God of War is a quite well done beat-em-up. Basically, you wander through a mostly linear, pseudo-ancient-Greek world, beating the crap out of tons of monsters that appear in your past, occasionally taking a break to either solve a bit of a puzzle or fight a boss monster.
I’m not sure that there are any stunning advances here, and I don’t understand the “game of the year” support that it’s gotten, but I had fun playing it. The difficulty level is well-balanced – I basically never got frustrated, and they’ve learned the recent lesson that, if a player is having trouble at a spot, maybe they should offer to make the game a bit easier for you instead of having you give up on the game. (Which I was happy to take advantage of in the final boss fight, or rather trio of fights – while I enjoyed the game, I didn’t feel like putting in hours to finish the very last part.) Good level design, nice texturing to the challenges, boss fights that I didn’t mind and even rather enjoyed at times.
The plot could have been decent (for the genre – this isn’t an RPG, after all) were it not for its blatant disregard of any actual Greek mythology. You play as a Spartan warrior who has been chosen by Ares but who has subsequently turned against him. So you end up trekking through a desert to find a Titan wandering around with a labyrinth chained on his back, hidden in the middle of which is Pandora’s box, which will give you superhuman powers. Sigh. If they’re going to do that, why not give up on the Greek theme entirely, and just invent a fictional ancient world to set it in?
Quite violent – you even have special finishing QTE-ish sequences to add to the gore of killing monsters. (And to provide an extra gameplay mechanic in boss fights.) Also, it’s the first video game that I can recall playing with bare breasts. I wonder why that is? I guess video game publishers are afraid that parents will freak out if their kids are playing games where you can see breasts, but in this game they figure the parents will freak out at the violence anyways, so they might as well go full-out for the slightly older male audience. The nudity disappears after the first third of the game or so, though; it was never very well-integrated into the plot, anyways. (Or maybe it’s that the plot attenuates after the first third or so, too.)
A slightly interesting leveling-up system: vaguely hidden (not really, any more than blocks in a Super Mario game are hidden) chests lying around. Many of these contain some amount of red orbs, which you can use to power up your spells and weapons. But some contain “Gorgon’s eyes” and “Phoenix feathers” to increase your health bar or magic bar. (I forget which does which.) Both of the latter max out after a certain point, however. And either I’m a stunningly good chest-finder or they’ve over-provisioned the eyes/feathers in chests, so if you find a chest that would have an eye or a feather after you’re already maxed out those bars, you get a lot of red orbs instead.
The result is that, if you’re at all inquisitive, you’ll have maxed out your bars by the end of the game. And the result of being extra inquisitive is that you’ll have maxed out every spell instead of most of them. It’s not at all important to max out every spell, while maxing out the bars is quite useful; the result is a system that gives you a linear world (so you can’t go back to earlier regions to search), and rewards you for doing extra searching, while not actually diminishing the gameplay for people who aren’t obsessive searchers (or who aren’t following a guide showing the location of every chest). A nice compromise.
Next in the “violent game” series: Halo. Which may or may not be too violent for Miranda to watch; I have no idea. I’m not sure, and it happens to be next on my list of games to play. One advantage – probably the only advantage, actually – of summer game doldrums is that it gives me time to play important games that I never got around to playing when they first came out. Speaking of which, if anybody has recommendations, I’m all ears – I don’t quite know what I’ll play after I’ve finished Halo or Guitar Hero.
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