Wednesday, 12 June 2013

God of War

Post-Launch Review
God of War (PS3 Saga edition)
Developer: SCE Santa Monica Studio
Released: March 2005 (PS2) / November 2009 (PS3 Collection remaster) August 2012 (PS3 Saga collection)


For years, Kratos has served the gods of Olympus. In exchange for his service, the gods promised to forgive Kratos of his sins. Finally, that forgiveness is at hand, and Kratos is tasked with one final mission: kill Ares, the god of war, who has overstepped his bounds and lays siege to the city of Athens. This battle is personal: years ago, Kratos committed terrible sins in the service of Ares. Now, not only will he be cleansed of his past, he will also take his revenge.

At Launch

God of War received average review scores of 94%. Reviewers loved the combat, calling it simple and generous but challenging and deep, as well as nicely animated and fluid. The occasional puzzles were praised for breaking up the pacing slightly and providing other types of challenges. The plot and soundtrack were both viewed as powerful, well paced, and fluid, with some minor complaints about a few awkward bits in each. The visuals were praised as among the best of the generation, though there were a few camera issues.

Post Launch

God of War was rereleased twice for PS3. The first reissue in God of War Collection (also included in God of War III: Ultimate Trilogy Edition) added trophies and remastered the graphics in high-definition anti-aliased 720p, rendering at 60 frames per second, and includes the God of War II bonus content. The second rerelease in God of War Saga is identical except that it comes with more games.

The Good

Smooth, Fast, Responsive
The first thing I noticed when starting the game was the frame rate. That might be weird, but damn, is it ever smooth and consistent, sitting at 60 frames per second. This fluidity is wonderful for the game's combat - controls are nice and snappy, and Kratos handles quite well. Combos are responsive and easy to pull off, and mastery of blocking and dodging is rewarded.

Graphics & Animation
God of War's environments look very nice. Anytime you find an area with a long sightline, or even a very large room, the vistas are highly detailed and colourful. I was actually most impressed with the lived-in areas: there's a lot of rich colour, intricate decorations, and reflective polished marble floors.
Animation is excellent and very fluid, especially in combat. Kratos' movements and the whirling chains look great, especially when you level up the blades and add more and more fire to your attacks.

Sometimes puzzles in action games are boring and lame. God of War is not one of those games. I was actually surprised by some of the puzzles, especially one that involves assembling a wall by dragging and rotating oddly-shaped pieces of stone. There are also a few that mix in some combat - for example, figure out how to get a fragile crate from point A to point B while archers are shooting at you with flaming arrows.

The Neutral

The plot of the bits you actually play is somewhat uninteresting. Go here, do X, kill guys. There's almost no interaction with other characters, and the plot is very straightforward with little character development. It's not bad, just not really notable in any way - fairly standard video game fare. All the interesting stuff happens in flashback cutscenes. I wonder if the game would have been more interesting had the flashbacks been playable, with short sequences interrupting the main narrative here and there in place of the cutscenes.

Most of the time, the game camera is quite good. Its location and tracking are preset, so most of the time it's exactly where you want it, and you can see everything you need to. Sometimes, however, the camera swings around exactly when you don't want it to - for example, during a precision balance puzzle. It's absurd for a game to demand a high level of precision and then swing the camera around while you're trying to shimmy your way across an inches-wide beam.

Sometimes the music really feels like it fits the setting - epic-style vocal accompaniment. But strangely, at least towards the end of the game, there's a lot of synth. I'm talking about tracks that reminded me of music from the 80s. It's a weird sound for a game set in ancient Greece. It threw me off a bit.

The Bad

Saving the Oracle
Kratos arrives in Athens and needs to meet up with the oracle, who's going to help him defeat Ares. He runs into her in the town square, where she's immediately grabbed by harpies, and... dragged to the temple of the oracle? Why would the monsters not just kill her immediately, like they're doing to everyone else in the city? And if they're taking her away, why take her right back to where she started? This kidnapping sequence feels out of place and stupid, and feels more like a heavy-handed reminder that Kratos needs to get to the oracle than anything else.

Cutscene Quality
One part of the game that hasn't been well updated (or maybe not updated) is the cutscenes. The pre-rendered scenes are better lit and have more detail than the game engine, but run at a lower resolution. It's kind of weird to go from the sharp but less detailed game engine to the more defined but also blurrier cutscenes - it's pretty much a toss-up as to which looks better, actually.

Ability Upgrading
Someone had the brilliant idea that you should have to press and hold X to level up your abilities as you infuse your experience into your skills. Except that as you level up it takes longer and longer to bump up a skill... topping out at a full 30 seconds for some abilities. 30 full seconds where you just sit there holding X waiting for your level up. Stupid and annoying.

The Verdict

Recommendation: maybe.
I had fun with God of War, but I was a little bored by the plot and by the end I found combat a little repetitive, with little enemy variation. I wish the interesting parts of the story - the flashbacks - were playable. Done right, they could really have helped me empathize with Kratos by tricking me into doing terrible things, just as Kratos was. Mechanically the game is excellent, but it didn't engage me in the same way that most reviewers seemed to experience. I found it fun but not fantastic.

1 comment:

  1. Man, finished off all but the Challenge of the Gods and the five-hour speed-run trophies, and by my trophy-blind logic of "explore ALL THE AREAS" really infuriated me when trying to get to the chests in the rolling "logs" area of Hades. Good, grief, there's about one-and-a-half checkpoints in there, and it's enough to have screaming in the background, screaming from Kratos, pot-shots from player-respawn camping enemies, and the camera being at an angle to the log you're traversing.

    Just wanted to vent that, but yeah, the PS2-quality pre-rendered FMVs look so muddled compared to the real-time scenes, though at least the full-on FMVs look crisp enough.