if you're brave enough to challenge "God mode", which brings us to the difficulty. On normal (mortal) mode, God of War is relatively easy, and doesn't offer much of a challenge to the more experienced gamer. However, another great aspect of God of War is how each difficulty setting is a vast step-up from the previous difficulty setting. For example, God of War's hard (spartan) mode is quite hard, unlike the normal mode. Better yet, God (very hard) mode is simply unholy at times, and will really make you bash your head against the wall and question your skill as a gamer. As a result, God of War can be approached by all different kinds of gamers, whether you're a novice, or a veteran, in the action adventure genre. God of War's excellence truly makes it one of the best action games this gen. There really hasen't been an action game thats molded together so much and pull it off so gracefully. From the superb recreation of a lost civilization and the professional storytelling, to the hardcore action and sheer brutality, God of War deserves to go down in history as a god among action/adventure titles.
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