If you like buckets of blood with your action, puzzles to lose sleep over, platform stunts that give your gamepad a serious workout, FMVs that threaten the safety of your eyeballs and monsters that leave saliva on your face then God of War is the game for you. Even if you don't you will love God of War anyway - I promise.
God of War is a tale of revenge set amidst Greek Myths and Legends and every monster and foe you face fits in perfectly. Every piece of machinery that moves, or needs to be moved, every weapon, every building, every scrap of clothing, every rope, hook, chain, wheel, cage and animal has a firm sense of belonging, nothing is out of place or time. Put simply, God of War is one the best looking games I've ever seen. And this sensory extravaganza is not left to the eyes alone to enjoy, oh no! Your ears receive just as much attention, and like the visuals, nothing is out of place with the audio. The sumptuous musical score is completely in accord with you, it hurries when you do, it's sad when you are, it's angry, it's suspenseful, it's lilting softness one minute and crashing anger the next, and it's always superb. The sound effects of weapons hitting flesh, fires roaring, desert sandstorms, chains swinging, the grunts and cries of character and foe alike sound totally realistic. The character voices have been well chosen too, from the Oracle's belligerent nagging to hurry and rescue her, to some poor soul screaming and begging for mercy as you drag his cage toward a fiery death. From the first words of the elderly narrator explaining why Kratos is committing suicide, I was hooked.
Yes. The game begins as Kratos steps off a cliff in a bid to dash himself to death on the rocks below. As Kratos rushes headlong towards oblivion you are told that things hadn't always been so bad for our Hero. You are warped back in time to three weeks prior where you find yourself in the middle of the Agean Sea on a boat inhabited by the dead and being torn apart by a huge multi-headed Hydra. Thus your adventure as Kratos, the Greek Warrior, begins.
About Kratos, at the beginning of the game, you know nothing, but through the narrator and superbly crafted flashbacks you learn why Kratos is the warrior he is and why he is so tormented. That Kratos is driven and sadistic you will pick up in the first few minutes, but why he is that way is revealed on your journey. You begin in a crumbling Athens, where the God of War, Ares, is tearing buildings from the ground and crushing citizens with his mighty sandaled feet. This is where you learn that Kratos must kill Ares, the very God who once helped him destroy his enemies. Ares, the God who burned Kratosâ€™ weapons, the 'Blades of Kaos,' into the flesh of his forearms so he would be the greatest warrior of all. But there is much ground to cover before Kratos, a mere mortal, can confront a God - and the God of War at that.
The 'Blades of Kaos,' a pair of large blades on chains, are excellent for keeping foes at a distance, and when upgraded are the best weapons in the game. The only other, physical, weapon is the huge 'Blade of Artemis,' which is ideal if you find yourself surrounded and in close combat. On your journey to defeat Ares, and find your own redemption, the Gods Aphrodite, Poseidon, Zeus and Hades each provide you with a measure of magic, provided you survive their Challenges of course. These range from hurling lightening bolts at distant Undead Archers to turning Wraiths and Legionnaires to stone. During combat, after the requisite number of buckets of blood have been split and your foe has been stunned or become dizzy, a circle appears above its head and a 'mini-game' is initiated. This means pushing the right button at the right time once you have mounted it. With a little practice you'll be twisting the heads off Gorgons, ramming daggers into Minotaurs mouths, ripping the wings off Harpies and decapitating Satyrs like a seasoned warrior.
While God of War sounds like fun there is also some hard work to be done. There are a few puzzles and timed tasks to perform in Athens, but mostly of the jumping, climbing, balancing, pushing and pulling kind, and while they're not overly difficult some will try your patience. However, once you have crossed the Desert of Lost Souls to find Kronos, the last Titan, and entered the Temple of Pandora, the puzzles become much more difficult. After all, the Mountain holds that which Kratos seeks, what the Gods truly fear, and the only thing that will enable a mortal to defeat a God - Pandora's Box!
Inside Pandora's Temple everything is huge, God sized in fact. Statues are immense, doors soar into darkness above and gargantuan mechanical pieces are moved with oversized levers. The puzzles, trials, tests and tasks that stand between you and Pandora's Box become steadily more difficult. Beams are higher and narrower, spiked walls snap together quicker, blades whirl faster and blood flows more freely â€“ your blood that is. The puzzles aren't the only things that are large in Pandora's Temple, the hoards of enemies that are there to stop you from reaching your goal are bigger, stronger, more agile, longer toothed, more fearsome. Your new skills â€“ courtesy of the Gods - will help you through the different sections in Pandora's Temple, but you are constantly reminded that others have been here before you and the scattered, broken, bodies speak volumes. When you finally have Pandora's Box in your hands, the adventure is far from over. But of course you knew that. Also by this time in the game you will know a lot more about Kratos, and you will know that he has good reason to be the meanest son-of-a-b*tch in the Valley.
Also, you will have noticed that God of War is missing something. No, it's not women. Although this is a very 'manly' game there are a few of the fairer sex about, and invariably they are topless. No, it's not the challenge. There are enough challenges in God Of War to have your gamepad performing some gymnastic moves of its own. No, it's not good looks. God Of War looks fantastic every bloody foot printed step of the way. And no, it's not the lack of a good setting. Ancient Greece and its mythical beasts is an ideal setting for a game of these proportions. So, what is this game missing? Loading time. Not once did you see a bar changing colour at snail's pace across the bottom of the screen. Not once did you have time to go to the toilet, grab a drink from the fridge, make a quick sandwich or cruise the NZG forums. And not once did you even notice that the bar was missing - did you? That God Of War has something for everyone is true, but not having to wait for the next setting to load makes this game a huge winner as far as I'm concerned.